Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Genre: Classics, Romance, Adult
Published: April 29th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1814)
‘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.
Classics are far from being my thing. I’ve read a total of three in my life if you include Mansfield Park. However, I am on a kick to read more and I had heard the raves over Jane Austen. Unfortunately, I probably picked up what seems to be the least liked books of all Austen’s books and I can safely say, my opinion wasn’t much better. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean I have given up on Austen and I think whilst she is very wordy and proper about her writing, I did have small elements of enjoyment. Mansfield Park could never be labelled a bad novel and it’s definitely an old world classic and I can see why so many people enjoy such an exclusive and well-written novel. Mansfield Park is literary gold! But it just didn’t hold an enjoyment factor for me that I could really sustain to give this novel a good rating.
They call Miss Fanny Price a heroine. Whilst a heroine in modern terms, especially for the young-adult genre is somebody like Katniss from The Hunger Games who takes on a governmental system or Claire from the Morganville Vampire series who battles vampires and searches to find a cure using her brain. To me, a heroine is pro-active and jumping into the way of danger like those I’ve stated before. That doesn’t mean I expected Fanny Price to wield a sword and massacre the villains of the story or jab a knife in somebody’s back, I just wanted something strong and gritty from her. Unfortunately, Miss Fanny Price falls flat compared to so many others. She is weak, nervous and a whelp to put it simply. Her nervous disposition and inability to be a normal human being besides her cousins frankly infuriated and annoyed me. I wanted to grab hold of her and shake her. Fanny Price to me is not somebody who you would label a heroine, whilst her family may have sought her for advice, they never truly gained an insight to their problem from her, merely used her as a listening post. So this does not make Fanny Price a “heroine”. There was only one moment in which Fanny Price surprised me, where she spoke out, and then she was immediately to rebuke herself and thus she feel out of esteem once again. If she had managed to speak up and behave like this throughout the novel, it is safe to say I would probably have adored Fanny Price because she showed such potential for wit and humour!
“So very fond of me!” ‘tis nonsense all. She loves nobody but herself and her brother. Her friends leading her astray for years! She is quite as likely to have led them astray.”
When moving to look at the other characters, it’s hard to find redeeming, likeable qualities about most of the secondary characters that Austen develops. The Crawfords are fickle creatures who pretend to be something that they aren’t. Fanny’s cousins are all despicable people too, who treat her dismissively and her aunt Norris I do not even have words to cover. She is the most vile woman I have ever met. She continually degraded, dismissed and deprived Fanny of what little enjoyment she had in life and really just treated her like a maid of a servant to follow her every whim. The two characters I did find to my liking were William—Fanny’s brother—and Edmund—one of Fanny’s cousins—who looked after her from childhood and treated her kindly, always looking out for her interests and wellbeing.
An example of aunt Norris behaviour would be when Fanny was invited to dinner at Mrs Grant’s and she tried to rebuff Fanny for being invited and suggest that she would not be suited to going for dinner. How rude of her!?
“But I must observe, that five is the very awkwardest of all possible numbers to sit down to table; and I cannot but be surprised that such an elegant lady as Mrs. Grant should not contrive better!”
As for the plot.. What plot? Until about 300 pages into the book, I don’t think I found a substantial trail to the plot. Until this point, we followed Fanny through her daily life at a rather sedate, disinteresting pace which allowed me to place Mansfield Park down far too easily than I should be able to do with a book. It just didn’t hook me enough. Then around 300 pages in, I really become hooked! Unfortunately this engaging excitement really didn’t last for more than 20 pages because Fanny had me in a huff with her behaviour. In the long-term her behaviour benefitted herself, but it still annoyed me. Overall, the plot isn’t a really strong theme and the novel is definitely character and era driven novel. So if you’re looking for a strong plot that flows through the novel as distinguishable, I wouldn’t say Mansfield Park is that. Whilst you might go through the novel thinking Fanny Price will be looking for a love interest, she is so shy and bumbling that there are really very little points to how the plot can be manipulated and strengthened to follow this strand which makes Austen’s Mansfield Park a very weak novel when it comes to the plot.
Overall Mansfield Park was not a novel I loved, nor one I really liked, but it’s one I could appreciate for it’s literary talents and made me realise that I want to read more classics since they broaden your knowledge and give you an influx of the proper English language. I recently picked up Northanger Abbey and I believe I own Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. So hopefully my journey into the abyss of Classics will only move in the direction of positives! If Jane Austen is your idol, then you’ll probably really enjoy this novel or if you just enjoy the fancy eloquence of old world writing, then this book will be right up your street, but for me it’s literary merits were few and far between!
More stalking available here:
Let me know what you think!