The Seven Deadly Sins in Mansfield Park, by Eliza Shearer

The Seven Deadly Sins in Mansfield Park, by Eliza Shearer

I’ve long had a soft spot for Mansfield Park. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite Austen novel, but I always enjoy reading it. The last time I opened my well-thumbed volume of Mansfield Park was during lockdown, and what struck me is how prevalent the Seven Deadly Sins are in the novel. 

As a good clergyman’s daughter, Jane Austen would have been well versed in such matters. It’s also a serious theme that suits the tone of the novel, more mature than previous works such as Pride & Prejudice. 

So, after giving it some thought, here is my list of the characters that represent each of the seven sins in the novel: 

Lust: Henry Crawford

Whether it’s due to his natural tendencies or his upbringing at the home of Admiral Crawford, “a man of vicious conduct” who brings “his mistress under his own roof”, Mr Crawford follows his whims, with little thought for any consequences. He gives false hopes to Julia and flirts (and worse) with engaged Maria, but quickly gets bored.

Mr Crawford lives for the thrill of the chase, hence his relentless pursuit of Fanny, but even in his infatuation he can’t help himself and rekindles his romance with Maria, eventually leading to her “matrimonial fracas” and ruining her life. Not that he cares… 

Gluttony: Dr Grant

Dr Grant has an “attentive wife” and is a reasonably competent clergyman (at the Rushworths’’ wedding, “the service was impressively read by Dr. Grant”), but he only really thinks about one thing: his next meal.

A  “indolent, selfish bon vivant, who must have his palate consulted in everything”, he lives for his food, be it a sandwich tray, an apricot tart or a juicy pheasant or turkey. He ends up paying a price for his gluttony when his gouty symptoms force him to go to Bath for medicinal purposes. 

Greed: Mrs. Norris

Mrs. Norris isn’t exactly a charitable soul. Incapable of feeling any kind of empathy, she treats Fanny and those she considers her inferiors with contempt. Above all, she is a very avaricious woman. There’s nothing that Mrs. Norris enjoys more than getting her rich Mansfield Park relatives to spend money for her benefit.

From getting Sir Thomas to shoulder the financial burden of raising Fanny, to the famous green baize for the theatre curtain that eventually ends up in her cottage, she is driven by greed and utter selfishness, and is one of Austen’s best baddies. 

Pride: Maria Bertram

Raised in all comforts and spoilt by Aunt Norris, the eldest Bertram girl is proud of her good looks, her accomplishments, and her wealthy fiancé (Mr Rushworth has £12,000 a year, £2,000 more than Mr Darcy!). But this pride also makes her an easy prey for Mr Crawford. After much flirting (and more), she is left feeling like a fool.

Even Sir Thomas senses that something is wrong with her engaged with Mr Rushworth, but she is so proud that she would rather go ahead with a wedding to a man she despises than admit that her father is right. She will make the same mistake again after her marriage, with the same man – only the stakes will be much higher for her then. 

Laziness: Lady Bertram

Lady Bertram is indolent at best. Sitting on her sofa, snoozing, with pug on her lap, she has zero interest in the running of her household or her children’s education, and her husband and sister indulge her. In Miss Price’s Decision I give a medical reason for her lethargy (hypothyroidism, a condition I suffered for years), which also suits my plot.

However, in the original novel Lady Bertram is simply lazy, and the consequences of her lack of interest and willingness to put in the work are terrible for the family.  

Envy: Julia Bertram

In the shadow of Maria we find Julia, by all accounts a lovely girl, but always second best. Maria is “in general thought the handsomest” and is engaged to a rich man with a large country estate, a house in town and a substantial fortune. That would give most people enough reasons for sibling rivalry, but when Mr Crawford enters the scene, Julia’s envy seriously kicks off. Although she is the single Bertram sister, he ignores her and focuses his attention on Maria.

During the theatricals, you can almost feel the stabs of envy every time she sees her sister and Mr Crawford together… Thankfully, she manages to move on (and in Miss Price’s Decision I portray her life as newly married Mrs Yates!).

Wrath: What Do You Think?

I was initially going to nominate Sir Thomas as the wrath representative in Mansfield Park, but I think this would be unjust. When he unexpectedly returns from the West Indies to find his children (including his engaged eldest daughter) indulging in theatricals, he doesn’t lose his temper. The same can be said when Fanny refuses Mr Crawford. Instead, he reacts with cold rationality. Is his ire worthy of being considered a sin? 

On the other hand, plenty of other characters show unwarranted anger during the story, from Aunt Norris to Mary Crawford, from the Bertram sisters to Mr Price – even Fanny admits to feeling enraged on a few occasions. 

So what do you think?


Who is the best character representing the deadly sin of Wrath in Mansfield Park? And in which other ways do you think the other deadly sins are reflected in the novel?


