Mary Crawford is a character in Mansfield Park. She possesses a grand fortune of around £20,000[1][2].


Early lifeEdit

When her mother was still alive, Mary and her brother were very dear to their elder half sister, Mrs. Grant (maiden name unknown). Upon the death of their mutual parent, they became distant as the Crawfords lived exclusively with their paternal uncle Admiral Crawford, and his wife Mrs. Crawford. The admiral and his wife had a very tempestuous marriage, and they did not get along. The only thing they had in common was a mutual adoration of their nephew and niece. The admiral was a man of "vicious nature" who invited his mistress to live under his roof with his nephew and niece in residence, after the death of Mrs. Crawford[1]. As such, Mary and her brother had a very unusual, and perhaps immoral upbringing. This might have led to Mary's views on religion and morality in general.

As her uncle was an admiral, she learned quite a bit about the naval profession, but it was evident that she did not have a high opinion of him, which shocked both Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price, the latter of which referred to Mary as "ungrateful"[3]. Her dislike of her uncle may have come from her aunt's dislike of him, as she was taken under Mrs. Crawford's wing while Henry was taken under the admiral's[1].

Stay in NorthamptonshireEdit

Mary and Henry went to visit their half-sister Mrs. Grant at the parsonage near Mansfield, thus adding their presence to the society of the village. They were so pleased that they decided to stay for longer than what was planned, which agreed with Mrs. Grant and her husband. Mary was also pleased that the Bertrams, a family of consequence, lived so close to the Grants. Mary wanted matrimony, provided only that she marry well and into greater comfort[1]. Their meeting with the Bertrams went remarkably well, as the Miss Bertrams were immediately taken in by Mary's beauty and Henry's lively manner[4]. When her brother showed interest in the eldest Miss Bertram, as opposed to Julia Bertram, she tried to remind him that the lady was engaged to James Rushworth[4].

Mary was a bit confused about Fanny Price and asked Tom and Edmund Bertram about their cousin and whether she was out in society or not. She remarked about how Fanny rarely spoke during dinners. This got them into a discussion about a young lady's morality in terms of being in society or no. After hearing that Fanny has never attended a ball and stays primarily by the side of Lady Bertram—who never attends social functions—Mary deduced that Fanny was indeed "not out"[4].

Mary first set her sights on Thomas Bertram, who was the heir apparent to Mansfield, an excellent property. She was somewhat charmed by Edmund as well. When Tom was off to B—— for horse racing, Mary thought there would be a loss in their small village society[3]. Despite Edmund's disapproval at Mary's ungrateful words about the uncle who took her in, he brought her riding around the park[5]. Later, a trip to Sotherton Court, the ancestral home of James Rushworth, was planned. Mary sat in the back of her brother's barouche with Fanny Price and Maria Bertram, while Julia sat in the front with Henry[6].

Mary became interested in Edmund during Tom's absence. While visiting Sotherton with the Bertrams and various others, she was shocked to discover that Edmund wished to become a clergyman. She did not know, and was embarrassed that she had made a few disrespectful remarks about clergymen in front of Edmund in the past. She was also dismayed to learn that he would receive no fortune from a well-meaning and childless uncle, or a grandfather[7].

Character traitsEdit

"Miss Crawford was very unlike her [Fanny]. She had none of Fanny's delicacy of taste, of mind, of feeling; she saw Nature, inanimate Nature, with little observation, her attention was all for men and women, her talents for the light and lively."
—Narration about Mary Crawford[6]

Mary is described to be extremely beautiful. Due to her upbringing, she does not have the morals that Edmund prizes, however. She's charming, funny, and witty, which immediately puts her in good graces with the Bertrams. Mary is a risk taker, bold, and beautiful. The classic heroine of old.



Mary gets along splendidly with her brother Henry, with whom she was raised first by her mother, then by her paternal uncle and aunt. They are good friends and joke together. Both of them have been brought up in a very different manner than what is entirely proper.

