The eponymous home is a statement of Sir Thomas’s wealth and is the central setting of the novel. Its grandeur is highlighted when Fanny visits her parents and siblings in Portsmouth and the comparison between the two places sharpens her love of Mansfield Park and its comforts all the more.
There is little cross-examination of the basis of Sir Thomas’s wealth and the references to the West Indies and slavery are only a shadowy backdrop. Mansfield Park is primarily the indicator of luxury and ultimately for Fanny a preferred lifestyle.
It should also be stressed that Mansfield Park is idealized as a symbol of the country in contrast to the negative impressions given of urban life and Portsmouth and London in particular.
When the Bertrams, Crawfords and Fanny visit Sotherton to see the home and gardens of Mr Rushworth, the locked gate becomes a focal point and a symbol of imprisonment for three of the female characters. Miss Crawford and Maria notice it and want to know what lies beyond it, and Julia follows in Maria’s wake.
Perhaps most tellingly, Mr Rushworth goes to find the key to unlock it when Maria asks him to and while he is gone she climbs over a fence and walks away with Mr Crawford. The gate becomes at this point an obstacle to be overcome, much as Mr Rushworth is after he and Julia marry and she goes on to run away with Mr Crawford. In this light, the gate represents a barrier to the ideal of romantic love, and in the context of the novel the undutiful females question its role. Fanny is the only young woman to not be tempted into transgression.
When many of the characters decide to stage a play at Mansfield Park, they are seen to forget the duty and propriety that has been expected of them. With the patriarch, Sir Thomas, absent all but Fanny succumb to the temptation of public performance and much is made of how transgressive an act this is. It is as though the nature of drama, which includes pretence and illusion, is regarded as a danger to morality and to female respectability especially. It is only when Sir Thomas returns unexpectedly that the old order of performing duties rather than drama is restored.