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How does Mansfield Park interrogate the relationship of power and gender

EL2 – Essay 2 Angela Bathgate Tutor – Julie Marney How does Mansfield Park interrogate the relationship of power and gender?

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen is a classic realist text, which is almost exclusively focused on a small strip of society, namely the upper-middle class of rural England; the class to which she herself belonged. Throughout her novel, Austen portrays the disadvantaged position of woman, presenting the issues of gender stereotyping and marriage choice as the main problems they have to confront. “Gender came to be seen as a construct of society, designed to facilitate the smooth-running of society to the advantage of men”1, proving that men gained power throughout the socially constructed subordination of woman.


Taking a post-structuralist approach to Mansfield Park, we can see that there is a “pretence that bourgeois culture is ‘natural’…to limit meaning in the interests of control, repression and privilege”2. Austen’s writing embodies middle-class values, and portrays an ideology that emphasises patriarchal rule, along with social and economic power, with little reference to the hardships of the working class. This text is therefore a form of oppressive ideology, in which women are kept in their socially and sexually subordinate place. When Sir Thomas Bertram discovers that Fanny will reject Henry Crawford’s proposal, the cruelty of male power is evident, enforcing the gender role. He does not understand her refusal of a secure marriage, and attempts to change her answer by redefining what she says. Sir Thomas is an authoritative male,
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1 Literary Theory: An Introduction, Terry Eagleton (Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1996), p114
2 Literature in the Modern World, Dennis Walder (Oxford University Press, 1990), p306

EL2 – Essay 2 Angela Bathgate Tutor – Julie Marney

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Bibliography:
BIBLIOGRAPHY Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (Penguin, 1994) Simone De Beavouir, Women and the Other; Literature in the Modern World, Dennis Walder (Oxford University Press, 1990) Marilyn Butler, Romantics, Rebels & Reactionaries (Oxford University Press, 1981) Mary Eagleton, Feminist Literary Theory: A Reader (Basil Blackwell Ltd, 1986) Terry Eagleton, Criticism and Ideology (Oxford University Press, 1976) Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction, 2nd Ed (Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1996) Dennis Walder, Literature in the Modern World (Oxford University Press, 1990)


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