Ian's Reviews > Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
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May 25, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: did-not-finish, wish-i-could-like-it
Read from May 22 to 25, 2010

Okay all my English Lit friends, please be patient with me and cut me some slack. I want to enjoy classic English literature, and some of it I do, but for the most part it's really tough for me to maintain concentration and absorb it in any meaningful way. Jane Austen in particular is one I wish I could enjoy because she just seems so ... I don't know, foundational? Fundamental? Insightful? Real? Maybe even sexy in her own early-nineteenth-century way? But when it comes down to it I always fail. The book is always too daunting, too difficult, or just too not-my-thing for me to make it all the way through. I feel like the Achaeans, marching forward with confidence that the gods are on my side this time, only to find I was merely a pawn in some divine squabble when Hector and his army of determined Trojan defenders drive me back to the shores of Ilium.

Part of my problem this time was the poor quality of the Librivox reading. The first two chapters were read by someone decent; I was enjoying her voice and her portrayal of the characters, then a new reader shows up for chapter 3. I don't like her as much as the first reader but I'm starting to get used to her when, in chapter 5, yet a third reader takes go at it. Well the third reader sucked and she read three chapters. A fourth reader takes over in chapter 8 but by that time I had taken all I could take, and had to admit defeat.

Yes, it is true the poor quality of the audiobook clouded my perception but, by the time I quit, the story also had completely lost my interest. I can take only so much of rich spoiled brats talking about nothing to one another and feeling very good about themselves for doing so.

On that note--and I'm sure this sounds absurdly basic to you English Lit types but consider that I've had a hard time with this stuff and am humbly imploring you to grant me some leeway in that regard--it seems to me Jane Austen deplores the nineteenth-century English upper class as much as I do. Correct?

In a world full of objectionable people, two sets of people in particular spark strong negative reactions in me. First are those who, either deliberately or through willful ignorance, perpetrate injustice upon others. Second are those who believe they are entitled to wealth, power, respect, and/or service merely due to an accident of birth. I didn't get far enough to know if Mansfield Park addresses the first set, but it certainly addresses the second. The idea of a class of people who hold nearly all of a nation's wealth and power, and to whom society pays respect and service, and membership in which is determined by birth, is utterly objectionable to me on every possible grounds.

Don't kid yourself into thinking we don't have a wealthy, powerful, privileged, and exclusive class of people in these United States. We sure as shit do. I deal with them at work. When you think of people who rely on government services your mind might first go to America's poor and elderly: the people on welfare and social security. But the people receiving the real benefits from our government are the ultra wealthy. They're wealth and power is made possible and maintained by our government-funded judicial, educational, law-enforcement, and physical infrastructures. Without courts schools, fire and police and military, not to mention utilities and an interstate highway system, America's Privileged Class would not have their privileged lives.

And with all their wealth and privilege, and for all they owe the government for making it all possible, America's Privileged Class go to great lengths to hide their income and invent ingenious schemes to evade taxation. Their sense of entitlement even extends to thinking the government should do all it does for them for free. That's where people like me come in. I work for a state government and part of my job to make sure America's Privileged Class are paying what they legally owe to the government.

So what does my job have to do with me not finishing Mansfield Park? I think it's just that I've acquired a jaded, cynical, often disgusted attitude towards people who think (sometimes, it seems, literally) the world revolves around them. So, when those type of people sit around congratulating one another on their awesomeness, I can only listen to so much. I reached my limit in chapter 8 (apparently I have pretty low tolerance) and, thus, couldn't finish the book.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Sparrow Don't give up on Austen because of this one, though. I extremely dislike this book, but most of the others are so great.


message 2: by Traveller (new)

Traveller I'm glad to see I'm not the only person in the world who finds Austen a bit... hard to stick with. But I'm going to give this one another shot soon.

Oh btw, I feel rather the same about George Eliot. She can be so didactic and tedious. ..and (oops, it's confession time, it would seem) well, sometimes Dickens's style seems so... almost "cartoony" to me. You know, he really goes out of his way to drive a point home that I wouldn't really call subtle.

Man, honest people like yourself is making me confess all my guilty little secrets out here in public. :P


message 3: by Ian (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ian I didn't give up on Austen because of this book. I actually really like P&P. I like the story in S&S, too, though the book itself is something I have yet to make it through.


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