Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Sex in the Park. Mansfield Park. Part Five.

Despite their attractiveness & appeal to everyone at Mansfield par Fanny, in Henry & Mary Crawford's shadowy background, there always hovers the spectre of the sexual misconduct of their friends & relations. The Crawford’s parents, including the one they share with Mrs Grant, are dead and the siblings have been reared by their uncle & aunt, the Admiral & Mrs Crawford. The opinions and behaviour of the elder Crawfords, whose marriage was unstable, unhappy and mutually disrespectful, set the tone for the younger from an early age, and their principles were formed, as Mrs Grant so aptly puts it, “in a bad school for matrimony in Hill Street”. Upon Mrs Crawford’s death, the Admiral promptly installs his mistress into the same household, prompting Mary to seek a home at the parsonage with Mrs Grant, where Henry accompanies her. Their very entrance into the Mansfield Park narrative & neighborhood is a result of the amoral sexual liason forged by their guardian, and moreover, among their friends & their society, there are many circumstances where lax sexual principles are the norm. Throughout the narrative Mary tells of her girlfriends attempting alternatively to seduce or trick Henry into marriage, and tells tales of his aggressive flirtations & intrigues amongst their acquaintance. “If your Miss Bertrams do not like to have their hearts broke, let them avoid Henry”, is her warning to Mrs Grant. Mary too has formed a limited opinion of the opposite sex, and one may not infrequently perceive that she views an opportunity for aggrandizement, & greed, as normal motives for marrying. She speaks of friends in London, particularly of Mrs Fraser & Lady Stornaway, during her residence at Mansfield and upon eventually meeting them, Edmund represents the former as “a cold-hearted, vain woman, who has married entirely from convenience” and the latter as “the determined supporter of everything mercenary and ambitious”. The message is clear. The Crawford siblings, though brilliant, clever and charming, are in possession of some corrupted sexual mores.

To be continued

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