Mansfield Park; Empire & Orientalism from Edward Said

1424 words 6 pages
Summarise Edward Said’s argument in his essay ‘Jane Austen and Empire’ and then show whether you support or refute it.

Edward Said’s analysis of Jane Austen’s narrative in her 3rd novel ‘Mansfield Park’ (1814) is based on his own studies of ‘orientalism’. This term is defined by Said as a variety of false assumptions /depictions of Eastern people within Western attitudes. This is achieved, he argues, through the literary discourse provided by post-enlightenment, post-colonial American/European (Western) authors. Said draws our attention to an underlying theme of ‘Mansfield Park’, which is empire.
Said recycles his interpretation of stereotyped Muslims, Arabs & Egyptians and applies it again to a different social group. He does so
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Sir Thomas is depicted (in the end) as having remorse for his actions, and having learned his lesson through redemption.
Jane Austen is stereotyped by Said as a typical euro-centric academic, naïve towards the REAL threats, inequalities and unfairness’s of the world.
Just like the slaves Sir Thomas had the advantage of owning, Fanny becomes the only slave who is able to dwell in Mansfield Park. I believe Austen’s hopes were that she would be seen as the epitome of the slave: “She could hardly believe it. To be placed above so many elegant young women! It was treating her like her cousins!”
Austen explains, from the very first chapter how the class/background ideas of the era are a hindrance to her success, at home and in society.
Overall she is treated as below standard, but by the end of the novel she is happy, reasonably comfortable and is married to the one whom she was meant to be worth less than.
She was constantly referred to as from a different class, background, and place. Those notions of ‘breeding’ compare her to a mere puppy: “breed her up with them from this time, and suppose her even to have the beauty of an angel, and she will never be more to either than a sister”.
Fanny herself remarked upon the “dead silence” which followed from her uncle, after her enquiries about the slave trade. She concluded that


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