Margaret's Reviews > Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
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Nov 20, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: british-literature, favorites, austen, authors-ab, 2017-read
Read from February 16 to 19, 2017 , read count: 2

Mansfield Park is perhaps not the one of Austen's novels which appeals the most to modern sensibilities; after all, reasonably faithful adaptations have been made recently of several of Austen's other novels, while Mansfield Park was changed into something Austen lovers barely recognized. Mansfield Park is the home of Fanny Price, the poor relation of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram (Fanny's mother's sister), who took her to live with them from her impoverished Portsmouth home. Fanny is largely overlooked and taken for granted by the Bertrams, her other aunt Mrs. Norris, and the Bertram children, but she finds solace in the friendship of her cousin Edmund Bertram. When the Crawford siblings, Henry and Mary, come to Mansfield parsonage to stay with their sister, the wife of the clergyman Dr. Grant, they unsettle Mansfield society with gay doings and flirtations which lead to more serious events.

Fanny is self-effacing to the point of passivity, in marked contrast to Austen's more lively heroines, like Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice or Emma Woodhouse of Emma, which I think is one reason Mansfield Park is somewhat difficult to like on first reading (and why it was changed so drastically for the film version). Yet her moral sense and voice pervade Mansfield Park, and gradually, one grows to realize that she is a woman of deep convictions. When the others decide to put on a play of dubious moral quality and even Edmund joins in, Fanny resists everyone's blandishments to persuade her to take part; when Sir Thomas tries to convince her to marry a man she doesn't love, she resists that as well. She's no Lizzy, but she holds fast to her beliefs more than anyone else in this novel and emerges as a truly worthy heroine.

I wish that Austen had seen fit to match Fanny with a more interesting hero, but I guess you can't have everything. Mansfield Park does have much else to savor: the brilliant episode of the play-acting and the scenes at Portsmouth, unlike anything else Austen depicted in their portrait of family life among the not-so-well-off, are particularly masterly. It may be slower than some of the other novels, but Mansfield Park is one of the deepest and most rewarding of Austen's books.
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Sherwood (new) - added it

Sherwood Smith Good points. Fanny is also the youngest of Austen's heroines, except for Catherine. She also has far more sense of humor than Anne, for example; it's interesting that so many seem to judge these heroines by the men they choose, and few like Edmund, whereas Darcy and Wentworth are dashing and rich and romantic. But forgotten? Is the fact that the woman in these stories makes the choice. Even if she has to wait.


message 2: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Sherwood wrote: "Good points. Fanny is also the youngest of Austen's heroines, except for Catherine. She also has far more sense of humor than Anne, for example; it's interesting that so many seem to judge these he..."

What a neat comment! I now want to reread the book again -- I read it ages and ages ago and I'm sure I missed 80% of what's there.




Eric ...while Mansfield Park was changed into something Austen lovers barely recognized.

Amen! That movie drove me nuts.


Laura You put your thumb on something I never did -- Fanny is terribly passive. Probably quite realistic, but hard for me to emphasize with.

I suspect there's a lot in this book I haven't gotten. I feel like if the geography meant more to me I would have understood it more.


message 5: by Sherwood (last edited Jan 03, 2013 08:23AM) (new) - added it

Sherwood Smith Laura wrote: "You put your thumb on something I never did -- Fanny is terribly passive. Probably quite realistic, but hard for me to emphasize with.

We moderns don't really get how someone in Fanny's situation hasn't the power to act--until she dares to join a lending library. Her female cousins as well as Mrs. Norris made it abundantly clear she was second class, and her more benign cousins accepted it without seeing it. So she is a very powerful observer without the power to act. I think this was very clear to readers of Austen's time--which underscores the moral aspect of her refusal of Henry's charms, rank, and money.


Margaret Fanny is passive in that she doesn't/isn't allowed to act, but she's amazingly strong. She refuses to act in the play, even with almost everyone else pressuring her; she refuses to marry Henry Crawford, even with Sir Thomas pressuring her. Her belief in her own observations is so strong that it allows her the power to resist. It's passive resistance, sure, but it's resistance.

I think I empathized especially strongly with Fanny this time through because I've read a lot more about introversion since the last time I read MP, and I'm so strongly introverted myself that I can't help but see how strongly it affects her, too. Even the Portsmouth bits, which are so often read as snobbish, I just took as an expression of the horror of an introvert at suddenly being forced into a situation where she can never get away from the noise and interactions of her family. I do love the bit where she joins the lending library and finally feels empowered.


message 7: by Sherwood (new) - added it

Sherwood Smith YES!


Standback Abigail Nussbaum wrote a good essay on Fanny Price in the novel, and in various adaptations. Recommended :)

http://wrongquestions.blogspot.co.il/...


message 9: by Sherwood (new) - added it

Sherwood Smith Ziv wrote: "Abigail Nussbaum wrote a good essay on Fanny Price in the novel, and in various adaptations. Recommended :)

http://wrongquestions.blogspot.co.il/..."


An excellent essay. My disagreement with it is about Fanny's hypocrisy in letting' Crawford pursue her, and in making friends with Mary. She does every thing she can to avoid that courtship, ditto Mary, but she sees herself as far too powerless as to actually refuse. I think she bobbled there, but otherwise, it is extremely penetrating.


Sieran Whether we like Fanny or not might depend on our personal experiences and personality. I actually empathized with Fanny more than with the other Austen heroines, because I could really relate to Fanny: my childhood was mostly lonely and friendless, so I completely understand how it feels like to be neglected by everyone, left out in almost all activities, and feeling inferior to everyone except in my ability to have my own judgments and beliefs in my head. I'm someone who really values strong morality, so this might have disposed me to appreciate Fanny for her principles rather than to think her prudish. :D (Maybe I myself am a moral prude, so, lol.)

And though I'm not as extreme as Fanny, I also am someone who keeps agonizing over how to say things sensitively and respectfully towards others, even if I don't succeed in this or am sometimes too tired to be tactful, haha.

Also, I'm a bit sad that so many readers disliked Edmund and found him dull and unworthy. :/ I personally really loved him >_< , and I thought he was a great person, despite being aggravatingly blind sometimes. He is genuinely kind and caring towards Fanny, in my opinion, even if he can be very oblivious to her true feelings. :O


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