Taken from the poverty of her parents' home in Portsmouth, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally. During her uncle's absence in Antigua, the Crawford's arrive in the neighbourhood bringing with them the glamour of London life and a reckless taste for flirtation. Mansfield Park is considered Jane Austen's first mature work and, with its quiet heroine and subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, one of her most profound.
Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature, her realism and biting social commentary cementing her historical importance among scholars and critics. Austen lived her entire life as part of a close-knit family located on the lower fringes of the English landed gentry. She was educated primarily by her father and older brothers as well as through her own reading. The steadfast support of her family was critical to her development as a professional writer. Her artistic apprenticeship lasted from her teenage years until she was about 35 years old. During this period, she experimented with various literary forms, including the epistolary novel which she tried then abandoned, and wrote and extensively revised three major novels and began a fourth. From 1811 until 1816, with the release of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote two additional novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began a third, which was eventually titled Sanditon, but died before completing it. Austen's works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century realism. Her plots, though fundamentally comic, highlight the dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and economic security. Her work brought her little personal fame and only a few positive reviews during her lifetime, but the publication in 1869 of her nephew's A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public, and by the 1940s she had become widely accepted in academia as a great English writer. The second half of the 20th century saw a proliferation of Austen scholarship and the emergence of a Janeite fan culture.
I was astounded to find that many of the reviews on this site criticize this book for the main character, Fanny Price, & her timidity and morality. It is very different from Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, whose smart, sensible heroines make the novels, but I actually enjoyed this book immensely for its social commentary.
Most of the characters in this book singlemindedly pursue wealth, status, and pleasure regardless of their personal and moral costs. Their antics are pretty hilarious, and I think Fanny's passive and proper nature makes her an ideal medium through which to observe all the frivolous and shallow people around her. Aside from being funny, the book also raises the issue of a girl's "duty" to marry well - should personal happiness be sacrificed for money and connections?
Whether you will like this book depends on why you read Jane Austen. Don't read these novels as you would a Harlequin romance, because that's not what they are, as this book shows. The love story and the "happily ever after" element are a lot more prominent in P&P and S&S, but in Mansfield Park it is definitely less important than the social commentary.
Most Austen aficionados agree that Pride and Prejudice is a great book. Jane Austen thought it might be too "light and bright and sparkling"--that its comedy might outshine its serious points--but its continued popularity today indicates that her recipe for brilliance contained just the right ingredients.
Yet a lot of modern readers loathe Mansfield Park, despite its being thought by others the greatest of all Austen's work. What's going on here?
Frequently leveled criticisms: * Fanny is a stick. * The moral stances against the Lovers' Vows and against the Crawfords are baseless and pompous. * The marriage of cousins is not just disappointing, it's disgusting. * The ending is disappointing. Edmund is a dreary hero--Henry would have been much better a match for Fanny.
Fanny is a stick. The ink spilled about Fanny pegs her as physically weak, humorless, and worst of all she disapproves of innocent and harmless fun like the play for what seem to be self-righteous reasons.
Fanny's physical weakness seems easy enough to dismiss as a criticism. However uninteresting continuous illness is for a modern reader (unless it's a reader who loves hospital and doctor stories), that is actually a slice of reality 200 years ago. Fanny's physical state is an observant portrait of a sensitive child who was never given the warmth of a fire in winter, who wore cast-off clothing, and probably was fed last in the nursery, maybe even the leavings that the bigger cousins didn't want. She gets a headache being cooped up indoors, suggesting allergies. Aunt Norris made it her business to see that giving Fanny as much as her cousins got was "unnecessary waste" and Lady Bertram was too indolent to notice. Sir Thomas had little to do with the children's upbringing, so he didn't see it either--we discover this when he comes to the nursery for the first time, and discovers that Fanny has never had a fire in winter.
There is plenty of corroborative detail of this sort of treatment of poor relations raised as charity cases by wealthier relatives, if one reads period memoirs, letters, even sermons. Aunt Norris says later in the book to Fanny Remember wherever you go you are always least and lowest, and no contemporary reader ever pointed this out as unbelievable.
Fanny's character is retiring, but that's understandable considering the way she's been raised. Austen (who had a brother adopted into a wealthy relation's family) seems to understand what it would be like for a young person to be taken from her home, crowded and humble as it was, to be raised in a completely different manner--and manor. Fanny is an acute observer, at least as acute as Mary Crawford is, and far more charitable. Probably moreso, for Fanny was able to descry emotional changes in both Mary and Edmund as well as her more readable cousins, and Mary--while seeing Julia's plight, and shrugging it off--did not see Fanny's adoration for her Cousin Edmund. Mary was also able to talk herself into believing Fanny's unswerving politeness to Henry, and her occasional flushes of anger, as expressions of love. Fanny sees into everyone's heart, and feels for them all, deserving or not--excepting only Henry. She sees his love, but she does not trust it, or him. Though Austen does say later she might have married him, after time--if Edmund had married first.
Fanny has no humor. If you compare the number of moments of laughter, you'll find that Fanny exhibits far more sense of humor than Anne in Persuasion or Elinor of Sense and Sensibility, much as I love both characters, especially Anne. I suspect many readers overlook examples like this bit in Book One, Chapter XII, where Tom has just come in during a hastily-arranged ball, and is bitching to Fanny:
"...they need all be in love, to find any amusement in such folly--and so they are, I fancy. If you look at them, you may see they are so many couple of lovers--all but Yates and Mrs. Grant--and, between ourselves, she poor woman! must want a lover as much as any one of them. A desperate dull life hers must be with the doctor," making a sly face as he spoke toward the chair of the latter, who proving, however, to be close at his elbow, made so instantaneous a change of expression and subject necessary, as Fanny, in spite of everything, could hardly help laughing at. "A strange business this in America, Dr. Grant! What is your opinion? I always come to you to know what I am to think of public matters."
After which Austen makes it clear that, despite the situation, Fanny cannot forebear laughing out loud. Later, she and brother William talk and laugh in the coach all the way to Portsmouth. I just can't see Anne Elliott cracking a smile in either situation. The real sticking points are Fanny's disapproval of the Crawfords, and . . .
The moral stance Fanny takes against the play. I've seen modern readers inveigh against this as a harbinger of lugubrious Victorianism. They overlook the fact that in Austen's day, it was a sign of disrespect to carry on as if unconcerned when the head of the house was away, and in danger of his life. And even now, who among us would like to make a long, fatiguing trip just to come home and discover that our own room (out of all the rooms in a big house) is the scene of an ongoing party? As for the Crawfords and ther innate badness, Austen tries to show us attractive people who can be kind, are socially acceptable, but were raised without any but the most superficial moral awareness, much less conviction.
Many feel that this novel is filled with more delicious wit and comedy than any of the others outside of Pride and Prejudice. Contemporary psychology, psychiatry, and social sciences of various sorts worry anxiously at the nature-versus-nuture debate, as we try to figure out why we are the way we are; Austen tries to show us that someone without morals may reform, but it takes time and effort as well as love. And would Henry Crawford have reformed? I'll come back to that.
The marriage of cousins is disgusting. No getting around that, not what with we know about genetics, so we grow up regarding our cousins as being as off-limits as siblings. On first reading Austen's novels, my then-teenaged daughter was only slightly less repulsed by the marriage of cousins than she was at Emma's marrying a guy well old enough to be her father--and who acts like one more often than not. But the truth is that these things were quite common during Austen's time. And, given the sequestered lives country girls lived, it was a miracle if they met any young men outside of their handy cousins--who presumably at least had the proper rank in life; there was still a tendency for parents to feel it was better for older and wiser heads to select husbands for their innocent daughters, and handy male cousins, well known to the family, also rounded out estates nicely.
Edmund is a dull hero. Is he really dull? He exhibits about as much of a sense of humor as does Mr. Darcy, which is to say very little. When he's with Fanny he is, at best, the kindly, well-meaning, but rather patronizing older brother.
In fact Edmund is at his worst in his scenes with Fanny. He's insensitive and condescending--he's a typical teen-age boy in the early scene when he tries to talk Fanny into being glad to live with Aunt Norris. Even his being a teenager is no excuse for such insensitivity, for he has to have observed her unsubtle cruelties. Unless he believed that Fanny really was a second class member of the family--which observation does not redound to his credit. In all their other scenes, he's unfailingly kind (except when he permits Mary to monopolize Fanny's horse, which is prompted by his crush on Mary), and when he tries first to to bully Fanny into participating in the play, and then he tries to bully her into marrying Henry--despite his vaunted principles, which he knows Henry doesn't share, his motive being that giving Fanny to Henry will bring Mary closer to himself. He does care about Fanny in his own peculiar way, but there is absolutely no chemistry; he calls her Sister right until the end, when he wants to denounce his own sisters for straying from societal norms, so that Austen's unconvincing narrative that he fell in love "after just the right amount of time" carries a strong whiff of incest.
Edmund also comes off poorly when he discusses Mary Crawford with Fanny, metaphorically wrinkling his nose over her rather free speech and attributing her frankly expressed opinions to bad upbringing. He proves himself a first class hypocrite when he denounces the acting scheme, but then gives in because Mary wants to act--and then he's so involved with Mary that he totally overlooks the more serious trouble going on between his sisters over Henry. The evidence is there--Fanny sees it--but Edmund doesn't.
