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Paperback Mansfield Park Book

ISBN: 0307386880

ISBN13: 9780307386885

Mansfield Park

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Book Overview

Mansfield Park encompasses not only Jane Austen's great comedic gifts and her genius as a historian of the human animal, but her personal credo as well--her faith in a social order that combats chaos through civil grace, decency, and wit. At the novel's center is Fanny Price, the classic "poor cousin," brought as a child to Mansfield Park by the rich Sir Thomas Bertram and his wife as an act of charity. Over time, Fanny comes to demonstrate forcibly...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

rubs some the wrong way

a great book and its greatness is commensurate with its ability to offend (or something pretty much like that) - Lionel Trilling What does the book tell us that offends some? For one, traditional authority (in the form of Sir Thomas) is nearly always correct and should be obeyed. It is not perfect and can err, as Sir Thomas did in the upbringing of his daughters. Nethertheless, it demands and should receive respect and even reverence. Two, sincerity, honesty, seriousness, and earnestness are always to be preferred to wit, frivolity, charm, and cleverness. In particular, wit that mocks traditional values and religion is wrong. Somethings are beyond wit. Better to be quiet than to joke about serious topics. Three, self control and restraint are very important. People should not do what is wrong, even if they really want to do it. People should do what is right, even if they don't feel like it and should do it gladly. There is a scene where Julia is trapped in conversation with a rather boring older character. Julia is polite but inwardly impatient. Austen tells us that it is not enough that Julia is outwardly polite. She should restrain her inward impatience because she is doing the right thing. Four, order, method, regularity, and calmness are very important. Disorder, mess, lack of planning are bad. Impetuosity and impulsiveness should be avoided. Five, doing one's duty is very important. Duty comes before almost everything else. Many readers find Fanny to be priggish and intolerant, overly critical of others' conduct, and narrow minded. Such as she is, she is the heroine of the book. Unlike the heroines of Emma and Pride and Prejudice, Fanny does not change from what she is at the start. She is right and others learn to conform to her views. All Fanny needs is more self confidence and less diffidence. Otherwise she is beyond reproach. The book also prizes intelligence, bravery, consideration for others' feelings, honesty, and kindness. Fanny has all these qualities. But what strikes readers is the puritan aspect of her character and that the author, Fanny's creator, approves of it and endorses it. Many have attempted to make this book mean something different from what Austen wrote. They have striven to show that Austen does not like her creation, Fanny, or that Fanny is wrong in this way or that or that the book shows that Austen is a feminist. The book does not show any of these things. The book annoys because Austen is very successful in endorsing a particular world view that is contrary to modern philosophy. Austen succeeds because she is a brilliant writer. Her success in championing what seems to many of us very bad values is irksome. Personally, the book does not bother me. I love its heroine.

A Less Romantic, More Realistic Austen

As a fairly big Jane Austen fan I came into this masterful novel (after the first fifty pages) expecting a great love story put off by the lowly financial means of the protagonist. However, the central figure, Fanny, has many qualities that make her an ulikely figure for the role of seductress. She is quiet, shy, and completely unsure of herself. She indeed has very few qualities that make the reader expectant that she will be able to marry above her means. Instead of an enthralling love story I found the novel full of subtle but interesting social commentary and excellent characterization of the protagonist. While not quite a Pride and Prejudice style page turner, Mansfield Park is worthwhile for its character development and carefully crafted, mature writing.

Not Austen's best, but still wonderful

After having read (and loved) Jane Austen's more famous novels EMMA and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, I found MANSFIELD PARK a true delight. Fanny Price is taken in by her wealthy aunt and uncle as charity to her more lowly-married mother, and is raised with her cousins with the idea she needs refinement and education to become as good a woman as her lesser social standing will allow. Fanny is nervous and self-effacing, struggling with her new situation until her cousin Edmund makes her feel more at home. Gradually, she feels like a part of the family, although the nagging sense of unworthiness always asserts itself. As cousins marry and suitors appear, as scandals arise and emotions become known, Fanny finds herself in the equivalent of a Victorian soap opera. Fanny is undoubtedly one of Austen's less assertive characters, although she does mature into a woman who knows what she wants and will accept no less. I loved Fanny and her honesty, the little girl who fears the stars in her eyes and still manages to grow up into a respectable - and respected - woman. Her complexities are subtle and understated, making the reader work at times to understand her motivation, although anyone who has felt like an outcast even once, or anyone who respects honesty, will identify with her. In true Austen fashion, the observations are witty, with pointed social analysis and cynicism dressed up in sly humor. Fanny's aunts in particular are skewered, but no one, not even Fanny, is spared. Readers picking up this novel for the sheer delight of it will find it difficult to put down, as its language is accessible and free-flowing. Students and book club members who must pay closer attention to themes and other literary issues may want to consider the role social standing and money play; the evolution of Fanny's character (and whether she is sympathetic); the techniques Austen uses to evoke humor; and the courtship protocol for Victorian England and how the characters both work within, and violate, the social rules. I highly recommend this book for teenagers and adults alike, especially those whose literary tastes run toward the classics.

