Henry Crawford as Actor

I'd like to agree with Helen Battersby that Henry likes to play-act both in life and the stage, and he's depicted as the sort of person who has a hard time differentiating what is are his real emotions apart from the love of putting on a display, taking on a part and doing it like a virtuoso. Another larger or more general way of looking at this is to ask if there is something in him which is disinterested and not part of feeding some appetite of his own? He does not really value helping his tenants unless there is someone who can congratulate him upon it; the audience must be someone beyond the person to whom he does good and himself. He will only do good if there is some prize for it. Similarly he marries Fanny so as to accrue to himself her inner self, so he can shine because he takes her on, and he becomes respected as having the same qualities. He will also be congratulated as powerful; see what his money can do. Earlier it was his money which mounted William.

To turn back to play-acting itself, as one of Henry's appetites, we should probably remember this novel shows an intense suspicion of sheer surface, of categories like who's "in" and who's "out," and seeing acting when it is not professional as just another instrument for those who can the power to conquer others or manipulate them. There is a distrust of art as an aspect of insincerity. Austen seems always to want to go underneath the costumes and say is anything worth while there? She scrutinizes this rich beautiful place, Mansfield Park, where money and a strong personality with a drive towards conventional behavior (Sir Thomas) provide peace and surface harmony, and finds it wanting, but then she turns around and says, well it's all we have. It is Mrs Smith who in Persuasionsays even if the harmony of family life is something very thin, superficial, it is better than not having it.

It's a pessimistic book which partly questions itself--for it is a piece of art, and through both Fanny and Mary Austen is examining parts of herself.

What would Henry Crawford be today? Of course, he wouldn't exist in the same way. But people something like him become successful politicians and actors, and one who combined both "talents" became president.

Ellen Moody

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Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Update 10 January 2003