Mary falls for him in spite of herself, and here is our clue that the Edmund the family sees is not the Edmund the world sees. She sees Edmund as a man and not as the family's moral windvane. It's through her eyes that Edmund becomes mildly interesting. "He was not pleasant by any common rule, he talked no nonsense, he paid no compliments, his opinions were unbending, his attentions tranquil and simple." She's fascinated by this kind of guy--she's never met one before--and in her company, Edmund comes alive. In some of their passages he exhibits intelligence and even a faint semblance of wit. I think the internal evidence is clear that, had they married, it probably would have been happy for a few months. But once the reality of being a minister's wife really hit Mary, and the newness wore off, she would have felt imprisoned, and made Edmund's life hell. That she craved some kind of peace and security was clear enough, but not as a minister's wife. She knew her limitations, and was satisfied enough with herself to not wish to change.
If one speculates, as I do, about what happens after the end of each novel, it's easy to see Edmund carrying a torch for Mary Crawford for the rest of his life--and Fanny knowing it. There's too much a sense of settling for second best when he marries Fanny--which brings me to my own problem with this novel.
In his essay on Mansfield Park in Lectures on Literature, Vladimir Nabokov says, "An original author always invents an original world, and if a character or an action fits into the pattern of that world, then we experience the pleasurable shock of artistic truth, no matter how unlikely the person or thing may seem if transferred into what book reviewers, poor hacks, call "real life." There is no such thing as real life for an author of genius: he must create it himself and then create the consequences."
The weakest point in Pride and Prejudice is the coincidence that brings Darcy and Elizabeth face to face at Pemberley. Jane Austen tried to smooth it as much as she could, having had Mrs. Gardiner grow up in the area, and making it possible for Elizabeth to visit because she is safe in the knowledge that the Darcy family are away. But still, when he comes round the side of the stable and their eyes meet, it's an interesting moment, and a moment we hoped for, but not an inevitable moment.
In Mansfield Park, until the very last there are no coincidences. Each action unfolds with dramatic integrity, flowing logically from the preceding. Where the consequences falter is at the end of the third book, when Austen shifts from showing us the novel in a series of exquisitely detailed scenes. Abruptly the story is tucked away and the narrator steps up and addressed the reader directly, telling us what happened. We are told what happened, we're told why, and in short, we're told what to believe.
Austen kept the subsequent actions off-stage because delicacy dictated such a course. A lady would not 'show' Henry's crucial decision to run off with Maria Bertram Rushworth--making some readers think it an arbitrary decision. We're told in Austen family lore that Jane's sister Cassandra begged Jane to end the book differently, with Fanny marrying Henry, but Jane was obdurate.
I suspect that Jane Austen intended this bit to be the convincing piece of evidence against Henry: He saw Mrs. Rushworth, was received by her with a coldness which ought to have been repulsive, and have established apparent indifference between them for ever: but he was mortified, he could not bear to be thrown off by the woman whose smiles had been so wholly at his command; he must exert himself to subdue so proud a display of resentment; it was anger on Fanny's account; he must get the better of it, and make Mrs. Rushworth Maria Bertram again in her treatment of himself.
This passage echoes his first conversation alone with Mary, when he decides so idly to make Fanny fall in love with him. We already know from earlier evidence he likes the chase. Never all the way to marriage. He makes jokes about that. With this decision about Fanny, we see that he stirs himself to action if any woman resists his flirtation, even someone as insignificant as Fanny; early on in his pursuit, he can't even remember if he saw her dancing, though he professes to remember her grace.
But saying that Henry pursues Fanny all the way to proposing marriage just because she resists him is too simple. The reason he doesn't ask Maria Bertram to marry him when she's dropped as many hints as she can that she's not only willing, but expecting a proposal, is that though he finds her extremely attractive (all those rehearsals of the tender scene prove that) he has no respect for her. He knows she's selfish and a hypocrite, which is fine for idle flirtation. Fanny is the first woman he respects. And that respect might--might--be enough to change him, some readers think, before we're abruptly thrust out of the story, just to be told by the narrator that the deserving got their happy ending, and the others didn't.
Finally, in Fanny's and Henry's relationship there is that fascinating element of the reformed rake, the taming of the beast, that was as much a draw to women readers in Romantic poetry (check out Byron--and the reactions from his audience, in old letters and articles) as it is now. I wonder if, in fact, readers 200 years ago were as disappointed with this ending as modern readers are now--saying out loud, "Well, this is the way it ought to be," but internally rewriting the story so that Henry does resist Maria's angry, selfish intentions despite her physical allure, and Fanny gets her passionate and reformed Henry, rewarding him with all that devotion and sensitivity that seems wasted on Edmund. Opinions in Austen's circle seemed to have been mixed, and the book apparently did not sell as well as the others.
Why did Austen end it the way she did? Were Fanny's feelings for Edmund real love? They don't read that way to me.
It could be my opinion is colored by Edmund's reactions to Fanny, for chemistry has to go two ways if it's to be sustained, but her admiration, sparked so early in her teens, seems the kind of crush romantic youngsters form and then grow out of. She's clear-sighted enough to see Edmund's faults concerning Mary, but she doesn't seem to see his other vagaries. She does see Henry's faults, but at the very end, it seems she is slowly being won over through his alterations; when they walk together in Portsmouth on a Sunday morning, energy sparks between them. She cares for his opinion, she watches him. It seems to me that this is the start of real love, the love of a mature woman. But then, quite suddenly, it all is thrown away, the more unconvincing because Austen resorts to telling us what to think, after an entire novel in which she had shown, so beautifully, living and breathing characters.
Consistency, in Nabakov's sense, is sacrificed; moral truth is firmly asserted, at the cost of artistic truth. I don't blame that on Fanny, but on her creator.
"I am of a cautious temper, and unwilling to risk my happiness in a hurry."
This has to be the only Austen book I felt apprehensive of reading: there is a lot of controversy around this book, to make one re-think if diving in to this would be a good idea. It turns out, at least for me, the forebodings were for nothing. Despite several shortcomings of the characters, including the heroine - Fanny Price, and a hurried ending, I liked the overall story. But it does fall behind Persuasion and Pride & Prejudice in many ways.
"How wonderful, how very wonderful the operations of time, and the changes of the human mind!”
"Good sense, like hers, will always act when really called upon;"
Before anything, I think I should first address what could make a reader uncomfortable with Mansfield Park. Had it not been for the way Fanny and Edmund were portrayed, and the nature of their relationship, I believe a lot of readers would have fallen in love with this book, just like with Austen's popular ones. Romance between cousins is always a delicate subject, and Fanny being Edmund's adopted sibling (kind of) does not help. It's understandable this could make a lot of readers uncomfortable. So, if you are to enjoy this book, you'll have to tolerate that aspect, which plays a central part of the story. Fanny's character traits are -though open to many interpretations- much more understandable, especially if you were to empathize with her and her situation in life. However, the two main antagonists, Mr. & Miss Crawford, are way more interesting in my opinion. Though the book uses a third person narrative, the perspective of Fanny controls the nature of of it. All others are very closely judged by her, with her unwavering morals, and flawless conduct in everything. Though these characteristics do get a little tiring at times, I preferred it to the ones of Edmund's.
"He knew her to be clever, to have a quick apprehension as well as good sense, and a fondness for reading, which, properly directed, must be an education in itself."
"She gave advice, advice too sound to be resisted by a good understanding, and given so mildly and considerately as not to irritate an imperfect temper, and she had the happiness of observing its good effects not unfrequently."
IF a reader could overlook the above (of at least understand, this was written at a time when such things are not controversial), then you're in for a fascinating story. As usual, the plot is centered around marriage and 'marriage economics'. And, as always, she is quite successful at introducing a unique perspective to make things interesting, using a silent, and an evaluative protagonist. A little introduction follows the arrival of Fanny Price at Mansfield Park, and quickly passes through several years to reach the present, while establishing a set of contrasting secondary characters, who are even better than Fanny. Contrary to the popular opinion, I really liked the way how story progressed, with a couple of exceptions, first one being Henry Crawford's character. The second half of the book attempted a lot to atone for his faults, out of which came nothing. After all that time effort, it didn't make much sense to give him such an ending. My other complaint lies with the overall ending of the story. Though Austen does take her time delivering some very unforgivable (and satisfying) verdicts to some of the antagonists, Fanny and Edmund's ending felt a little hurried. Edmund's last minute shift in opinion felt like a paradigm shift!
“If this man had not twelve thousand a year, he would be a very stupid fellow.”
"The temptation of immediate pleasure was too strong for a mind unused to make any sacrifice to right."
However, when all is said and done, I still find myself adding this book to my 'favorite fiction' self. After all, it is an Austen. How could one do anything else?
There is nothing like employment, active indispensable employment, for relieving sorrow.
Upping my rating from 3 stars to 4 on reread. Mansfield Park isn't as easy to love as most of Jane Austen's other novels, but it has a lot of insights to offer into the personalities, strengths and weaknesses of not just Fanny, but all of the other characters who live in and around Mansfield Park, a country manor in England. Like Kelly says in her truly excellent review of this book, it's called "Mansfield Park" - not Fanny or Foolishness and Awkwardness - for a good reason.
The other thing that helped me was mentally repeating the mantra that stood me in good stead when I was rereading Rebecca: This is not a romance novel. If you read it with the standard romantic expectations, you're likely to be disappointed. A starry-eyed view of romance and happily-ever-after is not the point of Mansfield Park (and, really, not of any of Austen's other novels, Darcy and Wentworth notwithstanding). Here it's much more about the social commentary, and often about the ways people hurt others through their selfishness or lack of consideration.
After rereading both Mansfield Park and Persuasion, I think that Fanny is just as good a heroine as Anne Elliot, and actually they have a lot in common in their personalities: sensitive, rather shy, physically weak, kind-hearted and giving to a fault. Anne just got the benefit of a better romantic plot line and (sorry/notsorry, Edmund) a far more appealing hero in Frederick Wentworth.
