Mansfield Park

by: Jane Austen

Chapters 4-8

With Sir Thomas absent, nearly everyone at Mansfield Park is engaging in play-acting. While Fanny does it to survive, the others do it for amusement or to "practice" being adults. Edmund plays at being family patriarch, and does a fair job of it, despite his occasional neglect of Fanny. Maria, despite her engagement, plays at being a coquette. Mrs. Grant plays at matchmaker, and Mrs. Norris, of course, plays at being both mother and father to the Bertram children. Play-acting can be seen as both a beneficial exercise--something these young people must do to learn to be adults--and as a morally questionable act--something that can cause trouble, as Maria shows. When the group undertakes "real" acting in the next chapters, issues of sincerity and morality become even more prominent.

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