zondag 19 juli 2015

Jane Austen: Mansfield Park


This is my review of my second time reading Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.
The novel is 469 pages long and has a 34-page note at the end.

“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.”

Mansfield Park is my least favorite Jane Austen novel but it is still a good novel and this for several reasons.
It is very different from her other novels and you really have to keep that in mind while reading.

I disliked Fanny a lot. She is a weakling, insipid, boring, passive, too virtuous, too perfect, dull and moralizing. Basically, she’s Mansfield Park’s doormat.
She’s painted as a perfect model who’s a much better person than everyone else.
But I do feel for her. The way she’s treated, especially by her Aunt Norris is hurtful and she is always treated as less and made to feel that way.

Moreover, Edmund, the novel’s hero only realizes he loves Fanny as a sort of last resort, which he admits in his proposal. Furthermore, he is blind to Fanny’s needs and ignores her very often. He is the one who has ‘shaped’ her into someone just like him. What kind of love is that?

I do think this must have been a very daring novel back when it was written. Henry Crawford is a bit of a sadist, the way he plays with women. And adultery must have been a topic not often talked or written about back then.

And I believe Austen must have been writing about her fear of the changes her society was going through. The simple, traditional country life as it had been was changing into something different and I think she wrote about this fear here.

I also believe the novel handles about what would later be called ‘Nature Versus Nurture’. Is a person’s character innate or (partly) formed by his/hers environment? Fanny is a perfect character in a not so perfect environment. That same environment gave way to Maria who is clearly not perfect. The same can be said for the three sisters; Fanny’s mother, Lady Bertram and Mrs. Norris who all grew up in the same house but turned out very different.

This novel is more about the pursuit of wealth and status as opposed to love. It is not called Fanny. It is called Mansfield Park. It’s about relations at the time; what was thought proper behavior and what could be expected. It’s about the changes the whole society was going through; about the differences between classes.

Read it with this (or someone else’s opinion) in mind and enjoy it. Read it and think only of the characters and I’m afraid you won’t enjoy it as much.

Happy reading!

Perfect evening with my husband.