Once I stopped trying to squeeze Fanny and Edmund into the roles of romantic heroine and hero, I was able to appreciate how nuanced and realistically Austen drew these characters. Fanny is the poor cousin who is taken in by her Aunt Bertram's family as a young girl. She's a sensitive soul and a quiet personality, with an unfailing moral compass. Fom the modern point of view she can be a bit of a prig at times, but she was in line with the social expectations for her time, especially for a dependent young woman.
Fanny struggles with her health, partly because of her Aunt Norris' unflagging (and unasked for) efforts to keep Fanny humble and always, always useful, and to save the Bertrams' money at Fanny's expense: her rooms are bitterly cold in winter; there's never a fire in her sitting room until her inattentive uncle realizes it one day. (Aunt Norris, by the way, is a brilliant creation, a shockingly appalling person that still makes you laugh.)
And Fanny also struggles with her unrequited love for her cousin Edmund, the only truly loving person in the Bertram family toward her. So it's a rough blow for Fanny when the fashionable, self-centered and worldly brother and sister team, Henry and Mary Crawford, sweep into town and upend everything at Mansfield Park. Edmund's sisters, Maria and Julia, fight over Henry's attention (Maria's engagement to another man not posing much of an obstacle in her mind; she'd love to trade up personality- and intelligence-wise). Edmund promptly falls for Mary Crawford, who can't quite believe she's really giving a second son - and one who's going to be a clergyman! - the time of day. Edmund is still absentmindedly kind to Fanny, but he's completely head over heels for Mary, to Fanny's vast chagrin.
I never thought Mary quite as unworthy a person as Fanny does, though that may be my modern perspective talking. Henry clearly starts out as a player and a user, but Fanny's sweetness and goodness start to change his jaded heart.
Mansfield Park is so insightful about people’s faults and foibles and personal relationships. Just, look somewhere else if you want a soul-satisfying romance.
Bonus material: After reading Mansfield Park, I jumped into Sherwood Smith's Henry and Fanny: An Alternate Ending to Mansfield Park to see if she could convince me that, just maybe, Jane Austen got the ending wrong here. She is pretty convincing! Give this a shot if you’re interested. It’s one of the few JAFF (Jane Austen fan fiction, for the uninitiated) works I think is really good.
Initial review: Fanny always struck me as a sad sack, and Edmund as needing a nice big shot of testosterone so he could step it up a notch. I really need to reread this one to see if I can develop more appreciation for the main characters.
Maybe my problem is that I want all of my Austen heroines to be more like Elizabeth Bennet.
I apologize if you were in any way affected by the recent tilting of the world off its axis. For the first time ever, I was disappointed by something by Jane Austen, and it threatened to destroy the basic functioning of the universe.
Mansfield Park is just...not very good.
There’s that whole romance-with-your-first-cousin thing, for one. No blame on ol’ Janie, she was merely a victim of her incestuous nineteenth-century society circumstances, but like...yuck. Gives you the heebie-jeebies all the same.
All I’m saying is it’s tough to go from the greatest love story ever told to a pair of characters with all the flamboyant personality of stale biscuits valiantly attempting to force themselves to fall in love with each other.
And yes, one, these characters are no Bennet family. Fanny, our main squeeze, is a bit, um, how to say this politely...devastatingly boring. She’s, like, nice. It’s fine. Her first cousin and major lifelong crush, Edmund or Edward or Edvard or Edmonton or one of those Ed-names, I already forget, is equally compelling. As I’m sure you can tell by the fact that I cannot remember his name and lack the energy to look it up.
There’s also just...no real love story here. About a quarter of the book is devoted to the sheer horror of a few rich kids in their mid-twenties putting on a play. (How improper! Gasp! We are on the edge of our seats waiting to find out what happened!!) Two thirds of it follows Fanny legitimately agonizing over the unwanted affections of some guy, who is, guess what, so much more interesting than the actual love interest. (Damn it, Jane.) The real romance begins and ends in seemingly the last four pages of the book.
THE LOVE STORY OF THIS LOVE STORY IS AN AFTERTHOUGHT.
It feels like the part in Jane Eyre when she lives with Sinjin and is just like “This sucks.” This book is like if the worst part of Jane Eyre was all of Jane Eyre.
Luckily, even the worst part of Jane Eyre is still beautifully written, and so is this book. The best thing that Mansfield Park has going for it is that it’s written by Jane Austen, and Jane Austen couldn’t write a one star-worthy book if she tried.
But it doesn’t have much else going for it.
Bottom line: I would like to pretend that this book is not part of the collected works of Jane Austen thank you very much!
I'm supposed to like her because she has a deep appreciation for nature, understands her place in society, is happy to be useful to her betters, is pained to the point of tears when anyone other than Edmund pays any attention to her, is gratingly proper, and can't walk more than 10 steps without having to sit down? Yes, more of that kind of heroine, please!
And as much as I disliked Fanny, I loathed Edmund even more. He is one of those people who will adhere to the rules of society that he believes are right, proper, and just, to the point of turning his back on family and friends who don't follow those rules. But who doesn't find starchy and stifling to be the most incredibly sexy qualities in a man?! I know he certainly melted my panties as the book wore on...
These two were the WORST. Was there ever a more obnoxiously deserving couple ever created for literature? I think not. You know how everyone thinks that they are the hero of the story? Like, even smug assholes and annoying twats - they think they're justified to be smug assholes and annoying twats because of whatever douchy reasons they come up with. <--Edmund & Fanny!
You know who I liked?! Mary Crawford! Yes. The villainess of the story is the only tolerable character in this thing. In fact, I'm not even sure she's a bad guy. I found myself nodding along with almost everything she said. Her worst offenses were that she spoke her mind and thought church was boring.
Let sickly, boring, conscientious Fanny have that dork and count your ill-fated romance with Edmund a bullet dodged, Ms. Crawford. Ride off into the sunset, girl!
And as far as romance goes? Nothing was less romantic than watching (listening, in my case) to Fanny simper and pine over her oblivious cousin, while he chased after Mary. There was nothing, nothing in his manner that led you to believe deep down he might love Fanny and just not realize it. In the end, there isn't even an on-page ah-ha! moment! It just says (and I'm paraphrasing here), after a while, he realized Fanny might due quite well for a wife and there's an off-page marriage between the two. Wow! The fireworks between those guys were unbelievable! I can only imagine what kind of sparks they had in their marriage.
Was I supposed to be rooting for these boring, self-righteous, snobby a-holes to get a Happily Ever After? Was I really? OhmyfuckinggodnoIcannotdoit. My personal happy ending includes Mary marrying some awesome rich guy who thinks she's funny and hot, then riding past Edmund's gross little church on their way to whatever amazing honeymoon destination they pick out. Edmund gazes longingly at the dust her carriage creates as it speeds by, and stupid Fanny realizes she shouldn't have settled for being anyone's second choice.
Jane Austen is a fantastic writer so I can't give it less than 3 stars, but the characters in this sucker were awful. I'd recommend this book only if you enjoy seeing the Bad Guys win.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>
(Book 937 from 1001 books) - Mansfield Park, Jane Austen
Mansfield Park is the third published novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1814 by Thomas Egerton. A second edition was published in 1816 by John Murray, still within Austen's lifetime.
The novel tells the story of Fanny Price, starting when her overburdened, impoverished family sends her at age ten to live in the household of her wealthy aunt and uncle; it follows her development and concludes in early adulthood.
Frances "Fanny" Price, at age ten, is sent from her family home to live with her uncle and aunt in the country in Northampton-shire.
It is a jolting change, from the elder sister of many, to the youngest at the estate of Sir Thomas Bertram, husband of her mother's older sister.
Her cousin Edmund finds her alone one day and helps her. She wants to write to her older brother William. Edmund provides the writing materials, the first kindness to her in this new family.
Her cousins are Tom Jr. (age 17), Edmund (age 16), Maria (age 13) and Julia (age 12).
Her aunt, Lady Bertram, is kind to her, but her uncle frightens her (unintentionally) with his authoritative demeanor.
Fanny's mother has another sister, Mrs Norris; the wife of the clergyman at the Mansfield parsonage.
Mrs Norris and her husband have no children of their own, and she takes a 'great interest' in her nieces and nephews; Mrs Norris makes a strict distinction between her Bertram nieces and lowly Fanny.
Sir Thomas helps the sons of the Price family find occupations when they are old enough. William joins the Navy as a midshipman not long after Fanny arrives at Mansfield Park. He visits them once after going to sea, and writes to his sister. ...
عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «پارک مانسفیلد»؛ «منسفیلد پارک»؛ اثر: جین اوستین (آستین)؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و سوم ماه ژوئن سال 2013 میلادی
عنوان: پارک منسفیلد (مانسفیلد)؛ اثر: جین اوستین (آستین)؛ برگردان: مریم حقیقی، انتشارات کوشش، سال1364، در256ص؛ چاپ دوم سال1372؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده ی 19م
برگردان: رضا رضایی، نشر نی، سال1386؛ در543ص؛ شابک9643128912؛ چاپ دوم سال1386؛ چاپ سوم سال1388؛ چاپ چهارم سال1389؛ چاپ چهاردهم سال1400؛
عنوان: منسفیلد پارک؛ اثر: جین اوستین (آستین)؛ برگردان: سوسن اردکانی؛ نگارستان کتاب، سال1390؛ در 721ص؛ شابک9786001900402؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، نظاره، سال1396؛ در656ص؛ شابک9786008394761؛
داستان در «انگلستان»، و در سالهای نخستین از سده نوزدهم میلادی میگذرد؛ «فانی پرایس» برای مشکلات مالی مادرش، با خواهش شوهرخاله ی ثروتمندش؛ «سر توماس برترام» به منزل بزرگ آنها، در «منسفیلد پارک» میرود؛ اما خاله و شوهرخاله و فرزندان آنها «تام»، «ماریا (ماری)» و «جولیا (جولی)»، با «فانی» رفتاری نابخردانه دارند؛ تنها «ادموند»، دومین پسر «برترام»ها، با او مهربان است
رمان چنین آغاز میشود: (حدود سیسال قبل، دوشیزه «ماریا» اهل «هانتینگ دن» که دارایی اش فقط هفت هزار لیره بود؛ آنقدر شانس داشت تا آقای «توماس برترام» اهل «منسفیلد پارک»؛ واقع در استان «نورث هامپتون» را، تور بزند، و بدین ترتیب به مقام همسر «بارون» ارتقاء یابد، و از تمام مواهب و مزایای یک خانه قشنگ، و درآمد کلان بهرهمند شود؛ همه ساکنان «هانتینگ دن» با حیرت و شگفتی، درباره ی شکوه و عظمت این وصلت حرف میزدند، و حتی عموی خانم «ماریا» تصدیق کرد، که وی برای برابری با شأن و مقام همسرش، حداقل سه هزار لیره کسر دارد؛ «ماریا» دو خواهر داشت، که میتوانستند از ترفیع و پیشرفت او سود ببرند، و چون برخی از آشنایان آنها؛ «دوشیزه وارد» و «دوشیزه فرانسیس» را، درست به اندازه «دوشیزه ماریا» قشنگ میدانستند، لذا بیهیچ تردیدی پیشبینی میکردند؛ که آنها نیز با مزایا و شکوه تقریباً برابر ازدواج خواهند کرد؛ ولی بیشک، تعداد مردان ثروتمند و خوش اقبال دنیا، هرگز به اندازه زنان زیبایی که شایسته آنانند، نیست؛ «دوشیزه وارد» پس از پنج یا شش سال، مجبور شد با «عالیجناب نوریس» که دوست شوهر خواهرش بود، و ثروت چندانی هم نداشت، ازدواج کند؛ اما «دوشیزه فرانسیس» عاقبتی از این هم بدتر داشت؛ در واقع همسر خانم «وارد» قابل تحقیر نبود، «سر توماس» خوشبختانه قادر بود برای زندگی در «منسفیلد»، درآمدی برای دوستش فراهم کند، و خانم و آقای «نوریس» نیز، زندگی مشترک و سعادتمندانه خود را، با درآمدی نزدیک به هزار لیره در سال، آغاز کردند؛ اما «دوشیزه فرانسیس» ازدواج کرد، تا به قول معروف، خانواده اش را برنجاند، و با دلبستن به یک ستوان نیروی دریایی، که نه سواد و تحصیلاتی داشت، و نه ثروت و موقعیتی، اینکار را به تمام و کمال انجام داد.)؛ پایان نقل
با اینکه «پارک منسفیلد» در دوران پختگی ادبی نویسنده نگاشته شده، اما آن نشاط و ظرافت رمانهای نخستین ایشان، در این رمان به دیده خوش ننشست؛ شاید هم باید، این ژانر را در دوران جوانی، و در روزگار خوشباشی خواند؛ اما نباید فراموش کرد، که این رمان سپیده دم دوران مدرن را، با صدای رسا فریاد میزند
تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 08/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 27/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
(This is usually the part where I offer abject apologies for my review's length, but I don't feel like it this time. It's long. Continued on the comments section. You have been duly notified.)
Ah, Fanny Price. We meet again.
Our previous meeting was…. How shall I say? Underwhelming. Unsatisfying. …Lacking is really the word I’m looking for. There was something missing in every encounter I had with you that made me want to tear my hair out.
Now I know why, and it was entirely to do with what I brought to the table for our meeting. I brought your sisters-in-theory, the heroines Elinor, Emma, Marianne, and Elizabeth, like a pack of stylish queen bees in my head, dazzled by their brilliance and faced you with them at my back like a jury at an oral exam, a row of judges at an audition ready to cut you off after only six bars. And your six bars, I will be real with you, started to seem to be a particularly wail-based version of On My Own that I thought I had heard enough times already to know what your deal was. I was in no position to see you at all at that time. In those ladies listed above, Austen provided me with a repeated melody and a theme that I admired and respected. You didn’t fit into that pattern, didn’t check the boxes I imagined were necessary. I was baffled, frankly, with what the Austen I had created in my head wanted with you.
More importantly, really, I made the mistake of thinking that, like those ladies, you were the point of the novel. On the one hand, I wasn’t wrong. You were. But not as an examination of an individual, independent person. This novel is not called Fanny. It isn’t called Foolishness and Awkwardness, or any approximation of virtues that you might be supposed to stand for. It’s called Mansfield Park. Fanny is the Pygmalion of Mansfield Park, and in that sense is as central as I ever thought she was, but, as with any Pygmalion story, it is the hands of her Makers that the novel is concerned with more than anything else. I spent the first read looking at the product instead of the creator. That was my mistake, and that was the mistake that I corrected this time.
Looking at it from that perspective, it isn’t even as if Austen is breaking a pattern here, considering her other real estate named novel. I had been used to placing this novel and Northanger Abbey in opposing corners, but it turns out that this novel is less a departure for Austen and more of a return to the interests and focus of her earlier career. In Northanger Abbey, Austen focused on lampooning wider trends in society, on the Gothic trend in popular culture and novels, the experience and expectations of young girls, the effects and power of money, social climbing, and the realities of many an unequal marriage. It was about Catherine in the sense that she was a well-meaning person who encountered these things, was affected by them and made a tortured example of what Austen considered intolerable nonsense, but Austen examined those things through her rather than the reverse. There is more interest in commenting on wider trends here than on examining an individual and whatever happens to be mixed up inside there, although of course with Austen’s minute and particular observational powers, there will always be some individual moments that ring true.
Neither is this novel about Fanny, but rather about new trends and new societal influences that Austen was concerned with. However, rather than the light touch, the laughing eye, the pleased-with-herself cleverness that she seemed to delight in for nearly the entirety of Northanger Abbey (with an exception to be dealt with later), Mansfield Park carries the voice of maturity and accordingly weightier concerns. Unfortunately, it seems that, like Elizabeth, Austen has seen more of the world and the more that she saw; the more that she was dissatisfied with it. A character flaw she could once dismiss or punish by making someone ridiculous in a party scene or a serious misstep that she could once smooth over and let Life Go On no longer seems so funny or so easily dismissed. It’s not a game any more. So this, I think, is where the tone that puts many people off this book comes from- a tone that can seem prudish, moralizing, humorless, and even bitter at points. Who wants to watch when Beatrice, born to speak all mirth and no matter (or so she can cleverly claim), suddenly gives up and stops laughing and seemingly becomes Lady Disdain in fact? It’s hard to see the harsh side of the intellect win out, even temporarily. I’m sure that’s another major part of what put me off last time. It’s easier to call hard things names than see what they have to say and take it seriously.
What a difference a fresh approach, with my eyes open to my own prejudices, made. Coming to it with a clean slate meant that I could see Austen’s brilliance from the very first page. Austen’s light touch sometimes means that, like the best grand masters, her handiwork is often hidden behind an absorbing story and characters that we are too involved with to pause to admire the brushstrokes and word choice that got us there. But this time I was able to do that, man is she fantastically brilliant. Let’s take a moment to just demonstrate this through an examination of the masterpiece of a first chapter.
“About thirty years ago, Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of a handsome house and large income. All Huntingdon exclaimed on the greatness of the match, and her uncle, the lawyer, himself allowed her to be at least three thousand pounds short of any equitable claim to it.
In two sentences, Austen gave her readers everything they needed to know about what this story was going to be about, what was going to be seen as important in this society, and something of the tone with which it was going to be treated. I know that where, down to the specific town, that something happens, is of vital importance and can and will, in Austen’s view, change all the action. I know, to the letter, exactly the social “level” of the society that I will be dealing with and the sort of concerns and anxieties that that comes along with it.
More than this, I can tell, right away, that this is a story of small and everyday concerns in a small society of populated by even smaller, busybody sorts of people. And you know what? She didn’t use the word “small” once, or suggest that anything that was happening was small or insignificant in any way. Instead, she uses the language and structure of clauses, adding increasing amounts of specificity to cut down the significance of her story bit by bit, “about thirty years ago,” “Miss Maria Ward,” “Huntingdon,” “county of Northampton,” “her uncle, the lawyer.” By the time we reach the end of her clauses, we have qualified ourselves into absurdity, and are in the mood for the first satiric cut at the values that support this social system.
The tone is all perfectly reasonable observation, but the cuts continue: “She had two sisters to be benefitted by her elevation, and such of their acquaintance as thought Miss Ward and Miss Frances quite as handsome as Miss Maria did not scruple to predict them marrying with almost equal advantage. But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women who deserve them.”
It’s quite skilled, what she does there. She delivers more information to us and starts to take us down an expected path of storytelling, with an appropriately fairy tale-esque set of three sisters with differing fates who meet with a surprise that must be resolved. We’re settling in for a tale by a fireside and all of our expectations of that without even quite realizing it because her cover of wry wit keeps things moving along at a brisk pace. But she has you now. What happened to those other two sisters?
