What sustains this life [at Mansfield Park] materially is the Bertram estate in Antigua, which is not doing well. Austen takes pains to show us two apparently disparate but actually convergent processes: the growth of Fanny’s importance to the Bertrams’ economy, including Antigua, and Fanny’s own steadfastness in the face of numerous challenges, threats, and surprise. . .

[Said quotes the paragraph in which Sir Thomas Bertram returns from Antigua in time to prohibit the amateur production of the play “The Lover’s Vows” at Mansfield Park]

The force of this paragraph is unmistakable. Not only is this a Crusoe setting things in order: it is also an early Protestant eliminating all traces of frivolous behavior. There is nothing in Mansfield Park that would contradict us, however, were we to assume that Sir Thomas does exactly the same things—on a larger scale—in his Antigua “plantations.” Whatever was wrong there—and the internal evidence gathered by Warren Roberts suggests that economic depression, slavery, and competition with France were at issue—Sir Thomas as able to fix, thereby maintaining his control over his colonial domain. More clearly than anywhere else in her fiction, Austen here synchronizes domestic with international authority, making it plain that the values associated with such higher things as ordination, law, and propriety must be grounded firmly in actual rule over and possession of territory. She sees clearly that to hold and rule Mansfield Park is to hold and rule an imperial estate in close, not to say inevitable association with it. What assures the domestic tranquility and attractive harmony of one is the productivity and regulated discipline of the other.

From Edward Said, Jane Austen and Empire, from The Edward Said Reader, Vintage Books, New York, 2000. (available via Google books)