Mansfield Park

by: Jane Austen

Chapters 19-23

Summary Chapters 19-23

Sir Thomas's concern about Maria's marriage reflects a new attitude toward relationships between men and women. While previously marriages among the upper classes had mostly been business arrangements, the early nineteenth century saw a new interest in marriages as companionate relationships: the man and the woman should be not only financially but also spiritually helpful to one another. The harrowing trip Sir Thomas has had to make in the name of business has clearly taught him something about the importance of family and relationships, and he does not want to see his daughter make a mistake. We also know that, despite her neuroses and illnesses, Lady Bertram and Sir Thomas actually have a fairly loving relationship; initially, their match was a bit controversial, but they were in love, and we see Lady Bertram's genuine happiness upon Sir Thomas's return from Antigua. Nevertheless, financial matters cannot be ignored completely, and marriage decisions will continue to be a source of turmoil for the family. Sir Thomas's wish to see Maria marry for affection speaks to his essential wisdom and good intentions, despite his many faults.