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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Monday, September 13, 2010

PPS re Mary Crawford's Sisterly Consolation

Someone in Janeites questioned my claim that Jane Austen was hinting that in the shadow story of Mansfield Park, Mary Crawford and her sister Mrs. Grant might have done Dr Grant in, pointing out that "having Dr. Grant's death be murder instead of natural causes one sort of negates the lesson of Dr. Grant. Dr. Grant ate himself to death. Murder makes nonsense of the picture of him and his demands about geese and apricots."

I replied that I agreed wholeheartedly that in the overt story, there is very satisfying karma in Dr. Grant's eating himself to death. However, in the shadow story I have excavated, there is a different karma, equally significant, arising not merely out of his selfish gluttony vis a vis food, but more broadly arising out of his being a representation of selfish tyrannical English husbands, including those who make a life in the clergy. So it is fitting, and karmic, that the women in his life, his wife and sister in law, might assist him to hoist himself on his own gastronomic petard.

I can imagine the scene as Mary and Mrs. Grant finally agree that they've had enough, when he sits down to that third giant dinner in one week. Sorta like three strikes and you're out. So as he gorges on yet another large poultry meal, this time, they are quietly "egging" him on, suggesting that he wants some more, and then asking again, and being ready, as his face turns deeper shades of red, to supply the coup de grace, via a discreet dash of arsenic or some other "spice" sprinkled over the part of the bird that they know Dr. Grant particularly enjoys.

And then it works, and his face crashes down on the plate in front of him. And there is no danger of being detected in the crime, because the doctor who is summoned sees what seems to be clear evidence of the cause of death spread all around Dr. Grant's corpse, the grisly (and gristly) remains of a gustatory orgy.

And do you know what title I would apply to this subtle subtale, which I would not be surprised to learn that it had already occurred to JA when she chose to have it be a GOOSE that Dr. Grant demanded?

Of course it would, fittingly for a novel by an author so thoroughly immersed in Shakespeare...................Murder Most FOWL! ;)


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