Mansfield Park, revisited

It's been more than a year since I originally reviewed this book, and since then it's been fun to read the war of words between Fanny-defenders and Fanny-bashers; one reviewer says she can't understand this "hate" of Fanny, while another is amazed at the "loathing" Fanny engenders in some readers, and a third admonishes that appreciating Fanny's saintliness takes time and harrumphs, "Fanny upholds what is right, how not to love her?" I have read and reread "Mansfield Park" (it's one of my all-time favorites) and my response regarding Fanny is, "what's to love?"The reviewer who described Fanny as an "odious little priss" hit the nail slam-bang on the head; Fanny is an impossible killjoy. She is a case of conscience run amok, without any of the tempering graces of understanding or acceptance. Whatever emotions Fanny engenders, hatred or loathing doesn't come into it; there is not enough in Fanny's character to loathe. What she engenders in this reader is more like a profound sense of irritation; one wants to grab her by the shoulders, give her a good shake and tell her to lighten up. Jane Austen's other heroines know how to leaven virtue with common sense and a dash of humor, none more so than Elizabeth Bennet in "Pride and Prejudice"; Fanny acts like she never cracked a joke in her life and wouldn't understand a joke if she heard one, let alone appreciate it. She is thus a perfect match for her cousin Edmund, who is the most puzzling character in this excellent book.I have never yet come across a sympathetic character in a novel who becomes so thoroughly unsympathetic as Edmund Bertram. He certainly starts out as likeable enough, as Fanny's champion and protector from her obnoxious aunt Norris. We can understand and sympathize when he falls in love with Mary Crawford, whose worldly upbringing makes her despise his vocation as a minister. But Mary is torn between her materialistic ambitions and her genuine affection for Edmund. She really loves him and appreciates his good qualities, as he is able to love her for hers; he realizes she is shallow and superficial, but she is also loving, kind, generous, open-hearted, and doesn't have a mean bone in her body. She is "the only woman he could ever want or accept for a wife."So what happens to blow this whole scenario to bits? In Edmund's eyes, Mary is insufficiently outraged by the adulterous relationship between her brother and Edmund's married sister. Edmund is in anguish when Mary says she is disgusted by their stupidity in carrying on the affair. For him, this proves she is totally without virtue. But is she really? Mary may have been as outraged as Edmund was; but where Edmund can only think of retribution, Mary is more concerned with damage control. Where Edmund insists on divine and temporal punishment and damnation, Mary prefers to try to make the best of a bad situation. For Edmund, Mary's common sense translates into vice. From a paragon of virtue, she suddenly becomes a mons

A different side to Austen nonetheless entertaining

After reading all of her other works beforehand, 'Mansfield Park' struck me, like many readers, as almost told by a different person from the Austen we know. It is darker, much more humourless (the scenes of comedy are much less evenly spread, and even then they are tainted despairingly sarcastic rather than her usual warm irony), and with a very different heroine. It would appear a quieter, if more intelligent version of Harriet Smith from 'Emma' has taken centre stage here--that is, meek little Fanny Price.Don't despair. It's brilliant as always.To begin with, this time Austen's novel contains much more 'action'--what I mean by that is her prose actually describes her characters doing things, even with a touch of ! dramatic climax! to them, something she'd never done before. (Apart from a few scenes of Lydia's wedding in "Pride and Prejudice", Austen's novels usually just contain large blocks of dialogue between characters with the occasioanl longer expositional block detailing the passage of time.) The arrival of Sir Thomas, for example, at the end of volume one, is, surprisingly, thrillingly done with no small amount of adrenaline shocked into the reader, knowing what exploits he will catch his children in the middle of.The humour is a sad loss, but then in this novel Austen deals with more 'racy' topics than her usual, which she probably felt deserved even more severe treatment than she would normally dispense to her characters through her razor-sharp tools of irony. The moral quotent, therefore, is much higher than normal--then again Austen never featured a married woman's affair before, did she?The last thing other readers complain about is the lack of any attractive characters in the novel, save Fanny's older brother, William Price (I'd agree there--he was delicious!). Many people dislike and even detest little fanny, after the 'spirited' and 'lively' exploits of Elizabeth Bennet and her kin.Notice how often the word 'lively' is linked to the poisonous Miss Crawford in this novel, and I think you'll see she was trying to make no small point about how dangerous an over-'spirited' girl could get!I don't understand this hate of Fanny. Is it just because she's a disappointment from Eliza? Because she's morally invincible? Because she turns down the dashing hero (Henry Crawford) to marry boring but steadfast old Edmund? I can't find sufficient evidence to hate her in ANY of the above. She's a pleasant, intelligent, charmingly emotional little girl--certainly a pleasant change from that spoiled brat Emma Woodhouse.My concluding statement is this: MP is a very enjoyable novel, if somewhat different from Austen's other works. Even if you come away wishing Fanny Price would drop dead on her pious little head, you should still read it. It's moral lessons are important, it's characters are vital additions to Austen's repetoire, and it reveals a very important shift in Austen's attitude in later
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