Mary Crawford (Mansfield Park)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Mary Crawford
Mary and henry crawford.JPG
Mary Crawford and her brother, Henry Crawford, in the 2007 ITV television drama Mansfield Park. (Mary Crawford is depicted by Hayley Atwell)
Full name Mary Crawford
Height Taller than Fanny Price
Occupation None, daughter of a wealthy gentleman
Primary residence Home in London, Mansfield Parsonage
Romantic interest(s) Thomas Bertram, Edmund Bertram
Parents Mr and Mrs Crawford (both deceased)
Children None
Sibling(s) Henry Crawford (full); Mrs. Grant (half)

Mary Crawford is an antagonist in Jane Austen's 1814 novel, Mansfield Park.

First Appearance[edit]

Mary Crawford is introduced in the fourth chapter of the novel. She comes from London in company with her brother, Henry Crawford, and arrives in the country with urbane airs, tastes, and manners, with a decided interest in courtship. She and her brother stay with their half-sister, Mrs. Grant, in the parsonage of which Mrs. Grant's husband recently purchased the living, by Mansfield Park. The reason for her arrival is that she had previously been staying with her uncle, but he brought his mistress to live in the home, making it an improper place for a young single girl such as Mary. She is initially apprehensive that she will find the country and the people in it to be dull. However, she quickly decides she likes it.


Mary Crawford thoroughly charms the wealthy Bertrams when she first meets them. Initially, she considers forming a match with Thomas Bertram, the elder son and heir of a baronet. She finds him to be a suitable match for a young lady such as herself with a fortune of £20,000. However, her feelings do not obey her financial goals as she finds herself preferring instead his younger brother, Edmund Bertram.

Mary and Edmund[edit]

While Mary Crawford is becoming interested in the younger Bertram brother, Edmund, he also quickly becomes interested in Mary. However, Mary is at odds with herself in liking Edmund, as he is a younger brother without a large inheritance to look forward to. Furthermore, his intention is to become a clergyman and support himself by taking a family living. Mary and her wealthy London friends do not consider being a clergyman to be a sufficiently prestigious and stylish occupation. When she learns that Edmund is to take orders, she strongly expresses her opposition, believing that profession to be unworthy, filled only by lazy and gluttonous men, such as her brother in law, Dr Grant. She encourages Edmund to become a soldier or a lawyer instead, but to no avail. (Mary's attentions to Edmund displease Fanny Price, who is secretly in love with him). Mary begins to use her wiles in a half-joking way to try to get him to renounce his decision to be a clergyman. After promising him the first (two) dances at a ball soon be given at Mansfield Park, Mary tells Edmund it will be the "last time" she will dance with him, because the next time they meet he will be ordained, and... "she never has danced with a clergyman... and she never will".

On the other hand, Mary cannot bring herself to really cut herself off from Edmund, even though marrying him would be a betrayal of the values she was raised with (that seeking money and status is paramount). She recognizes his quality, respects him, and is in love with him. Fanny believes, and Austen states at the end of the novel, that Mary would have eventually altered her views and married Edmund if not for the scandal that ends up dividing them.

On Edmund's side, he often has doubts of Mary's character. Edmund is a very religious person, serious and strict in his morality. Mary, conversely, conforms herself to speak and act more or less in compliance with the morality of the day, but has been raised in London society, which prizes money and status. Edmund is troubled by some of Mary's comments and actions that reveal that she really does not have the same religious or moral principles that he does. But because he is in love with Mary, he explains away these "lapses" to himself and to Fanny until the end of the book, when Mary's real morals are revealed to him in his final conversation with her. He is also often swayed away from his doubts by Mary's cheerfulness, intelligence, and kind actions—particularly her kindness to Fanny.

Mary with Fanny[edit]

Mary is never unfriendly to Fanny or intentionally cruel to her, but initially does not pay her much attention, instead spending her time with her brother Henry and Fanny's cousins (Tom, Edmund, Maria and Julia). Mary does thoughtlessly monopolize Fanny's horse for a few days. On one occasion, Fanny's aunt Norris verbally attacks the sensitive Fanny for refusing to participate in a play proposed by her cousins. Mary, astonished and angry at Aunt Norris's words, immediately moves and acts to protect Fanny, when no one else in the family will (including Edmund). In general, Mary treats Fanny with consideration, noticing her mistreatment and supporting her.