That means its time for another talent of Austen’s, sorting and categorizing people into uncomfortably recognizable individuals that it is hard not to react strongly when you hear just one more of their spot-on, of COURSE she did pronouncements. She sorts through the sisters’ personalities by giving them the situation of their sister’s marriage to a poor Marine to deal with and seeing how they react.
It’s interesting, because right off the bat, the narration doesn’t make me want to totally condemn either sister. Lady Bertram’s placid indifference to the fate of likely-soon-to-be-in-need-of-help sister seems almost as contemptible as Mrs. Norris’ officious interfering and tale-telling. There could even almost be an argument to be made that Mrs. Norris’ anger was justified, looked at from a certain point of view, and at least she didn’t simply drop her sister from her life. Sure, it was just likely to make trouble as anything, but it was doing something. But it does let me know who they are, quite quickly. I can already see how I think they move and walk, how they are likely to talk and the likely subjects that they will discourse on when they do. I can see their gestures when they ring for tea and I know what their attitude to someone being late is likely going to be. And she didn’t tell me a word about any of that.
The final missing piece is a more thorough examination of the morals and values that will provide the foundation for the actions and reactions of the novel. Austen has already given me hints of it ( “about three thousand pounds short of any equitable claim to it,” “not so many men of large fortune as there are pretty women to deserve them” “.. could not possibly keep [it] to herself… ), but now is the time to lower the boom. Therefore, the meat of the next several pages is taken up with working through the somewhat different thoughts of Mrs. Norris and Sir Thomas on the subject of charity and generosity. They examine a project, entirely conceived, proposed and pushed for by Mrs. Norris, to adopt one of her poor sister’s children. Sir Thomas is hesitant:
“He debated and hesitated;- it was a serious charge;- a girl so brought up must be adequately provided for, or there would be cruelty instead of kindness in taking her from her family…. “ “… I only meant to observe, that it ought not to be lightly engaged in and to make it really serviceable to Mrs. Price, and credible to ourselves, we must secure to the child, or consider ourselves engaged to secure hereafter, as circumstances may arise, the provision of a gentlewoman.”
Mrs. Norris soothes him that she’ll be very involved with it and makes like she's going to give Fanny all her worldly possessions, and each of them decide to move forward, both of them rather pleased with themselves:
“The division of gratifying sensations ought not, in strict justice, to have been equal; for Sir Thomas was fully resolved to be the real and consistent patron of the selected child, and Mrs. Norris had not the least intention of being at any expense whatever in her maintenance. As far as walking, talking and contriving reached, she was thoroughly benevolent, and nobody knew better how to dictate liberality to others, but her love of money was equal to her love of directing and she knew quite as well how to save her own as to spend that of friends… though perhaps she might so little know herself, as to walk home to the Parsonage after this conversation, in the happy belief of being the most liberal-minded sister and aunt in the world.”
Therefore when Sir Thomas opens the not unreasonable subject of sharing responsibility for their new charge, there are a thousand excuses and not one single prayer of a chance that Mrs. Norris will do anything material to help.
By the time I am done with the first chapter, then, I understand the two understandings of morality that we will be dealing with in this book. The first, the morality that is entirely of appearances and outward show, bent mostly on using it to accomplish personal aims and the second, a morality that is really actually concerned with finding and doing the right thing, and thinking through a situation to figure out what that right thing might be, despite the imperfections of a situation or person involved. It’s the difference between knowing what is right, but not being prepared to do anything about it, and a person who acts on that knowledge to the best of their ability. It’s already so much more interesting and less black and white than many other possible paths that could have been taken.
That took only eleven pages. Slightly less than, in my edition, actually. That’s all, and I am already deeply familiar with the rules, official and unofficial wants and desires of the society we’re in, I feel that I have a very good idea about who the people I am going to be spending time with are, and I know something about the sort of conflict I will be dealing with. Moreover, I am invested in finding out how this charitable “experiment” works out, if only so I can hate-watch Mrs. Norris and her breathtaking awfulness. I got so much information, without it ever feeling like the “info dump” that you get at the start of a fantasy novel. Instead, Austen’s version of the prologue did not concern itself with merely loading us up with names and atmosphere, but rather took a moment to accomplish the much more important task of building a bridge and connecting to the characters and the society of the novel.
But what about Fanny, you ask, insistently? What are we to do with her? Do we really have to just put up with her as a heroine for the sake of everything that comes along with it? My answer is yes: But only if you are absolutely determined to see her as a heroine, which would be a mistake and a waste of Austen’s handiwork. As we’ve already seen in our examination of the first chapter, our “main character” is barely introduced, by name, and not at all for herself as a person. She isn’t chosen for her position based on drawing any swords out of stones or volunteering as tribute. She’s referred to as “the girl,” or the “oldest girl,” and taken for the random accident of her birth.
That makes sense, because Fanny is the product of her circumstances, first that of her birth and then the place where she was largely raised into adulthood. Fanny is the expression of what an average, well-meaning girl in her place might turn out to be. But she is no heroine. She’s small and scared and timid. She is constantly worried by what she should be doing or saying, constantly ready to read and react to the possible negative reactions of anyone around her. It makes sense, it’s a survival mechanism that probably contributed to her doing so well in this house. It means, however, that her first reaction is always going to be, “But wait, could I get in trouble for doing that? God knows I have been told often enough that I am a sub-human due to my birth and financial circumstances, and if I do something wrong, I could lose whatever precarious position I have.”
Of course, half the time, Fanny is just pissing people off with this, coming off like she thinks she’s superior or making them feel bad about their own moral choices, but she can’t take the risk of doing something less than morally irreproachable, because the one time she decides to do that and it turns out that someone is in the mood to condemn her, she’ll lose the only thing she has to trade on for her own self-worth and, she thinks, her worth in the eyes of others: her general impression of moral virtue that she’s been able to gain for herself. And that’s not a small thing to lose for a girl who doesn’t have the money or the title or the overwhelming beauty to make up for it. All she has is, “Fanny is a good girl,” as an assurance of a place to eat and sleep of some minimal quality. That’s why it made so much sense that she would want a public and unanimous appeal to her to participate in the play, and only after some mishap made it necessary, in order to do it. Although she admits that she would like to participate at some point, it’s important that that’s not why she’s doing it. She’s not entitled to that sort of feeling of preference or doing things for pleasure, or so she thinks.
(There’s a brilliant line when the whole party goes to Southerton for a day-outing that deals with this. Mrs. Norris is being all pissy because she wasn’t able to exclude Fanny from going with them and getting all huffy about how grateful Fanny should be for the special, special beyond belief treat that her lowly drudge self does not deserve and Edmund just replies, rather sharply, “Fanny will feel as grateful as the occasion warrants.” Like, lady, I see what you are doing there and GOD, you are exhausting.)
I wouldn’t take this as evidence of any consistent knight-in-shiny armor deal going on with Edmund, though, that might redeem this for you. Another reason she is not a heroine is that you will be SO disappointed by her hero counterpoint if you try to think of it that way. Barely even ONE tenet of Romantic happiness is evident here. Edmund is a good enough sort of fellow. He starts out in the second camp of people who really do try to do the right thing and think through situations to figure out what that right thing is. However, that is increasingly compromised throughout the novel when he becomes obsessed with the newly arrived hot chick, Mary Crawford. We then get, I would say, upwards of 100 pages of him joining the Mrs. Norris dark side and convincing himself that what is selfishly best for him is also the right thing to do. He’s also just the most enormously pathetic sucker, hanging on to even the slightest evidence of Mary’s care for him, dealing with her blowing hot and cold and blaming it all on her circumstances or the way that she was raised. He even spends actual chapters trying to convince Fanny, obviously in love with him (though Austen, again, just wonderfully, never actually says that she is in love with him out right, though she constantly implies it and assumes our knowledge of it as readers throughout), to marry Henry Crawford...
(continued in the comments below) * * * ORIGINAL:
Please accept my profound apologies for what I am about to write. I would be most grateful if you would be inattentive to the following review. Please believe in my most profound respect and adoration for you.
Yours & etc,
So, the writing is fine. But the heroine is... difficult to like. I'd have more sympathy for her if there was more of a personality in there. But her major character traits seem to be moralizing, correctness and dullness. It is nothing like Austen's usual impressive characterization. It was a chore getting through this.
I wouldn't take this as representative of the rest of Austen's novels, in terms of tone or character. I also would warn you that if you're a fan of the movie, you will probably not be a huge fan of the book. This Fanny is not like that Fanny. I can understand why the director changed her character and made that story more about Austen. I think this book could be pretty deathly on the screen otherwise.
I'd really say skip this one, or at least try everything else first. I'm due for a re-read, so we'll see if I change my mind or if perhaps I was seduced by the flash and sparkle of Lizzy, Emma, Elinor and Marianne. But at this point I find it hard to recommend.
The impossible happened! I read something by Jane Austen and I didn’t give it five stars! What is the world coming to? I don’t even know who I am anymore.
Though this was awfully dull. Austen has never be renowned for her fast moving plots, so I know what to expect when I go into one of her novels. What makes her writing so compelling is the social commentary and the razor sharp wit. The woman holds nothing back! And she’s ever so subtle. Her characters are often caricatures and she exploits them to demonstrate the folly of regency society. A comment here, a sly remark there, and her narration sings a song of unrequited annoyance and anger all directed towards people who don’t realise how stupid they are.
So what happened here?
Normally the narration sides with the heroine. She’s often a bit naive and overcomes her initial prejudice or ignorance through the course of the plot. But here Fanny felt absent for a large part of it. She’s awkwardly quiet and distant within her own story. Granted, she’s pushed aside by the characters in the beginning because of her low both and correspondingly low social status compared to her highborn peers, though I still want to hear her voice every so often. At times I forgot she was even there. I think books always struggle when the protagonist is so shy.
