Sex in the Park. Mansfield Park. Part Three.

June 14, 2007 § Leave a comment

There is no sexual deviance under the roofs of the Mansfield rooms, naturally. Woe betide the unthinking young Master or Miss who has misbehaved under Sir Thomas’ delicate watch. The extravagant ways of his son and heir Tom Bertram causes Sir Thomas much grief, and his drinking, gambling, partying and general gadding about like a young, rich & fashionable man about town has cost so much money as to necessitate the selling of the chief Mansfield living to Dr Grant. But Tom’s antics never include the lecherous. There is never a hint of womanizing, of a seduction or even of flirtations. Tom could have been as sexually careless as Sense & Sensibility’s blackguard Willoughby if he’d chosen to and without any real consequence, but never in his father’s reproaches or in his own stories is any such behavior alluded to. Similarly, the others who dwell peacefully at Mansfield all have their faults, except Fanny of course, but none of these faults are of a sexual nature. The girls are chaste; the wives are well behaved, Edmund is intellectual and the old boys are respectable. Because sex is the defining moral point of Mansfield Park, the line that deems a character irredeemable once it has been crossed. Their great moderator Sir Thomas is called away to far off Antigua and his departure is followed by the arrival at the parsonage of the delightful and charming Mary and Henry Crawford, brother and sister to Mrs Grant. And, delightful and charming though they are, the Crawfords’ vanity, self-obsession and potent sexuality wreck havoc with the once dormant desires of the residents of Mansfield.

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