When Henry, Tom, Maria, and Julia all leave the area, Mary begins to seek Fanny's company on a regular basis essentially out of boredom, inviting Fanny to come hear Mary play on the harp and take walks together. Mary begins to appreciate and respect Fanny as (Mary believes) a sweet and upright person. Fanny, meanwhile, spends time with Mary out of a sense of obligation, without really liking her. Secretly, Fanny resents Mary because Edmund loves Mary and Fanny loves Edmund. Fanny also does not believe that Mary is sufficiently moral or principled.

Mary's brother Henry Crawford then returns, and, as Maria and Julia are no longer in the area, informs Mary of his intent to amuse himself by flirting with Fanny and causing her to fall in love with him, in order to stir her placid, upright exterior. He intends to then coldly leave Fanny in the same manner in which he has previously manipulated other women, including Maria and Julia Bertram. After some token objections, Mary allows Henry to proceed, believing that "a little love" might be good for Fanny, but asking that Henry not "plunge her deep" as she is "as good a creature as ever lived." Mary then helps Henry in his plans by passing along a golden necklace to Fanny (pretending that doing so was Mary's own idea and Mary's own necklace, though given to her by her brother; according to notions of propriety of the time, it would be quite improper for a girl such as Fanny to accept a necklace from a man not closely related to her), and hinting to Fanny on several occasions that Henry is in love with Fanny.

To his surprise, Henry ends up being the one who sincerely falls in love with Fanny; he decides to marry her. While Mary is very surprised by this, she is also very happy about it, despite the fact that Fanny has no money to bring to the marriage. Mary believes that Fanny is a good person and will make Henry happy (and vice versa). Mary is shocked when Fanny refuses Henry, but remains friends with her, and encourages her to reconsider.

Mary and Fanny are then separated, as Fanny is sent on a visit to Portsmouth, where her immediate family lives, and Mary goes to London to visit friends. Mary asks Fanny to write her letters, but is not diligent in responding. Mary uses her letters to Fanny as a cover for Henry's letters to Fanny. It was very improper at the time for an unmarried man to write letters to an unmarried woman, so Mary's subterfuge is discomfiting to Fanny. Mary continues to encourage Fanny to accept Henry's suit, and discusses her own mixed feelings with regard to Edmund. Eventually, Mary and Fanny are separated for good by Henry's adulterous affair with Maria.

Mary Crawford's Character Revealed[edit]

Ultimately, Henry Crawford departs Mansfield Park, but not before giving public notice of his intentions to return and to 'persevere' in courtship of Fanny Price until she agrees to accept him. But, while in London he encounters the recently married Maria Bertram, now Mrs. Rushworth, who has taken a residence in town with her husband. Each according to their characters, they flout society's strictures and begin an adulterous affair. When the affair is found out, they are forced to elope together. When Maria's family is apprised of their scandalous affair, they all are deeply distressed. Sir Thomas goes to London to search for Maria, and Edmund accompanies him.

While in London, Edmund goes to meet with Mary there for the last time. He intends the meeting to be a sad final farewell, the adultery of Maria and Henry having rendered any marriage between Mary and Edmund impossible. However, he is then shocked to discover that Mary views the situation very differently from a moral perspective. Instead of considering Maria and Henry's adultery as a horrific sin revealing shocking flaws in the character of both Henry and Maria, Mary is instead merely angry at the couple for their "folly" in being so careless that they were caught. Moreover, she proposes a detailed plan for trying to bring both back into society. Finally, while praising Fanny and regretting that now, Fanny will never marry Henry, Mary also partly blames Henry's decision to have an adulterous affair on Fanny, because she declined Henry's proposal of marriage. Edmund is shocked on several levels; first, that Mary could discuss such a situation without the embarrassment and modesty that he feels appropriate in a woman; second, that "no harsher word than folly" was given by Mary to the "crime" committed by Maria and Henry; and third, that Mary would want Maria and Henry to get married despite the bad characters of each, and would want to try to get society to ignore their wrongdoings and accept them back. Edmund is crushed to realize that Mary is not the woman he took her for, and leaves Mary's apartment.