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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Friday, October 1, 2010

Some more Biblical subtext in Chapter 22 of MP (PART TWO)

After I sent my previous message today about Biblical subtext in the second part of Chapter 22 of MP, I did some more checking, and I see the allusive references by JA to the “east wind” in a more accurate light. I now see that the allusion to the parting of the Red Sea via a strong east wind, while valid, is tangential to the primary allusion being made by Mrs. Grant via the east wind. There are actually other very bad east winds in the Bible, including in Hosea and in Revelations, which may also be in the background, but I now claim that the PRIMARY allusion by Mrs. Grant is to Exodus 10:12-15, the eighth plague sent down on the Egyptians by God---locusts:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt, so that the locusts may come upon it AND EAT EVERY PLANT IN THE LAND, all that the hail has left.’ So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and THE LORD BROUGHT AN EAST WIND UPON THE LAND ALL THAT DAY AND ALL THAT NIGHT; WHEN MORNING CAME, THE EAST WIND HAD BROUGHT THE LOCUSTS. The locusts came upon all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been seen before, nor ever shall be again. They covered the surface of the whole land, so that the land was black; and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left; NOTHING GREEN WAS LEFT, NO TREE, NO PLANT OF THE FIELD, in all the land of Egypt.

Now that kind of total devastation sounds much more like what Mrs. Grant describes as follows:

“for here are SOME OF MY PLANTS which Robert will leave out because THE NIGHTS are so mild, and I know the end of it will be, that we shall have A SUDDEN CHANGE OF WEATHER, a hard frost setting in all at once, taking everybody (at least Robert) by surprise, and I SHALL LOSE EVERY ONE…”

And actually, I see the plague of locusts, and the parting of the Red Sea, as God being very thrifty, and using the east wind TWICE to really make an offer to the Egyptians that they can’t refuse!

And, look, there’s more, in Exodus 9:1-3:

“This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: "Let my people go, so that they may worship me." If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, the hand of the Lord will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field—on your horses and donkeys and camels and on your cattle and sheep and goats.”

Sounds an awful lot like the second half of Mrs. Grant’s fantasy, relative to the kind of livestock they had at Mansfield Park:

“and what is worse, cook has just been telling me that the TURKEY, which I particularly wished not to be dressed till Sunday, because I know how much more Dr. Grant would enjoy it on Sunday after the fatigues of the day, WILL NOT KEEP BEYOND TO-MORROW….”

So this makes Mary’s satirical understatement even more sacrilegious:

“The sweets of housekeeping in a country village!” said Miss Crawford archly. “Commend me to the nurseryman and the poulterer.”

Such are the plagues upon Egypt in Exodus, according to the perverse gospel of Mary Crawford! ;)

And, as we Jews say at Passover when we recite the plagues, that would have been enough, but…there’s ONE more in Chapter 22!

Now I see that Mary’s initial Biblical joke…

"...There is something in the sound of Mr. Edmund Bertram so formal, so pitiful, so YOUNGER-BROTHER-LIKE, that I detest it.”

… is not merely referring to Jacob and Esau and Isaac and Ishmael in Genesis, it’s ALSO referring to the FINAL plague on the Egyptians in Exodus!:

Exodus 11:4-5:
This is what the Lord says: 'About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. EVERY FIRSTBORN SON in Egypt WILL DIE, FROM THE FIRSTBORN SON OF PHARAOH, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well….”

And given that I have been telling you all along that Sir Thomas is the Pharaoh of Mansfield Park (Egypt), where he has enslaved the Israelites (mainly Fanny) until they finally got themselves free, this means that Mary is only, in her perverse and iconoclastic way, paraphrasing chapter and verse of the Bible!

I also see the arc of the shadow story of MP as Jane Austen (the “god” of the fictional world of the novel) hardening the hearts of the wrongdoers---mainly the Crawfords, Mrs. Norris and Sir Thomas—and then punishing them each, and in the end, the last (Fanny) is FIRST! And in that regard, Romans 11, which Fanny alluded to, indeed refers to God hardening the hearts of the unbelievers so that they, too, will be punished, if they do not repent.

So, Nancy, if you don’t see this stuff, then I just may call up an east wind to give you a little push! ;)

Cheers, Arnie

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