Posted by Caroline on January 15, 1998 at 21:15:23:
In response to MP, written by Erin on January 15, 1998 at 20:15:06
I have always thought that MP was JA's way of playing around with the ideals of Enlightenment and seeing how far she could push them. For the theme of "Man is basically good, it's society that makes him bad" you have the Crawfords vs the Bertram sisters. Enlightenment novels seem to be saying that the badly brought up can be reformed-even at the last minute.JA has Henry almost managing to reform himself, but not quite, and Mary, who could reform herself, but doesn't really bother. The other theme of Enlightenment, that to be good, what you have to do is listen to your inner self...what the 20th Century would call acting according to your conscience, I suppose...is surely typified by Fanny and Edmund, and caricatured in the hypocritical Mrs Norris and the lazy Lady B.
There's a heck of a lot more to MP than this, of course, and I really haven't decided whether JA was approving of the Enlightenment concept, disapproving of it, or whether she was just pushing the idea as far as she could. It was once suggested (by whom? I don't know) that you could read MP two ways, quite opposite, and that that was one of the reasons for the controversy that this book generates. I do remember, (though I cannot quote) that JA makes some very specific statements about the importance of nurture (is it contrasting Fanny and her little sister at Portsmouth?)and for her, the concept of someone being "just born bad" doesn't seem to exist.
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