In the modern world today, the term education is viewed differently than in the past centuries. This versatile word today was limited only to one aspect, which is mostly meant the process of gathering information. However, education was considered. Differently, a statement the audience can authenticate reading novels that resembles various epochs and accordingly different views on education. In the book “Mansfield Park” by Jane Austen, the timeline of the novel could be considered the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century; the author presents her view on education at that time. This paper analyzes Jane Austen’s views on the form of education based on the novel “Mansfield Park” with the idea that education is not merely a list of subjects that should be completed by a specific time period; it is in addition to that a set of values and habits that can be formed through the whole life.
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The education presented in the novel can be viewed through different approaches as the author presented the characters and divided them figuratively into good, Fanny and Edmund, and the bad, Julia, Mary, Maria, and Henry. Thus, the representation of education can be divided between that basis, i.e., the education that does not form a character and merely consist of a checklist to follow, and the education that takes place informally and goes through the entire life. It should be said that these two forms of education are not mutually exclusive, as seen in the character of Fanny.
The education of women particularly is taken into consideration, it is seen that the ultimate goal for women in life is to happily married. That is seen as it is the wish of the parents and the purpose for their education, i.e., to make a perfect match for the future husbands. This is especially obvious through the dialogue of Henry and Mary, as she replies to the news that he is determined to marry Fanny, “Exactly what you deserve. What an amazing match for her!” This implies that the woman would be lucky to achieve her desired goal, and thus accomplishing what she has been taught and educated for.
The example of such a purposeful education is best viewed in the examples of the Bertram daughters and Mary Crawford, where they learned to read, write, and learned history, but at the age of seventeen, their education is usually finished, and they remain to wait for the person who would appreciate them as their wives. This is the same education that Fanny referred to when replying to Edmund’s thoughts about Mary “She does not think evil, but she speaks it, speaks it in playfulness; and though I know it to be playfulness, it grieves me to the soul. The effect of education,” said Fanny, gently.” (253).
The other form of education is presented through the character of Fanny herself. The daughter of a drunken sailor, she proved to be the most accomplished of the rest of the characters. She acts and depends on her values that were shaped by habits. She refused to marry Henry, although it was the best match for a girl like her based on the opinions of the society and relied only on her moral judgments only in doing so. She saw what can influence the behavior of a person and disapproved it, “Fanny was disposed to think the influence of London very much at war with all respectable attachments. She saw the proof of it in Miss Crawford, as well as in her cousins.” (404).
In presenting those two different views on education in her novel, Jane Austen showed her disapproval of the social limits that surrounded her. The example of Fanny is much of a fairytale where the good girl finally took her reward and married the prince. Although this example is much exaggerated, it outlines the author’s view on the form of education that is most preferred and valued.
Austen, Jane. Mansfield Park. : B. Tauchnitz, 1867.
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