What use does Austen make of comedy? Why are there such light moments in such a serious book? Consider Rushworth and Mrs. Norris in particular.
How does Austen structure her plot? Does the three-volume structure of the typical nineteenth-century novel influence the structure of the events?
What different kinds of marriages are depicted in this novel? What kinds of qualities are important in choosing a marriage partner in this world? What is Austen's ideal for marriage?
What kind of role does family play in the development of an individual's character? Can a good person come from a bad family, or vice versa? Which is more important--someone's innate qualities, or the way they were raised?
What role do physical settings play in the plot? Why are the "improvements" that Crawford and Rushworth want to make so interesting to everyone? Do the various landscapes have symbolic value?
How does Austen pair up characters to make points about desirable characteristics? Consider Henry, Edmund, and William, and Maria, Mary, and Fanny. What about "love triangles"? Why do characters always have a choice of possible mates?
Describe the letters that appear in this book. How are letters different from conversation as a means of communication? Why are letters so prominent?
Consider Edmund and Henry's conversation about sermons as rhetorical performances in Chapter 34, which follows Henry's dramatic Shakespeare reading. How is public performance viewed in this world? What is the relationship between style and substance? Between style and sincerity?
How is the social order of the country house contrasted with the social order of the city in this novel? Which allows for more social mobility? Which seems stronger morally? How do ideas of tradition and modernity play into this?
What are the uses of illness and physical frailty? Is it important that Fanny is such a physically fragile person? Is it symbolic? Consider also Lady Bertram and her son Tom.
by baerro, March 14, 2013
Regarding Maria Bertram and Mrs. Norris in the last chapter, neither leaves England. When Austen writes that "an establishment [is] being formed for them in another country," she does not mean continental Europe. Here, "country" simply means another part of the same country (most likely somewhere in the countryside). They are still in England.