I found her the most uncompelling of Austen protagonists as she seemed unwilling to act on her misfortune. Where was her fire? Where was her will to change her own fortunes? She just seemed to slip into the background, like a tree or a coat stand in a stage set: she was invisible. And she was clearly in love from the get go, but the man she was after clearly didn’t seem to notice the obvious and she just didn’t do anything about it. The romance felt weak. Fanny simply fell in love with the only man from high society who was ever kind to her.
The book was also terribly long, which is fine if the characters are engaging. But, again, Austen’s characters are anything but here. Endless conversation was followed by endless conversation in a drawn out piece that did not need to be so long-winded. The plot did not move quick enough, and it was terribly predictable. Maybe I’ve just grown tired of her storytelling. Modern critics pay particular attention to the mentions (or whispers) of slavery within the book, though I don’t think there’s much substance beyond the fact that we know it is actually happening and that it’s the cause of England’s wealth.
I consider Persuasion the absolute best example of Austen’s writing and, reassuringly so, it is also her shortest novel. As Shakespeare wrote, sometimes less is more.
2 stars because, despite it’s shortfalls, this is still Austen
From the very first moment, the reader knows just as well as Fanny herself that she is meant to marry Edmund. But reader and heroine alike also know that by the social standards of Jane Austen, that is a Mission Impossible. Fanny is a true fairytale Cinderella, raised by one negligent and one malevolent aunt at Mansfield Park. She is reminded at all times that her cousins are superior to her in all respects, and that she has to serve them and be grateful for the right to breathe the same air.
How is the issue going to be solved?
The reader knows that Austen won't under any circumstances let any of her main characters marry beneath their entitlement and worth in money, so a miracle is asked for - and it is delivered in the form of a brutal scandal.
Ruthlessly, the author attacks several male and female characters and commits reputation murder, which favours her quiet and consistent favourite Fanny Price, one of the few fictional women Jane Austen seems to have truly liked. Fanny is not "perfect", as she is poor and capable of feeling both anger and jealousy, but she definitely escapes the ridicule and humiliation which Austen has in store for the vain and shallow characters she despises.
Fanny's wedding in the end is one of the most satisfying Austen weddings I have attended - figuratively speaking - even though I would dread the kind of life she prefers. That is the Austen conundrum in a nutshell in my opinion - she makes me engage in and follow the path of characters that I wouldn't care for at all in real life, and she makes me turn pages eagerly to figure out the denouement of a plot I wouldn't be bothered to even consider newsworthy in reality.
Hers is a literary talent that crosses worldview borders!
As the once all-reaching Victorian values had already began to lessen their hold over British everyday life Austen put together this tale of the landed old-school Bertrams, the idle young but enriched Crawfords and our uniquely situated and characterised heroine (she often wilts in hot weather or after light exercise!) Fanny Price, with supreme and at times savage pokes at Victorian society and the way they lived back then - although this was contemporary at the time of publication.
When I first read this in 2008 it was my first ever Jane Austen; my one line review from back then was - "Fanny Price's tale. A supreme work on the abuse of privilege, nature v nurture, appearance and reality. A genuinely classic dark comedy. And just like that Jane Austen got into my top ten authors' list!" Hmmm?
Among the many reasons, in addition to this being exquisitely written, why I like this, is because Austen writes the story of a woman character (Fanny Price) who isn't that strong or willing to be independent, who does sit on her moral high ground and judges other people (albeit silently) etc. So why do I like that. Well that's because I believe that every woman should have a voice, especially one like Fanny's which was very prevalent at the time, and looking at this story through her lens heightens the book's power, its satire and its comedy. 9 out of 12.
2021 review: With the Regency era in full flow and seeping into even the most staid and prudish communities, Austen inducts that transformation and its effect over everyday life with this tale of the landed old-school Bertrams, the idle young but enriched Crawfords and our uniquely situated and characterised heroine (she often wilts in hot weather or after light exercise!) Fanny Price, with supreme and at times savage pokes at Victorian society and the way they lived back then - although this was contemporary at the time of publication.
When I first read this in 2008 it was my first ever Jane Austen; my one line review from back then was - "Fanny Price's tale. A supreme work on the abuse of privilege, nature v nurture, appearance and reality. A genuinely classic dark comedy. And just like that Jane Austen got into my top ten authors' list!" Hmmm?
Among the many reasons, in addition to this being exquisitely written, why I like this, is because Austen writes the story of a woman character (Fanny Price) who isn't that strong or willing to be independent, who does sit on her moral high ground and judges other people (albeit silently) etc. So why do I like that. Well that's because I believe that every woman should have a voice, especially one like Fanny's which was very prevalent at the time, and looking at this story through her lens heightens the book's power, its satire and its comedy. 9 out of 12.
Fanny Price's mother had two sisters as beautiful as she, one married an affluent gentleman Sir Thomas Bertram, and everyone said this would enable her siblings, to do the same. Nevertheless little England hasn't enough rich men, to accommodate deserving ladies. Another married a respectable quiet clergyman, with little money. Sir Thomas's friend, Reverend Norris good yet dull , gets him a church and a cottage in Mansfield Park, Northampton, on his vast estate. The kind Sir Thomas is very willing to help the last of the sisters. Still she has pride with a streak of stubbornness... this young woman marries a coarse , hard drinking Lt. in the marines, Mr. Price, to the disgust of her family and soon her own regret . The fertile Mrs. Price has nine children at the time, when our story commences there will be more. The sister who married the clergyman wrote a letter to Mrs. Price, to send a child of hers to Mansfield Park , to be raised in all the advantages that wealth can provide. Mrs.Norris, strangely is not a nice woman, indeed just the opposite. She likes to scheme though, when ten year old Fanny, arrives scared, homesick for her brothers and sisters especially William , a year older in fact the eldest child of the poor dysfunctional family. Their father is disabled from the military with a small pension, but a big thirst, it doesn't benefit anyone that he still gets drunk everyday... The lonely, timid girl, meets her aunt and uncle, she is quite reserved, and her gorgeous cousins, Maria, 13, and Julia, a year younger, and the boys, wild Tom, 17, and gentle Edmund, 16, they have nothing in common. ..The girls have a teacher in the mansion, Fanny joins them , in class, she feels isolated and miserable, this unfamiliar environment, is frightening and the cousins, while not mean, aren't really friendly either. Living upstairs in a cold modest room , Fanny, develops tremors in this place, whenever her terrifying uncle , speaks to her . Aunt Bertram, is the laziest woman on Earth seldom leaving her sofa, though basically an agreeable person, that is always tired. You can't say that about the other aunt, Mrs.Norris, who lives a short distance away , and comes constantly to Sir Thomas's opulent house, she increasingly grows to hate Fanny. Why? Maybe the clergyman's wife and now happy widow, thinks the little girl is an intruder, too low bred to fit into a classy upper class family, and will hurt their standing in society. She, when older will not go to balls with her cousins, to afraid even if asked to come, but is never invited, of course to Fanny's relief. Yet the girl is becoming beautiful, which nobody notices, not even her only friend cousin Edmund, who has eyes for another woman, pretty , lively, rich Mary Crawford the sister of Edmund's friend Henry , the handsome pleasure seeker with money, too, he likes to flirt with every attractive woman, it doesn't hurt that he is fabulously wealthy, unlike the second son, Edmund, studying to be a minister. Which Miss Crawford, abhors not enough salary for her taste. And Edmund wants to marry , Mary, jealous Fanny nevertheless becomes secretly enamored of her sweet cousin. Henry tells Fanny , ( who knows all his foibles) after properly disclosing it to Sir Thomas, this... his love for her, and receiving permission to proceed, yet she greatly dislikes him. An ungrateful woman of 18, how can she refuse a honorable proposal such men, are scarce ...He has flirted with Maria and Julia both liked it, before, but will she ever trust his love? This book will show again why Jane Austen was and is such a magnificent writer , to those few who doubt this obvious conclusion...
“The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees. I want money.” – The Flying Lizzards
This is the last of Austen’s books that I’ve finally finished, a goal I’ve been working towards since I was sixteen. I saved this one for last because although it’s one of my favorite films, it seemed like it would be a clunky and slow-paced novel. I was definitely wrong. Maybe it’s the timing of it. This book will forever remind me of my grandmother’s passing. She passed away two weeks ago on the 17th of July at 5:32 am, ten days after her seventy-seventh birthday.
I carried this book with me to hospital, I pulled all-nighters making sure to administer grandma’s morphine punctually so her breathing wouldn’t be labored, I hunkered my bulk down in her hospice-provided hospital bed to sleep next to her when she was agitated, and when I finally did have a few hours to rest, this book was by my side. Dear Fanny Price, thank you for keeping me company.
I know she is by far the most unusual of Austen’s characters. For one, she lacks the loving support and shelter of her family, something we take for granted with all of Austen’s other heroines. Although meek and shy, she is by no means stupid or unopinionated. Her judgements and assessments of those around her are astute; her sarcasm of a sort that made me giggle on many occasions.
A simple-hearted naturalist surrounded by materialistic, money-grabbing hypocrites, it’s no wonder she seeks comfort and love in the only other outsider among the Bertrams–her cousin, Edmund. While his steadfast loyalty to Mary Crawford was at times annoying, it was entertaining! And out of all of Austen’s plots, this one seemed the most plausible and realistic, next to Persuasion. My absolute favorite has always been Sense and Sensibility, but I’m not sure if it will stand up next to Mansfield Park after an overdue rereading; I was in my early teens when I first read it.
