Jane Austen’s Style-Mansfield Park

Jane Austen’s text, Mansfield Park, depicts the changes in her current nation of the eighteenth century of the changes in politics, and her changes that have occurred to Austen as a writer. Her writing differs from her previous texts, Emma and Persuasion, according to Katheryn Sutherland (vii). Sutherland states, “critics have detected a free spirit of wit and compassionate spontaneity corresponding to their post-Revolutionary origins, Austen’s mature Regency writings appear to strike a more constrained note, sardonic rather than witty, to caution retirement and the wisdom of second thought.” (vii). Hence, Austen may have been reacting to the events of her time period. Also, Sutherland states, “Published in 1814, Mansfield Park inaugurates this change, and while critics and readers embraced what seems both new and familiar in Emma (1815) and Persuasion (1817), they remain suspicious of Mansfield Park. Austen’s most designed and designing novel, its ideological program is oppressive and puzzling, insistent and yet difficult to pin down.” While reading Mansfield Park, I encountered several complexities in style. These were mostly found in diction and sentence structure.
Austen uses formal speech to describe the characters in the story. For example, the narrator when describing Miss Ward, she uses terms such as “captivate Sir Thomas Bertram” when referring to Miss Maria Ward, and “raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences.” Even the house is described as “handsome” (5). The language is very complex and formal.
Austen also uses complex sentence structure. For example, in the beginning of the text she writes, “Miss Ward’s match, indeed, when it came to the point, was not contemptible, Sir Thomas being happily able to give his friend an income in living in Mansfield, and Mr. and Mrs. Norris began their career of conjugal felicity with very little less than a thousand a year” (5). This complexity is a signal as Sutherland states, the constraints in which many of the characters found themselves in (where as family was a system of stability, yet “constraint” (Sutherland, viii).). According to Sutherland, “In Mansfield Park family functions in largely negative and ironic terms: as both constrictive space, hampering the desires of its members, and as that which is defined in its absence as the only foundation of individual identity.” More specifically, while family is seen to bring stability, for the characters in the text, this system functions as preventing the characters in the novel from achieving their desired outcomes. Chapter One explains the marriage of the sisters, and their marriage arrangements how one sister married “A Lieutenant of Marines without education, fortune, or connections, did it very thoroughly.” These will all serve to be the source of the trouble that many characters find themselves. For example, the narrator states, “an absolute breach between the sisters had taken place” (6). She explains this as “the natural result of the conduct of each party and such as a very imprudent marriage almost always produces” (6). Another example of the complex structure in sentences is found when the Austen writes “Their homes were so distant, and the circles in which they moved so distinct, as almost to preclude the means of ever hearing each other’s existence during the eleven years, or at least to make it very wonderful to Sir Thomas…(6). This complexity indicates the complex relationship and emotions the sisters found themselves in.

One thought on “Jane Austen’s Style-Mansfield Park

  1. This is an effective assessment of the complexity of Austen’s sentence style and voice–you have several examples in here, which is good! Can you say more about your very last sentence, though, which for me as a reader is the most piquant moment? How exactly does the syntactical complexity show “the complex relationship[s] and emotions” expressed in the novel? You might also explain a bit more fully what you mean by complexity (and “formality,” which I’m not quite sure about?), and show what parts of the examples you give are particularly interesting sytlistically.

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