Mansfield Park

by: Jane Austen

Chapters 12-15

In some ways, though, Edmund is indeed a prig. Facing the prospect of little or no inheritance as the younger son, he constantly seeks to distinguish himself from his dissolute older brother through his moral behavior. On the one hand, this allows Austen to criticize the rigid English system of inheritance. Protected by convention and to some extent by law, Tom is allowed to behave as badly as he pleases, knowing that he is guaranteed to become master of Mansfield Park at his father's death. Edmund is the better person, but he must take up a profession. Edmund's priggishness also shows his humanity, though. He is not perfect, and despite his role as teacher to Fanny, he is still in need of some education himself. Only when he has learned as he is supposed to will Edmund be able to achieve happiness. Until then, he relies on a stilted moral code to guide the family.