Women's Education in Mansfield Park Essay

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Women's Education in Mansfield Park

In Mansfield Park, Jane Austen presents three different kinds of formal

education for women. Two of these have the ultimate goal of marriage, while the

third is, possibly, as close to a gentleman's education as a woman's could be.

Although there is some overlapping of these three types, each one is, basically,

embodied in one of the major female characters -- Maria Bertram, Mary Crawford,

and Fanny Price -- to show the follies and the triumphs of each. Unlucky Maria's

education teaches her next to nothing, and Mary's has no true substance below

the bright surface. The timid, mousy Fanny Price, however, may be partly in debt

to her progressive
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Her father married for beauty, and her mother for convenience, so Maria has no

idealistic view of true love in marriage until Henry Crawford's attentions give

her a hope that is cruelly crushed. She is spoiled by the absence of her parents

-- when she runs away with Henry, she attempts to keep it a secret, as a little

girl might hide her misbehavior.

Mary, who was mostly raised in the more daring London, has difficulty subduing

her urban easiness to the more conservative countryside. The indulgence she

received from her aunt is of a more openly permissive type than Maria's, as may

be concluded from her unguarded speech.

Since Fanny doesn't consider Mansfield Park her real home, she does

not grow up to be selfish like Maria, despite their shared classroom. Also, her

separation from her family in Portsmouth allows her to idealize them, so she

does not cling to her family's lower class (relative) coarseness; she doesn't

remember much more about her family than her closeness to William (15), and that

her younger siblings looked up to her (14). Because of her mind, which is at

once stubborn and naïve, she is free from the negative influences of either

place.

For each of the young women discussed, formal education further

reinforces the effects of home life. For Maria,