After writing Pride and Prejudice and creating Elizabeth Bennet as her heroine, it has to be owned that Jane Austen did a kinda Monty Python with Mansfield Park and Fanny Price, no?
PLUS, she turned Elizabeth to the dark side and this is how Mary Crawford was born. ;)
And this leads me to a total irreverent and irrelevant moral summary of MP á la STAR WARS.
Mary C. wants Edmund (honest & upright & nice, but what a bore!) to come over to the Dark Side. PLUS, Mary has this brother, Henry Crawford (WHAT POTENTIAL! WHAT A WASTE!) who wants all ladies to come to the Dark Side.
PLUS, we have Edmund who does not realise that Mary is on the Dark Side.
PLUS, we have Fanny who knows that everybody (apart from herself and Edmund) are on the Dark side, but is too afraid to tell and also knows that nobody would believe her. PLUS, she almost brings back Henry to the Good Side, even though she doesn't want to.
Update on re-reading MP in 2017
What is not a surprise: every time I re-read a Jane Austen novel (no matter which one), I discover something new that surprises me.
Like opening an old treasure chest where you think you are familiar with every item and yet you realise there is always something new turning up.
So many thoughts on this particular re-read, I might end up writing a proper review eventually ... or not.
My present musing -Mrs Norris and her Christian name that must not be named! She is either referred to as Miss Ward or as Mrs Norris. (I know this is beacsue she was the eldest daughter among the Miss Wards and I know she does have one, and it's probably Elizabeth of all names!) - It always struck me, but never more so than now, how obtusely blind and indifferent the Bertram siblings are (yes, Edmund is no exception) towards each other. - I did not mind this time that Fanny ends up with Edmund, but it makes me sad how Henry Crawford wastes all the enormous potential that is undoubtedly in him. - It is a pity Mrs Norris never visited Mrs Price in Portsmouth: she would have put the fear of God into all the household and showed them what's what when it came to housekeeping. :) - The only 2 things Fanny does actively in the whole course of the book is buying a knife and subscribing to a library.
Original "review" 4/11/2014 It is high time I had a heart-to-heart with Jane Austen about MP.
Dear Miss Austen (You Sly Thing!*),
Despite the solemnity of the topics in Mansfield Park, I am sure as hell you laughed your head off as you sent me, other readers & critics all on a wild goose chase.
You amaze me with your audacity and daring in making us believe that we are the only ones who got Fanny Price figured out – as opposed to Edmund, Sir Thomas, Mrs Norris, Henry & Mary Crawford who also all think they figured her out – but you just use us all shamelessly for your cunning purposes.
You let us, nay, you want us to be seduced by the Crawfords, just like the Bertrams are & you succeed. Every time I read Mansfield Park, I want Fanny to end up with Henry, just like her obnoxious, shallow relations do & I feel cheated when this does not happen. Maybe I don’t have the same avaricious reason for it, but what does that make me? Shallow? Immoral? Mislead? Blinded?
You see? You manage to do all this and more. You are a genius & I love you forever and always, even though I will never like Fanny (but please give me credit for trying). But I do love Mansfield Park and will re-read it again and again.
Mansfield Park is quite a different work from the rest of Jane Austen novels. I can safely say so since I've read all other novels prior to reading this. Jane Austen novels have a sort of set form, characters, and a passionate and exuberant writing style. Even in her mature work such as Persuasion, where the tone is much graver than the rest of her works, these elements are present to a varying degree. But in Mansfield Park , a certain attempt to deviate, experimenting a new writing style more akin to the Victorian-era and non-conformity to her clear cut form can be seen. The story is more complex and deep. It penetrates not only into social problems and human conduct thus influenced, but it also penetrates deep into the human mind, its thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Thematically, too, one can sense a difference. While the story treads on the common grounds of social discrimination and class distinction, it also departs from there to go into more complex issues. All these make Mansfield Park stands apart from the rest of Jane Austen's novel.
The story has quite a focus on women's education. Jane Austen expounds on the kind of education that needs to be instilled in girls. Yes, they need to be accomplished, smart, and elegant, but all this should come secondary to the moral righteousness and a sense of duty. The Bertram sisters, Maria and Julia's thoughtless actions spin from the failure to instill in them the right morals, a sense of duty they owe to their family, and humility. Their indolent mother, over-indulgent aunt, and authoritative father had made the sisters accomplished, but, they have failed to make them wise and moral. Fanny, on the other hand, benefits from both sides and gains a complete education as to be the desirable daughter/sister/woman the men desire to have as their own.
The story also exposes the dependable position of women and the dependability of the poor on their rich friends. The females, who didn't have an independent fortune settled on them and could command it, had to be depended on male authority for their comfort and happiness. This was a very trying position for women, for they were no more than "objects" that could be "possessed' and "handled" according to the whim and fancy of the male benefactor - be it father, brother, or husband. Stemming up from personal experience, Jane Austen had no reservation in voicing her opinion on the subject.
Mansfield Park brings us a set of complex characters, not so clear cut or markedly categorized except for perhaps one or two. Interestingly this is the only time in my history with Jane Austen that I didn't care much about the hero or heroine. Edmund is kind, principled, and good-hearted, but he is weak and not spirited. Edmund is also a very poor judge of character. His love is misplaced. His understanding affected. The vulgarity of Mary Crawford is to Edmund "the liveliness of mind"! Altogether, he was not an admirable hero. Fanny is virtuous, loyal, and steady. Her dependability makes her timid, but when calls for the occasion, she shows unusual strength, courage, and spirit. She is a fair judge of character but a bit too opinionated for my taste. I didn't dislike the character, but I couldn't care for her either. Austen's hero and heroine lack the liveliness and spirit. It is quite funny, for the secondary important characters - the Crawfords and the Bertram sisters - were quite full of them!
The story didn't have a marked plot but everything was neatly tied in the end to give the reader enough satisfaction in the story. However, I would have enjoyed a Fanny - Henry union which would have been more exciting. But it seems Jane Austen believes that "once a rake, is always a rake" and cannot be reformed by the power of love! :)
With the reading of Mansfield Park , I have read all six Jane Austen novels. I feel very happy and accomplished. :) I enjoyed this novel, but if you ask me, it is my least favourite. From an objective point of view, however, it could be one of her best works. Its tone, colour, and style are more advanced than her other novels. But I love the lively, exuberant, and satirical Jane Auten to this grave and solemn writer of Mansfield Park.
My accidental Austen binge continues. I moved on from Persuasion to Mansfield Park this week, which struck me as Austen spending hundreds of pages working out through her prose exactly what bothers her about certain people. I think Austen's profound intelligence makes most people irritating to her. The Crawfords for example. Mr. Crawford is vain, silly, and in my opinion, weak. I think Austen abhors the propensity in some people to guide their behavior by how others will see them. Miss Crawford is another prime example. Austen writes "It was the detection, not the offence which she reprobated," which crystalizes her perfectly.
This got me wondering what Austen would think of today's Instagram and Facebook's idealized images and humble-brags posts and the like. A life lived for exterior fruits, would surely be under censure!
It really is refreshing to read Austen against today's backdrop. The internal world is so valued: integrity, lack of artifice, principles. All wonderful things. How can we continue to make sure these characteristics get their due? Can social media be changed, conquered, swayed?
As for our main character, after Anne Elliot of Persuasion Fanny Price struck me a confused and very uncomfortable young woman, while Elliot, to use a Austen turn of phrase, was "quite fixed in her character." Then again, Fanny is much younger in this book and you gradually see her grow up. In many ways Mansfield Park felt more complex than Persuasion, there are so many highly developed characters, not just our heroine. I'm sure it's another book that deserves a rereading from time to time.
To conclude, I'll leave you with one my favorite quotes from the novel: "She was of course, only too good for him, but as no one minds what is too good for them..."
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This definitely wasn't Austen's best novel, and it has nothing on Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Instead of the plot or the characters, it was purely Austen's wit and uniquely wonderful writing alone, that carried me through Mansfield Park.
To be frank, I don't like Fanny Price. She was too accepting of her situations, she remained silent when she could have spoken up, and it was painfully clear to me that she thought it dreadful to exert herself too much in fear of becoming out of breath. Fanny, I think you should join me in chopping some wood. Edmund was just as irritating and slightly more forgettable, but we must remember readers, that as a female, I am expected to find a man such as Edmund irresistible to the point of not being able to stand upright.
And so I read on, and I became suffocated by Fanny's relentless longing for Edmund, especially when he was going after another woman (Mary Crawford) who I think was too good for Edmund. Mary Crawford flourishes on speaking her mind. What's not to love?
I detest how Edmund suddenly realises, like a swift punch in the gut, that Fanny is apparently the woman for him, not Mary Crawford. And obviously, Fanny Price being Fanny Price, accepts this dutifully, and is totally content with being second best. In fact, she appears to embrace it. How can I be content with a woman undermining her worth to a man who reeks of arrogance and pomposity?
I love Jane Austen as she has a beautiful way of writing, and a style that nobody can match, but for the case of Mansfield Park, it just completely failed my expectations.
