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Mansfield Park
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Book Wormy | 1932 comments Mod
Summary from Goodreads: 'We have all been more or less to blame ...
every one of us, excepting Fanny'

Taken from the poverty of her parents' home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny's uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry's attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary's dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords' influence and finds herself more isolated than ever.

A subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, Mansfield Park is one of Jane Austen's most profound works.

Jane Austen Profile from Goodreads: 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.

message 2: by Book (last edited Oct 04, 2017 10:56AM) (new)

Book Wormy | 1932 comments Mod
Discussion questions shamelessly borrowed from

1) What use does Austen make of comedy? Why are there such light moments in such a serious book? Consider Rushworth and Mrs. Norris in particular.

2) How does Austen structure her plot? Does the three-volume structure of the typical nineteenth-century novel influence the structure of the events?

3) What different kinds of marriages are depicted in this novel? What kinds of qualities are important in choosing a marriage partner in this world? What is Austen's ideal for marriage?

4) What kind of role does family play in the development of an individual's character? Can a good person come from a bad family, or vice versa? Which is more important--someone's innate qualities, or the way they were raised?

5) What role do physical settings play in the plot? Why are the "improvements" that Crawford and Rushworth want to make so interesting to everyone? Do the various landscapes have symbolic value?

6) How does Austen pair up characters to make points about desirable characteristics? Consider Henry, Edmund, and William, and Maria, Mary, and Fanny. What about "love triangles"? Why do characters always have a choice of possible mates?

7) Describe the letters that appear in this book. How are letters different from conversation as a means of communication? Why are letters so prominent?

8) How is the social order of the country house contrasted with the social order of the city in this novel? Which allows for more social mobility? Which seems stronger morally? How do ideas of tradition and modernity play into this?

9) What are the uses of illness and physical frailty? Is it important that Fanny is such a physically fragile person? Is it symbolic? Consider also Lady Bertram and her son Tom.

10) Ratings and Reviews does this deserve to be on the list?

message 3: by Pip (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pip | 1357 comments 1. There are many comedic moments, particularly involving the obtuse Mrs Norris. For example "she depended on being the first person made acquainted with any fatal catastrophe, she had already arranged the manner of breaking it to all the others, when Sir Thomas' assurances of their both being alive and well made it necessary to lay by her agitation and affectionate preparatory speech for a while". Austen shows how shallow and self centred Mrs Norris is in just one sentence! As for Mr. Rushworth he was "from the first struck with the beauty of Miss Bertram, and, being inclined to marry, soon fancied himself in love".
2. I hadn't given the structure much thought as I read the book and I was not aware that the typical nineteenth century novel was in three parts! Reading on a Kindle can mean one overlooks the structure. I have checked and my version was not in three parts so I am not sure where the breaks were and therefore cannot comment.
3.Most marriages are depicted as ones of convenience. Women are obsessed with marrying well to assure their economic future. The quick demise of Maria's marriage to Rushworth is quite surprising. Austen's ideal is a marriage of true minds. She does not hint at sexual compatibility at any point!
4. Family is very important. One's status is irrevocably connected to the circumstances of one's birth as poor Fanny is constantly reminded by Mrs Norris. Fanny's innate qualities of good sense and solid values are steadfast despite the circumstances of the first ten years of her life.
5. Crawford is depicted as a man of taste, if not discretion and he fancies himself as a landscape expert. The are hints that his plans are grandiose as in the suggestion that an avenue of trees may be sacrificed to his plan for Rushworth's estate.
6. Why do characters have a choice? isn't that what happens in reality? Edmund is in love with Mary and therefore ignores her faults although there are hints that he sometimes is given pause, but he overlooks Fanny because he thinks of her as a reliable friend, not a romantic partner. His realisation that Fanny is a much better prospect as a partner comes without the passion he had for Mary. Maria allows herself to be talked into marriage with Rushworth because he has money but falls for Henry and elopes. Henry is a womaniser who is astounded to find himself falling for Fanny. Nevertheless when Maria becomes available his loyalty to Fanny dissipates in a flash.
7. Letters are so prominent because they were at that time! They were the means for planning social events, but they also gave people the opportunity to say things that were difficult to broach in conversation. They were private and it was difficult for couples to have private conversations.
8. The city was more chaotic, more socially mobile but less moral. Life in the country was more staid, traditional and hidebound. Has anything changed sine then?
9. Fanny is very fragile both physically and emotionally. This is not surprising as she was not treated with consideration by the family. Tom was a robust fellow whose illness was a huge shock to everyone. Lady Bertram was so lazy that she could scarcely move, although there is no hint that this was caused by physical frailty rather than indolence.
10. Although my perspective caused me to be frustrated with Fanny's lack of gumption until she turned Henry down and her strength of character was revealed, I thought the novel interesting. It deserves to be on the list.

