Mansfield Park (Jane Austen)Sunday, 26. April 2009
Fanny Price lives with her aunt and uncle, the Bertrams, and their children, Thomas, Edmund, Maria and Julia. During all of her childhood with them, she has heard by the well-meaning but rather insensitive people around her that she’s not much worth and that she’s forever obliged to them. Only Edmund has ever shown her any real kindness. Thus she grows up a shy young woman with very strong principles and very much in love with Edmund, who doesn’t suspect a thing.
When the siblings Henry and Mary Crawford move into the neighbourhood, things get shaken up quite a bit.
Mansfield Park is probably the least popular Austen novel – and I can see how that happened. Still, it is also probably the most satirical and best written (at least of the ones I’ve read so far) of her novels.
[SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS]
This was the first Austen novel I read where I didn’t already know the story by heart. So it was also the first one that really gripped me and I really wanted to know how it ended. I mean, I assumed that it was going to end well (which it did, at least for the heroes), but however would she get there? And who would the minor characters end up with?
Also, I thought that it really was better written than the other books I’ve read by her so far. I mean, Jane Austen has always had the ability to sketch a complete and well rounded character with a few words only, but here, she’s the master of characters, and every single one, even the smallest, is a complete human being.
And the satire of the whole thing was also amped up. Just look at this, for example:
Her brother was not handsome: no, when they first saw him he was absolutely plain, black and plain; but still he was the gentleman, with a pleasing address. The second meeting proved him not so very plain: he was plain, to be sure, but then he had so much countenance, and his teeth were so good, and he was so well made, that one soon forgot he was plain; and after a third interview, after dining in company with him at the Parsonage, he was no longer allowed to be called so by anybody. He was, in fact, the most agreeable young man the sisters had ever known, and they were equally delighted with him. Miss Bertram’s engagement made him in equity the property of Julia, of which Julia was fully aware; and before he had been at Mansfield a week, she was quite ready to be fallen in love with.
But ultimately, it’s also her novel I liked least so far because Fanny’s purity really got on my nerves sometimes. I mean, I know that our morality has shifted quite a bit since the 19th century, but it’s hard to understand why she’d be so upset about the play the people put on. And why she could never do anything “bad” because of her strong sense of right and wrong. Sometimes, I just wanted to whack her. Sometimes, I wanted to whack Edmund.
And up until the last few pages I really didn’t see Fanny’s problem with Mary Crawford. She seemed like a nice enough woman. A little shallow, maybe, but a good person.
The whole moral lesson of the book didn’t agree with me. I mean, I can see it in the historical context, and it makes sense but it’s just a message that didn’t translate well into the 21st century.
Anyway, I was gripped and I wanted to see how it ends and I had fun reading it. So I guess, it was worth not giving up on the book because Fanny sucked as a heroine.