I have seen no small amount of reviews toting Fanny Price as Austen's least likable heroine, and to be honest...I'm not sure where they get that impression from. Granted, Fanny's characteristics often shine by what they are not, next to the undesirable character traits of those around her.....but does this appropriateness of demeanor, attention to honor and morals, and respect toward elders (especially the ones least deserving of it) truely mean she is not fit for her lead status? I think not. Austen's world is full of societal values so foreign to us now, that perhaps we don't know how to appreciate the beauty of modesty when it is truly expressed, and not showcased......perhaps we are unable to look favorably on a woman that is not rebelling externally......for fear she is too prude. Is that now mutually exclusive for heroine status? But here is the truth to this world so concerned with appearances....Fanny Price is indeed a daring character after all. She was brought up in a world foreign to her, and was raised by a constant discussion of her inferior status. It is from this perspective that our heroine decides the only place she can rebel from is her heart....and in loving where she should dare not....she becomes one of Austen's strongest characters. Personal strength does not equal likability...and so here perhaps is where the criticisms lie......but I'll take a strong lead character over a selfish, inconstant, or fickle one any day...so in my book....she's just right.
I have a feeling that Fanny Price is more like the real Jane Austen than, let's say, Elizabeth Bennett or Emma Woodhouse. I think Jane wanted to be like Elizabeth and Emma, but she knew she was really Fanny. The book had a different feel to it than the others, more serious characters, more real life issues. All in all, I liked it. I would rate it somewhere in the middle of the pack of her novels. But Fanny is one of my favorite Jane Austen heroines.
This edition of Mansfield Park comes with a great introduction and notes, containing interesting information about the publication of this novel and historical context.
I have been a huge Jane Austen fan ever since I first saw P&P and shortly thereafter read the novel, leading to me falling in love with the dignified wit and sass this author has had. It can't have been easy in her time, which makes me appreciate her dry humour and social criticism even more.
A fair warning to you all: I cannot review this book properly without giving away its content, so there will be unhidden spoilers!
We start off this book with the wedding of three sisters. One (Lady Bertram) marries rich Sir Thomas, one (Mrs. Norris) marries a clergyman, and one (Mrs. Price) marries a Royal Marine. The latter marriage unfortunately leads to poverty due to an injury / honourable discharge with a meagre pension of the husband. Into this family Fanny is born as the eldest of 9 children. One day her mother decides to give 10-year-old Fanny Price to her aunt to live and be tutored at Mansfield Park (Lady Bertram's estate) until she gets married. Unfortunately, the aunt isn't exactly very interested in any children (not even her own) and the rest of the family don't treat Fanny too well either (especially Mrs. Norris, her other aunt, on whom Sir Thomas relies heavily because of his wife's apathy). Except for when Fanny is denied proper heating, leading to sickness, it's the perfect example of polite mobbing. This was actually more maddening than if they had hit her constantly. The only person Fanny can lean on is her cousin Edmund (second son of the Bertrams). The others are ... well, Tom is either drunk or gambling and the girls are spoilt snobs that I just wanted to hit continuously. It doesn't help that the oldest girl, Maria, gets showered with compliments and affection from Mrs. Norris while Fanny is always reminded of how poor she is and that she should just be grateful to be allowed to live at Mansfield Park although she is a burden. Anyway, 6 years later, Sir Thomas leaves to go deal with some "trouble" at his plantation in Antigua and it is this plantation that is Jane Austen's strongest political criticism I have ever seen. Many say it was "just" a way to get Sir Thomas away for a while so the other events could unfold, but Jane Austen could have come up with something less tricky than Antigua. No, this witty author knew exactly what she was doing. Because yes, back then Antigua was a British colony and slavery was still very common. Which means that a big part of the Bertram fortune (if not all) comes from slavery of all things. We see how bad it is when Sir Thomas takes his oldest son along to make him "grow up" but the experience shatters poor Tom and makes his drinking problem only much worse. While Sir Thomas and Tom are away, match-making for the oldest Bertram daughter (the aforementioned brat Maria) is taking place. Also, the Crawfords (brother and sister) arrive and what can only be described as a romantic mess ensues. The Crawfords are often described as "worldly". Well, I have some other choice words for them. Tom comes back from Antigua earlier than his father and together with his friend Yates and the Crawfords, a play is rehearesed that is, let's say, of dubious moral character for the time. However, everyone but Fanny participates. In fact, Fanny seems to be the only one not blinded by pretentiousness. When Sir Thomas comes back to find the whole house engaging in flirtation under the pretense of rehearsing for the play, he is very upset but at least finally sees that Fanny is a good young woman and not just some burden. A lot of other stuff happens, like Maria getting married to a man she doesn't love in order to be well off as is expected of her and Henry Crawford goes after Fanny (first because he wants to play a game, then because her rejection intrigues him). Fanny however refuses him, much to Sir Thomas' anger who thinks she is ungrateful (you know, because the poor girl should be so flattered to get a proposal from someone as well off as Henry Crawford). In order to teach Fanny some humility, he therefore sends her home to her parents and what a desolate place that is! The contrast between peaceful Mansfield Park and the dirty, desolate Portsmouth could not be extremer and illustrates another powerful political criticism of the author: while at Mansfield Park, everyone can pretend life is good, but in reality there are other places that are off much worse, and not everything about the Regency era smells like roses. We also get the theme of adultery through Henry Crawford and Maria. Maria's husband files for divorce after the affair is made public and she is not only shunned in society but the family sends her off to "live in another country" (to keep the scandal as far away from them as possible) while Henry Crawford (who could have saved the situation by marrying Maria but refused) gets away unscathed. In this climate Fanny returns to Mansfield Park where Tom has fallen ill (all the drinking had to have some negative effect at some point), the younger daughter Julia has eloped with Tom's friend Yates because she feared her father's anger (she knew about the affair but kept quiet), and Mary Crawford actually says to Edmund that Tom dying would be a great opportunity for him (she and Edmund were romantically involved but she always wanted him to be more ambitious; she also defends her brother's affair, only lamenting that it was discovered and she actually blames Fanny for the whole thing)! Thus, everyone finally realizes that even a person that comes from money can be rotten. Edmund is shattered but upon reflection sees how important Fanny is to him and proposes to her. Tom gets better, is a changed man, and Yates turns out to be a good husband. Fanny finally takes her place as the moral compass of the Bertram family.
So this novel is one big exploration of morals. We have Sir Thomas who wants his house in order, commands respect and values morals but makes money off slavery and sends his own daughter away to distance himself from scandal. We have Tom who can't deal with the ugliness of real life. We have Maria who just wants to be loved and therefore does the completely wrong thing. We have Edmund who knows better but is blinded. We have Mrs. Norris who goes on and on about class and money, not realizing that "the burden" actually is the only good person at Mansfield Park. We have the Crawfords with their materialism and their arrogant view that, because of their social status, they are allowed whatever they want. We have Yates, who stayed by Tom's side and later takes great care of Julia. And, finally, we have Fanny herself who starts out completely blue-eyed, then gets more and more disillusioned, but always keeps her heart in the right place.
This book never made it into my top 3 of Jane Austen's body of work but maybe it should. I mean it's the only one in which Jane Austen went this far with her criticism - not only of society for its treatment of women, but also of politics!
I didn't like Fanny too much as a character because she was far too passive for my taste and the whole pining for Edmund was annoying but because of the typically beautiful writing style, wit and dry humour in certain situations I didn't mind. Also, what's up with Edmund?! I mean, I'm buying into his infatuation with Mary Crawford but after finally realizing what a bad woman she is, he swears to never get over her only to propose to Fanny 5 minutes later?! Marriage was different back then, sure, but we're supposed to believe that it's LOVE between Fanny and Edmund and I just don't see it.
So yeah, lots of thoughts after re-reading this book and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants an intelligent classic with a brilliant writing style and lots of important themes.
I've just reread Tadiana's review of this wonderful book & I very much agree with her central point - Austen's novels are not romances & you are doomed to disappointment if you expect them to be. Pride & Prejudice has the most romantic elements, but also enough bracing realism to act like a bucket of water thrown over the face! The books are more very interesting character studies.
Fanny comes to Mansfield Park as a shy & not very robust ten year old. Although the Bertram family find her useful only her slightly older cousin Edmund is kind to her & her Aunt Norris (a quite wonderfully horrible character)is straight out mean & hostile. But a delicate constitution does not mean delicate principles & Fanny holds on to hers no matter what the temptations. Some of her scruples seem trifling to 21st century eyes but they are in keeping with the times.
As always I enjoyed this read very much & this book remains one of my favourite Austens.
"I can not but think good horsemanship has a great deal to do with the mind." Jane Austen always did a great job of planting ridiculous declarations in the mouths of characters she wished to discredit. Character was her strong suit and there's some good'uns here in.
Within Mansfield Park there are characterizations so delicate and actions of importance utterly unassuming. Some seem meaningless in their modesty. Excellent work by a diligent author. Dangerous pitfalls for the casual reader.
The whole novel overall moves along steadily with a dim flash of excitement here or a trying time there, never altering much above or below its middling pace. That's not a ringing endorsement, but nor is it condemnation. No, this is condemnation...
There is too much time taken up in mundane description: the planning of a play that never comes off, for one. Oh yes, certainly the play held importance in that it provided Austen a stage to showcase her principal players. But could that not have been accomplished with another scene, one that drives the narrative with more force?
Fanny Price, our heroine is too prudish to warm up to, and the main object of her - I'd say "desire," but that's putting it far stronger than Austen did - is a man setting himself up for a parson's life. They are both a couple of moral, goodie-two-shoes and you long for some mild vice to surface and show them to be human.
Heros and villains appear on the scene too obviously. Hovering halos and black hats are almost more than imaginary. Some 'gray area' is introduced in the main "villain," but it's slight and see-through. Intentionally so? Yes, but it could've been handled with more art and the skill Austen showed she possessed in other works.
The end is wrapped up all too quickly and with criminal simplicity tantamount to saying, "I don't like her after all, I like you, so let's get married!" An end which left this reader shrugging his shoulders at a pleasant enough diversion that he'd wished had more pride or even sensibility.