Dree | 243 comments I just started this last night, I am on page 25. Hoping to finish by the end of the month.

message 5: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 1932 comments Mod
Dree wrote: "I just started this last night, I am on page 25. Hoping to finish by the end of the month."

Good luck Dree :)

message 6: by Rory (last edited Oct 21, 2017 02:41PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Rory (oldcolt) | 5 comments Finally got a copy. I'll start it when I finish "what Maisie Knew". I'm not sure I'll finish before the end of the month.

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 435 comments Just checking in to say that I'm reading the book. I've finished volume one and will press on next week.

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 435 comments I've read the second part now, and while I was more entertained than in the first part I find that this is the only Jane Austen novel where I just don't care. There are amusing moments and lovely writing, for sure. But for the most part I just think that Edmund should get his head out of his... derriere, and Fanny should marry anyone that gets her away from her toxic Mrs Norris.

Oh, and Pip, the first part ends after chapter 18, just as Sir Thomas is announced to have returned. A bit of a cliff-hanger, in other words! Volume two is 13 chapters long and ends after William's promotion with Fanny confusedly and distressed having written Mary Crawford a reply about Henry's behaviour.

message 9: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
I already read it but a long time ago. If I have time this weekend I’ll try to reread parts so I can participate in the discussion

message 10: by Leni (new) - rated it 3 stars

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 435 comments I found this interesting little seasonal piece on Jane Austen. The last third or so is about Mansfield Park. The comments underneath are quite good too.

message 11: by Dree (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dree | 243 comments So I finished!

I should say I do not like Jane Austen. Before this I had read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, but had not read an Austen novel in 24 (I checked!) years. I was hoping that maybe I would enjoy Austen more at this point in my life.

I didn't. The characters are annoying and unlikable (even Fanny--William and Susan were the only two I liked, and they are so minor). Reading about the romantic drama of the landed gentry doesn't do it for me. Yes, morals and intrigue etc etc but I just can't care. I didn't find it funny at all--I found it sad (in the treatment of Fanny and Mr Rushworth) and infuriating (Mrs Norris, Mrs Bertram, all the social rules, the drama).

I would much rather read a novel about Fanny's family in Portsmouth.

I don't know why this is on the list--it's also on the Guardian 1000 and in Bloom's Western Canon. The best part for me was meeting Mrs Norris, who JK Rowling based her feline character Mrs Norris on. The original is worse than I imagined!

message 12: by Leni (new) - rated it 3 stars

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 435 comments Finished it this morning. I found the third part a lot more interesting than the first two. (Except that the last chapter suddenly just summarizes what happens to everyone.) Fanny is beset on all sides, but remains silently determined. And when she does manage to speak, she has some great speeches. Like when she asks Edmund if a woman is really supposed to suddenly develop a liking for a man just because he likes her. I think Fanny would have a thing or two to say about the modern male complaint about the "Friend zone".

But this is still my least favourite Austen. I don't see that it adds that much to the treatment of themes that Austen covers in other books, and the characters really don't have much to recommend them. And I find "the moral of the story" to be rather heavy handed. I also feel like Maria was sacrificed so that everyone could discover how wrong they had been. It's not really Fanny's good example, but Maria's bad example that makes a difference.

I also find the Fanny and Edmund thing a bit incestuous. I'm used to the cousin thing in pre-1900s literature, but Fanny and Edmund were closer than that. And of course, we are constantly told that Edmund had shaped Fanny's thinking.

Diane | 2022 comments Just finished re-reading this book. I did enjoy it more this time, but it is still my least favorite Austen book. Most of the others are 5 star reads for me.

Like Leni, I found the relationship between Fanny and Edmund a bit on the incestuous side since they were like brother and sister to each other in addition to being cousins. I remember feeling let down when they got together the first time I read it which is certainly not the intended reaction.

Although I love Austen's books, I think she is over-represented on the list. This would be my last choice of her books to include, so I don't think it should be on the list.

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