In the undermentioned essay. an survey of Mansfield Park. concentrating on the novel’s concern with transgressed boundaries. such as the anxiousness associated with the contamination of religious pollution. The paper will analyze the issues concerned sing transgressed boundaries. The Dirt at Portsmouth Immediately before the flood tide of Mansfield Park. in the last chapter of Fanny Price’s expatriate at Portsmouth. comes a transition extraordinary for Jane Austen—extraordinary both in the concreteness of its inside informations and in the sense of repugnance it records:
She felt that she had. so. been three months at that place: and the sun’s rays falling strongly into the parlour. alternatively of heartening. made her still more melancholic ; for sun-shine appeared to her a wholly different thing in a town and in the state. Here. its power was merely a blaze. a suppression. sallow blaze. functioning but to convey forward discolorations and soil that might otherwise hold slept. There was neither wellness nor merriment in sun-shine in a town.
She sat in a blazing of oppressive heat. in a cloud of traveling dust ; and her eyes could merely roll from the walls marked by her father’s caput. to the tabular array cut and notched by her brothers. where stood the tea-board ne’er exhaustively cleaned. the cups and disks wiped in runs. the milk a mixture of atoms drifting in thin blue. and the staff of life and butter turning every minute more oily than even Rebecca’s custodies had foremost produced it. … ( p. 439 ) The coarse confusion that Fanny has registered of all time since her reaching at Portsmouth is here brought vividly into focal point.
From the walls marked by the oil of her father’s caput to the dirty utensils on the tabular array marred by her brothers. the atoms in the milk and the oily staff of life. Austen’s heroine sees her household place as stained and polluted. Fanny may hold been excessively long pampered at Mansfield Park. or Austen may hold been tempted to indulge in some conventional depreciation of town life. But neither account accounts for the strength of this consciousness of dirt— or for its surfacing at this peculiar minute. as if prescient of the moral repugnance about to come.
The transition continues: Her male parent read his newspaper. and her female parent lamented over the ragged rug as usual. while the tea was in preparation—and wished Rebecca would repair it ; and Fanny was foremost roused by his naming out to her. after humphing and sing over a peculiar paragraph—‘What’s the name of your great cousins in town. Fan? ’ A moment’s remembrance enabled her to state. ‘Rushworth. Sir’ . ‘And don’t they live in Wimpole Street? ’ ‘Yes. Sir. ’
‘Then. there’s the Satan to pay among them. that’s all. ’ ( p. 439 ) Fanny’s disgusted perceptual experience of soil and spoilage among her immediate family at Portsmouth therefore straight anticipates her aghast finding of fact on the ‘too atrocious … confusion of guilt’ among her great cousins in London. 1 The sordidness of Mrs. Price’s housework is necessarily swallowed up in the horror of Mrs Rushworth’s criminal conversation. and the scandalized Fanny is shortly summoned back to Mansfield and off from the muss on the household tabular array.
Guilty confusion commands more attending than the plain Portsmouth sort. particularly in a universe so insistently moralised as Austen’s: distracted by the climactic disclosures. the haste back to familiar characters and to moral opinion. the reader. excessively. tends to bury the soil. But the sense of pollution recorded here is characteristic of the design of Austen’s most troublesome novel. Dirt. Mary Douglas has suggested. is non so much an thought in itself as a map of the demand for order—‘a sort of collection class for all events which blur. smudge. contradict. or otherwise confuse accepted classifications’ .
2 If pollution thoughts come strongly to the bow whenever the lines of a societal system are particularly unstable or threatened. as Douglas argues. 3 it is non surprising that in this interval of heightened anxiousness and suspense. Fanny Price should see soil. The visit at Portsmouth has been characterized from its beginning by curious tenseness and anxiousness. To be at ‘home’ for the heroine of this novel is in fact to be in expatriate. displaced from the lone land to which her history has genuinely attached her. ‘That was now the place. Portsmouth was Portsmouth’ ( P.
431 ) . No steadfast period has been fixed for her stay. and in the yearss before the dirt interruption. the term of her ostracism threatens to lengthen indefinitely. The noise and upset of her father’s house have non prompted in Fanny the want to be kept woman of Everingham. as Sir Thomas had hoped. but Henry Crawford’s relentless wooing of her at Portsmouth has proved unsettling. Without any serious alteration of bosom. she is however disarmed by his evident earnestness and embarrassed by the consciousness of all that distinguishes him from her vulgar dealingss.
To walk upon the High Street with Henry and meet her male parent is to convey ‘pain upon hurting. confusion upon confusion’ ( p. 401 ) . Between her shame at her household and her vacillant appraisal of Henry’s capacity for alteration. Fanny Price has ne’er earlier seemed so capable to confusion. her province of head so vulnerably suspended. Worried and estranged. she must at the same clip delay impotently for the declaration of Edmund’s ain unsettled province. the result of his protracted. indecisive wooing of Mary.
Her anxiousness has already been farther compounded by the intelligence of Tom’s unwellness when the mail brings yet another alarming missive. a headlong note from Mary Crawford. with its upseting allusions to a dirt she does non call. The troubled suspense that has marked Fanny’s full stay at Portsmouth culminates in still another twenty-four hours of waiting before Mr Price’s newspaper out of the blue confirms the dirt. and anxiousness gives manner to ‘the daze of conviction’ ( p. 440 ) . Fanny’s repugnance at the intelligence is fierce and absolute.
‘She passed merely from feelings of illness to shuddering of horror. …’ And the beginning of the illness is the find of people perilously out of topographic point. of accustomed classs blurred and confounded: The event was so lurid. that there were minutes even when her bosom revolted from it as impossible—when she thought it could non be. A adult female married merely six months ago. a adult male professing himself devoted. even engaged. to another—that other her near relation—the whole household. both households connected as they were by tie upon tie. all friends. all intimate together!
—it was excessively atrocious a confusion of guilt. excessively gross a complication of immorality. for human nature. non in a province of arrant brutality. to be capable of—yet her judgement told her it was so. ( p. 441 ) As D. A. Miller has noted. ‘Fanny’s funny incredulity and inordinate disgust are inadequately served by the moral footings in which they are accounted for’ . 4 ‘Too gross a complication of evil’ is closer to the ‘stains and dirt’ in the Prices’ parlor than it is to considered judgement. Fanny’s rebellion from the really event as impossible. her decision that ‘the greatest approval to every one of kindred with Mrs.
Rushworth would be instant annihilation’ ( p. 442 ) . are merely climactic cases of the inclination to form experience by pulling crisp lines of exclusion. Though Fanny is the chief vehicle of such thought. the novel as a whole reveals a similar urge to pull a universe divided by clear spacial and ontological boundaries—to envision sunlight as ‘a wholly different thing in a town and in the country’ . Anxiety about transitional provinces and equivocal societal dealingss is repeatedly countered in Mansfield Park by this categorical sorting of things into the clean and the dirty. the sacred and the profane.