Minli's Reviews > Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
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Dec 16, 09

bookshelves: own, sucky-endings, made-me-think, classics
Read in December, 2009

Mansfield Park is far from being the most romantic of Jane Austen's novels, but I find it a remarkably astute study of character and sociality. Mansfield Park is filled with imperfect (sometimes unbearable!) individuals, from the vain and pampered Maria, to the only slightly less so Julia; from the debonair and morally cracked Crawfords to Mrs. Norris's utterly infuriating existence. Within Mansfield Park are several sets of foils, Fanny for the majority of the young women, Edmund for Henry Crawford, and the entirety of Mansfield Park to Fanny's home in Portsmouth. Nearly everyone has their faults--Fanny not excepted--and I was impressed with Austen's masterful craftsmanship and sensitivity.

I like Fanny Price. I really do. She's not the most assertive or the most witty of Austen's heroines, but she's extremely principled--something I admire and identify with. She never lowers her moral standards to accept Henry Crawford, even when pushed to by Mary, Edmund and Sir Thomas. I have confidence that, were Henry diligent and changed enough to win Fanny over, he would have succeeded--but he did not. Fanny was perceptive enough to wait, to always reflect upon the others' behaviours, and to recognize faults and re-assess them. Mrs. Norris, perhaps one of the most damn annoying characters I've read in Austen with little redeeming qualities I can think of, continued to harp on about Fanny's ungratefulness and blame her for everyone else's bad behaviour. Fanny is never at fault, of course. She DOES realize the debt she owes to the Bertrams, but never compromises her own moral excellence. In fact, I wonder if it could be said that virtue can be inborn, and not just cultivated. Fanny became a reader (now I am drawing parallels to myself), and I wonder if that's where she got these strong ideas, since she couldn't have gotten it at Portsmouth or at Mansfield. Fanny's presence at Mansfield Park illuminates everyone else's imperfections, and ultimately sets things to right.

All the characters are so wonderfully HUMAN I wanted to hug this book. I still think Fanny deserved a lot better than Edmund in the end, but I think Fanny is delighted just as it turned out. But this book was far from being about the romance. While Edmund's crush on Mary was believable, I'd wished his change of heart had been more gradual, and his love for Fanny more.. I don't know. Just more. I mark it one star down for the last chapter. Mansfield Park is not one I would re-read again and again, but it's so wonderfully perceptive and put-together, I recommend it for anyone a fan of Austen or the Regency period.
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Reading Progress

12/02/2009 page 244
48.13% "Edmund you are a SELFISH BLIND JERK!"

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Sherwood (new) - added it

Sherwood Smith I think the big problem is that Austen withdraws into narrative "tell" mode because it wouldn't have been appropriate to "show" the scenes with Maria and Crawford. Nor could she really show Edmund's last confrontation with Mary because Fanny couldn't be there to see it.

If Austen had been able to show all these (including Edmund's discovery of Fanny as a possible wife) we might buy the ending more.


Minli By the time I hit the last forty pages, Edmund was still gooey-eyed and making excuses for Mary, and still considering Fanny as a sister. It just seemed so sudden--and I agree with you, more of a 'tell' than a 'show'. But while it was successful to have Fanny return to her home in Portsmouth to show how different society was there, she was distanced from all these important resolutions and had to find out via letter. We're so used to Fanny being our eyes and ears, and we trust her judgments--so when she is forced to depend on second-hand accounts, so are we.

The transition from Henry being an almost-decent-guy to utter-cad was nearly as quick as Edmund's favour from Mary to Fanny. None of it was surprising, mind, but too many changes of heart so quickly!


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