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Mary B
Mary B
December 8, 2021 9:15 PM

If wrath is strong vengeful anger, I think we can make a case for Mr. Wickham falling into that category. Sometimes wrath is manifested in a neverending malicious desire to harm another person who has refused to give or do what you want.
So, though wrath often is manifested in language that is obviously angry, it can also be manifested the way Wickham’s wrath is: in actions taken and words spoken that are deviously planned, full of deception, and created specifically to create damage to the object of one’s wrath, all the while, hiding that wrath behind a facade of innocence and/or social acceptability.

Last edited 6 months ago by Mary B
Riana Everly
December 8, 2021 3:28 PM

What an interesting concept! You are right, now that I look for these.
Do you have any ideas about the seven virtues? Other than Fanny and Edmund, there aren’t a lot of virtuous characters in MP, are there? (Mrs. Grant, perhaps? And William Price?)

December 11, 2021 7:40 AM
Reply to  Eliza Shearer

Love this idea too! My very first thought was Mrs. Bates. Doesn’t she have them all?

December 11, 2021 7:46 AM
Reply to  galegreenoak

Sorry!!! I meant Miss Bates! (Although I’m sure Mrs. Bates is lovely too!)

Last edited 6 months ago by galegreenoak
Jean Stillman
Jean Stillman
December 8, 2021 12:23 PM

I enjoyed your article very much. Although Mansfield Park comes in at third place in my Jane Austen faves, I do like it a great deal. I must say that I think you have definitely nailed the characters and their sins. I think that perhaps Mrs. Norris hold the the number one spot for Wrath as well as greed. In fact I think she assumes the characteristics of several of the deadly sins. Obviously, greed for all the reasons mentioned. Wrath, because she is strongly angry at the sister, whom she felt married beneath her, and reflects that anger and hatred toward Fanny. She demonstrates envy, along with greed, by coveting her other sisters good fortune in marrying a man of wealth and title. In her pride, she looks down on Fanny and the rest of her family and works to keep be away from the rest of the family, except on the role of the poor relation/companion. After your insight on the seven deadly sins and how they relate to this book, I would definitely say that Mrs. Norris is the worst character in all of Jane Austen’s books. Thanks for this thought provoking article!

Corrie Garrett
December 7, 2021 10:36 PM

Wow, what a good analysis–it fits really well!

Linda A.
Linda A.
December 7, 2021 9:38 PM

Great observations! I think they all had moments of “strong vengeful or extreme anger, or indignation,” according to the dictionary. Definitely something to consider next time I read it. Thanks for sharing.

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
December 7, 2021 8:54 PM

I love your thoughts and picks for the different sins. I agree Me Bertram probably is best for wrath.

December 7, 2021 7:16 PM

I agree with your analysis although I can’t help that Mr Bertram comes closest to wrath.

December 7, 2021 6:23 PM

Well I’ve had my think, and I nominate Mrs. Norris as being the most wrathful of the characters. It’s just that all her wrath is directed towards Fanny, with a side of Mr. & Mrs. Grant. Who can forget her disparaging remarks about their round table of plenty and the moor park pear controversy? She married below her expectations, which probably put her in a bad mood for life. She’s angry at Fanny for being gifted a horse, for resting on a sofa, for refusing to act in the play. She’s furious with Fanny for receiving a proposal from Henry Crawford, then blames Maria and Henry’s behavior on Fanny NOT accepting. She yells at a kid about a piece of wood! So in my opinion, she carries the dishonor of two Deadly Sins, greed and wrath.

Riana Everly
December 8, 2021 3:27 PM
Reply to  galegreenoak

That’s a really good point.

J. W. Garrett
J. W. Garrett
December 7, 2021 11:25 AM

I am so impressed that you saw that. I’ve read that story several times and never made the connection with the seven sins. Well done. I agree with you that I love this story. I am Team Fanny all the way and that is not a banner many will fall under. Thanks for this amazing post. The next time I read it I will look more closely at each person and their motivations.

Wrath? Perhaps we should consider Tom Bertram. In the oldest movie, he stomped around because his pleasures had been interrupted, the theatrics, his being lord of the manner where his word and desires were followed as the oldest and heir, etc., etc. He was not a happy camper when ole dad returned early. His frustrations were quite evident. His pride still stung from his father’s chastisement [over his indulgences] that sent both him [reluctantly] and Sir Thomas to Antiqua in the first place. Our Tom had fallen in with a crowd of pleasure-seekers that spent their fortunes like water through a sieve. He did not want to be denied and pushed against the restraints.

Thanks for this amazing post. Blessings for the remainder of the Holiday Season in the manner in which you celebrate.

Amanda Kai
December 7, 2021 10:31 AM

Wow, great observations! I never would have thought to assign the seven deadly sins to Mansfield Park characters, but it does fit them very well! Which ones do you think apply to Mary Crawford?

December 11, 2021 7:37 AM
Reply to  Eliza Shearer

Avarice comes to mind. Which is greed ofc, but specific to wealth and status for Mary. Too bad really, I’ve always liked Mary. Had Edmund been made of sterner stuff, he may have made her see the light. Not good for Fanny of course! ?

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