I know how much you love flowcharts, so in honor of one of the most under-appreciated Austen novels, I’ve decided to post one of my favorite school projects.
Don’t you wish you’d been an English Major?
Essentially, we argued that Austen reinterprets the story of Pride and Prejudice through Mansfield Park. The similarities between the stories can be seen in the flowchart above, and the one below shows the sudden fracturing of P&P’s trajectory. Instead of a romance of inevitable destiny, Mansfield highlights the tenuous nature of Austen’s relationships. Had a few tiny things gone awry (or, as she seems to suggest in the passage below, had these things NOT gone awry), the story would have been completely different. And I’m not merely speculating indiscriminately; Austen explores this what-if scenario herself:
Henry Crawford, ruined by early independence and bad domestic example, indulged in the freaks of a cold-blooded vanity a little too long. Once it had, by an opening undesigned and unmerited, led him into the way of happiness. Could he have been satisfied with the conquest of one amiable woman’s affections, could he have found sufficient exultation in overcoming the reluctance, in working himself into the esteem and tenderness of Fanny Price, there would have been every probability of success and felicity for him. His affection had already done something. Her influence over him had already given him some influence over her. Would he have deserved more, there can be no doubt that more would have been obtained, especially when that marriage had taken place, which would have given him the assistance of her conscience in subduing her first inclination, and brought them very often together. Would he have persevered, and uprightly, Fanny must have been his reward, and a reward very voluntarily bestowed, within a reasonable period from Edmund’s marrying Mary.
The other thing I loved about this project was how very different it was. Yes, obviously, I wrote a paper too, but I loved how our argument was essentially captured in these two flowcharts. As a person that works (has worked, will work…) primarily with words, having something click visually was an unexpected treat. And it’s not about slapping a picture onto something either; it really was easier to conceptualize the book through this framework.
It seems a little ironic to conclude a post in celebration of flowcharts with a message to think outside the box, don’t you think?
P.S. By the way, Irene and Eleni: best project EVER. (Hope you don’t mind the recoloring.)