Monday, January 11, 2021

Disordered Loves

This thematic link between Austen and Dante can be explored by using the vocabulary of the Purgatorio to describe disordered love in Mansfield Park. Like the former, the latter represents a variety of disordered loves in the principal characters. The Purgatorio divides these loves into three categories: perverted love, defective love, and excessive love. Pride, envy, and wrath, are perverted loves, and, to various degrees, Sir Thomas, but especially Maria, Julia, Henry, and Mary represent these vices. By her sloth, Lady Bertram represents defective love. Hers is a will too weak or lazy to pursue the good. Excessive love includes avarice, prodigality, gluttony, and lust. Mrs. Norris has an excessive love of money, or avarice, while Tom's wasteful spending and dissipation demonstrate his prodigality. Furthermore, Maria's adultery with Henry, which continues for an extended period of time after their initial flight, reveals the way in which the perverted loves of pride, envy, and wrath can so affect the will that it loses the power to curb wrong desires; they then become excessive desires such as lust.

Joyce Kerr Tarpley, Constancy and the Ethics of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, p. 137. Tarpley, of course, is not indicating a historical influence; rather the argument is that you can see that Mansfield Park has a theme of what can be called disordered loves from how easily the language of the Purgatorio, which is explicitly on the theme of disordered loves, can be adapted to describe the novel.

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