[PLANNING] Possessing Fanny Price: The symbolism behind the jewelry of Mansfield Park

Fanny Price and her jewelry acting as both symbols and plot devices in Mansfield Park

  • All physical representations of the most important people in her life
  • All symbols of Fanny’s social indebtedness to others
  • Cross from William
    • Symbol of lower social class due to lack of chain to go with cross
      • William couldn’t afford a chain to go with the pendant/Fanny doesn’t have another chain to go with it à her lower social status (maybe include a citation about all her knickknacks in her room)
      • Fanny wants to wear it to the ball, but she doesn’t have a chain and knows that the other ladies will judge her due to its inadequacy
        • Coincides with Fanny’s “official coming out” to society
      • Bond between siblings
      • Importance of religion and Fanny’s piety
      • As a plot device: without a chain, Mary and Edmund gift her a chain
    • Chain from Mary
      • Wears it on top of Edmund’s chain so she won’t offend Mary à shows the importance of manners
      • Feelings of obligation to Henry Crawford
        • The necklace was originally from him, so she must think of both whenever she wears it
        • Removes Fanny’s agency by forcing her to think of the man who has been forcibly flirting with her
      • Her abundance of necklace chains to choose from symbolizes her social position
      • Representative of her social mobility- moving to a higher social class
    • As a plot device (both Mary’s and Edmund’s gifts): when telling Edmund about Mary giving her the chain, she then realizes how much he is in love with Mary and just how much she is jealous of that
      • Makes Edmund further fall for Mary and drives him to propose to her
    • Chain from Edmund
      • The perfect chain for the necklace (just what she wanted) signifies Edmund as the perfect match for her
        • Foreshadowing their ultimate marriage
      • Signifies her importance to Edmund (“the two dearest object I have on earth”)
      • He is more enthused by the fact that Mary has offered Fanny something than by presenting the gift himself

1 thought on “[PLANNING] Possessing Fanny Price: The symbolism behind the jewelry of Mansfield Park”

  1. Hi Manda,

    This is a good start, but I worry that your thesis is not yet arguable, particularly since we discussed most of these points in class. I wonder if — and this is only a suggestion, so feel free to go in another direction if you like — you might take it further to say that Fanny’s jewelry acts as a symbol of the sexual relationships she has in her life? There has been a great deal of criticism on Mansfield Park and incest, and so it’s of no little significance that William gives Fanny a cross, showing the respectful and chaste relationship they share. This is unlike Fanny’s OTHER brother-figure (/husband-figure) in the novel, Edmund, who gives Fanny a chain THAT FITS PERFECTLY IN THE HOLE (innuendo intended, both by me and, I think, arguably, by Austen) of her pendant. Finally, the forceful trickery that Henry Crawford uses to make sure she wears HIS chain at the dance always feels a little reminiscent of “an assault on her person” (to use the sort of language that Austen might) — an interesting way to think about it, given that he is the “rake” of the novel. There is also a long history of eighteenth-century fiction that includes female accomplices to rape (which Mary stands in for here by convincing Fanny to wear Henry’s chain), but you may or may not feel comfortable speaking to that fact, depending on what you’ve read.*

    Again, this is just an idea of how you might strengthen your thesis — feel totally free to go another way with it if you like.

    Great work —

    *But, if you do want to go there, you could take a brief look at this dissertation abstract and cite it in your paper: http://dc.uwm.edu/etd/1298/


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