Mary was at first very close with her elder half-sister, the present Mrs. Grant (her maiden name is unknown), as she lived with them and their mother. After their mother died and they lost their common parent and were sent to live with their paternal uncle and aunt, they fell out of touch with their half-sister. It was only until they were well into adulthood that Mrs. Grant re-established the connection by inviting them to stay with her and her husband in Northamptonshire.

Uncle and auntEdit

She was raised mostly by her aunt, who favored her, but was seen to dislike her uncle. Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price pronounced this to be ungrateful[5].

Character analysisEdit

"The Almost-Heroine" type in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. She really seems like she should be the heroine of this book. She proves the old adage of "opposites attract" when she falls for Edmund Bertram . She's tied in to a number of the book's major themes, including ideas on communication and on activity vs. passivity. Yet she will always be playing second fiddle to the book's actual heroine, Fanny Price.

Mary isn't the heroine may be precisely the point. She has a lot of typical heroine traits going for her. She even has a lot in common with her witty creator, Jane Austen, and with a fellow witty and spunky Austen heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. But in a book that has an awful lot to do with assumptions (especially false ones), appearances, and misunderstandings, Mary – who is not the heroine – has a very important role. Instead of being the heroine readers assume she could be and maybe even should be, Mary is cast as the foil and the occasional, though unknowing on her part, nemesis to Fanny

In a way, Mary was then "taken in" by Edmund and rather proved herself right when she noted that marriage, and romance, are a gamble. After Edmund un-ceremoniously dumps Mary when he deems her too morally lacking, Mary "was astonished, exceedingly astonished – more than astonished. [...] She tried to speak carelessly; but she was not so careless as she wanted to appear".

Her MoralsEdit

Mary objects to Edmund becoming a clergyman. But Edmund expects that he can eventually convince her to marry a "poor" clergyman, despite her desire for a life of comfort and her general dislike of religion. However, Edmund can't get past her reaction to Maria and Henry's affair. Rather than being horrified by Henry and Maria's behavior, she considers it mere "folly." She's most upset that Henry was stupid enough to get caught, not that he was committing adultery with Maria. Though Mary is so likable in so many ways, most people really wouldn't agree with her lax attitude toward her brother's behavior. So where does her sense of right and wrong come from? This ties into the "nature vs. nurture" question, which is raised repeatedly throughout the novel. In other words, was Mary simply born with the personality and principles that she has. Though we don't know much about her past and upbringing, we do know that she and Henry were, at least in part, raise by their uncle, Admiral Crawford. When we meet Mary, she has left her uncle's house. As the narrator informs us, "Admiral Crawford was a man of vicious conduct, who chose, instead of retaining his niece to bring his mistress under his own roof" (4.15). We only get little, suggestive snippets of information like this, which may lead us to conclude that Mary wasn't raised in the healthiest family environment.

Mary took a risk and it didn't pay off. But the fact that she took the risk in the first place is the sharply contrast between her and Fanny. Mary declares throughout the book that she prefers doing things and being active and taking risks: "I am not born to sit still and do nothing. If I lose the game it shall not be from not striving for it" (25.25). She does end up losing Edmund in the end, but it was vague, as to whether not Mary and Edmund would have made a good couple anyway. In retrospect, they may have kept hesitating and dancing around each other for some very good reasons. And, ultimately, Mary may have performed the role she was supposed to: she contrasted to Fanny and cast Fanny in a light that was eventually appealing to Edmund. As our almost-heroine, Mary effectively made sure that the "actual" heroine ends up with her hero.

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Mansfield Park, Chapter 4
  2. The equivalent of about 662,000 USD in 1988 according to this article
  3. 3.0 3.1 Chapter 6
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Chapter 5
  5. 5.0 5.1 Chapter 7
  6. 6.0 6.1 Chapter 8
  7. Chapter 9
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