Reading the Classics discussion

Past Group Reads > Mansfield Park chapters 26-31(Vol. 2 ch.8-13)

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message 1: by Dolores, co-moderator (new)

Dolores (dizzydee39) | 275 comments Mod
Post comments here for these chapters.

message 2: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments I guess everyone else gave up at this point? Although, to be fair, it's mostly a lot of action and no resolution, which we're gearing up for in the next section, I suppose.

message 3: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer  | 163 comments I am liking this book. I understand that many people like this book the least of Jane Austen's novels, but this book strikes a chord with me. Does anyone else wonder if Mr. Crawford is developing genuine feelings towards Fanny at this point, or do you think that he is still playing her?

message 4: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments I had that question as well. Perhaps he started out with wrong motives, but over time develops genuine affection? Having finished the book, I'll leave that for another discussion section :)

message 5: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer  | 163 comments I just finished the section and I have my answer. Can't wait to see how things unravel. This story really does have a Cinderella flavour to it.

message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 219 comments Jennifer wrote: "I just finished the section and I have my answer. Can't wait to see how things unravel. This story really does have a Cinderella flavour to it."

I find it quite different from Austen's other work, a bit I think more -- not really cynical, but something close to that.

When you're done, you might have fun reading The Mysteries of Udolpho, which it parodies. I wouldn't encourage spending a whole lot of time on Udolpho, it's not worth it, but a quick read with some judicious skimming can be lots of fun. And it gives a nice flavor of the gothic writing which was so popular in England for many years.

message 7: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer  | 163 comments Everyman,

Thanks for the tip. I will definitely pick myself up a copy.

message 8: by Denise (new)

Denise (dulcinea3) | 106 comments Hmmm, I've never associated Mansfield Park with Udolpho, nor considered it a parody. Are you sure you're not thinking of Northanger Abbey, Everyman?

And I had to laugh at the phrase "quick read" being used in reference to The Mysteries of Udolpho! It's quite a long work! I did enjoy finally reading it, though, after having encountered references to it for so song. Someday maybe I'll even get to Walpole's The Castle of Otranto!

message 9: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer  | 163 comments I haven't read Northanger Abbey but I do understand it to be a parody of the gothic novel from everything that I have read. Not sure whether to tackle that novel or Persuasion as my next Jane Austen novel.

I have heard a few people say that they find Mansfield Park to be much darker than the usual Jane Austen novels. However, I think that so far I have found Sense and Sensibility to be much darker. I was surprised that Austen dealt with the consequences to women who give birth outside of marriage. However, I still have a good 100 pages left to this novel. There is still room for me to change my mind.

message 10: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments I felt Mansfield Park was darker, but in a more true to life way. Consequences, both good and bad, of "marrying up," jealousies, issues of slavery, money troubles, etc. All have a bearing on some aspect of real life moreso than a lot of the other lighter romances do.

message 11: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 219 comments Denise wrote: "Hmmm, I've never associated Mansfield Park with Udolpho, nor considered it a parody. Are you sure you're not thinking of Northanger Abbey, Everyman?"

Oops. My bad. My very, very bad. You are absolutely right. Embarrassing. I guess that's what comes with age.

message 12: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments Well, they are the two that have names of places instead of characteristics (sense, pride, etc) so I suppose it would be an easy mistake :)

message 13: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer  | 163 comments I am just relieved that I am not completely misunderstanding Mansfield Park because if it has been a parody it would have been lost on me. Plan to read Northanger Abbey this summer though so the information is useful to me anyhow.

message 14: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments I enjoyed Northanger Abbey quite a bit, I have to say. I didn't take it seriously at all and it was just funny and delightful. Didn't have the same tone as her other novels.

message 15: by Sheryl (last edited Dec 19, 2013 01:30PM) (new)

Sheryl Tribble | 99 comments My thoughts are all over the place.

Chapter thirty is pretty much all Henry and Mary -- I'm trying to remember another Austen novel where we see so much that the "viewpoint" character doesn't. For instance, in Sense and Sensibility, even though there's a division of focus between Elinor and Marianne, we see pretty much everything through Elinor's eyes, meaning Big Stuff happens off stage and then Elinor hears about it.

Here, however, we see things between Mary and Henry that no one else does -- first Henry's plan to make Fanny love him, and here his plan to marry Fanny. I thought the scene where Henry says he's going to make Fanny love him was somewhat to Mary's benefit -- she protests to this scheme and doesn't want Fanny harmed -- but also demonstrates that her understanding isn't very deep. Even the milder scheme she proposes would hurt Fanny very deeply.

In chapter thirty, I think we're meant to see that Henry sincerely believes he loves Fanny. But Mary's comment that "even when you ceased to love [his future wife], she would yet find in you the liberality and good-breeding of a gentleman" gives it away. She says when, not if; Mary has little doubt that Henry's going to eventually lose interest in Fanny.

Which is my reading of his character as well. Fanny is his current enthusiasm, but once he marries her, he'll move on to something else. Mary has no problem with this, and sees it as beneficial to Fanny -- Fanny will then be comfortably established and financially set for life -- but doesn't consider the fact that Fanny wants a husband who always loves her and would not like a husband who has his little conquests on the side.

Even when Mary consciously wishes Fanny nothing but good, she's wishing her evil. This is a more insidious evil than that done by Willoughby -- who does harm by following his inclination or by not fighting his fiance's decision to dictate a letter to him -- or than Lucy Steele's -- who will do what's necessary to get what she wants, and might take a bit of momentary revenge but isn't really motivated by it. As with many characters in Austen, their fundamental problem is straight up selfishness.

Selfishness is more easily recognized than people whose moral center is so askew that they can do much harm by intending to do good, which is maybe why we see Mary and Henry on their own. Mary and Henry wish for something good -- to marry Edmund and Fanny -- and (at least on those fronts) have no intention of breaking social or moral rules to get them, but who they are would make accomplishing those marriages perverse. The good they desire, which is also a good thing in the abstract, becomes harmful to others because of what they would do within it.

Finally, Edmund hopes to wean Mary from her beliefs about clergymen, but Mary is equally determined to change Edmund to fit her preferences. Henry also has plans for reshaping Fanny to his own preferences. Fanny is the only one of the four who doesn't want to profoundly change the nature of the person she loves.

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