The extent of the colonial aspect of the novel has of course been fiercely debated, in particular since Edward Said’s references to it in Culture and Imperialism (1993).  Some critics have demurred about making the perhaps too-easy equation between actual slavery and the domestic tyranny endured by white middle-class or gentry women in Austen’s day, while others have pointed out that Austen’s own contemporaries on both sides of the political spectrum, including Mary Wollstonecraft and Hannah More, enthusiastically made use of this direct comparison themselves (Coleman 293, 297).  Austen’s subtlety may forbid her from directly making such an equation—either in the exchange in Emma between Jane Fairfax and Mrs. Elton about the governess trade and the slave trade (325), or in the very pregnant silence about the subject in Mansfield Park itself (231).  Nevertheless, it by no means prevents Austen from being aware of such a comparison.  While neither the novel nor the painting is “about” slavery, both evidently allude to its effects and probe the uncomfortable realities of inequality, power, and obligation concealed beneath the smooth surface of family representation.” (emphasis mine—that’s just how I think about the relationship between the subject of slavery and MP, but more elegantly stated than I’ve ever managed.—MCS)