Mansfield Park

mapping lab

I decided to map a few pages of Jane Austen's novel, Mansfield Park. In Volume III, Chapter X, Fanny Price is at home in Portsmouth with her family. (She's been at Mansfield Park with her aunts, uncles, and cousins for about 8 years and this is her first time home since then.) Henry Crawford, who is romantically interested in Fanny (but who disgusts her) visits her in Portsmouth and asks her to join him for an early morning walk. Fanny and her sister Susan agree to go out.

The map of their path is below. Red balloons indicate destinations at which they stop, while bue balloons represent locations where the characters don't necessarily stop to do something but where something noteworthy happens along their way.

View an early walk in a larger map

 

This section of the novel, though very brief, is extremely important to the plot, because it marks the beginning of Fanny's heart softening toward Mr. Crawford, whom she had previously despised. Considering her firm character, this wavering is an unexpected twist that heightens the uncertainty of the outcome up until the climax, when the Crawfords are proven to be unworthy afterall. Mapping this short journey sheds some light on the way Mr. Crawford manipulates Fanny into believing him "decidedly improved."

First of all, concretely visualizing the setting puts it into perspective: the entire walk (including the reverse return trip home) was probably less than a mile. This shows how Fanny is so in-tune with the details of Mr. Crawford's actions. First, he is a gateway for her to escape her noisy, ill-mannered family, even if they're only going a half-mile from their house. She pays attention to every time he helps them cross the street; she notices that it was his deed to detain their father long enough for them to complete their mother's errands; she appreciates "the notice he took of Susan" during the walk. All of this in a very short journey, and already she is inclined to reevaluate her opinion of him.

In addition, the shortness of the walk makes it believable later in the novel when readers find that Mr. Crawford only tried to exert himself toward being a better person in hopes of gaining Fanny's favor. Since he turns out to be nothing but a dandy anyway, it makes sense that he could keep up his good face for a short walk. Perhaps on a much longer one it would have been more difficult for him to maintain this favorable impression.

It was also kind of a fun investigation to find decide where to place Fanny's house and the part of the dock-yards they would have visited. First I that instead of finding "High Street" in Portsmouth, I needed to find "Old Portsmouth" or modern-day Canalside (across the canal from Gosport). Then I mapped a route between Northampton (where Mansfield Park was) to Old Portsmouth to try to follow how Fanny would have come in to her parents' city, and from there try to pick out which "narrow road" off of the "high street" might have been the one they lived on. The place I chose to put their house is somewhat arbitrary but I think it is a reasonable choice based on the description from the novel and the fact that they needed to be able to walk to the main road and the dock-yards from home. I found this activity really interesting!