[For an updated response check out my July 2015 reading of Mansfield Park.]
I finished reading Mansfield Park this weekend and I must admit that it’s still one of the best Jane Austen novels few people read. It’s a bit of a tome and the version I read with the tiny close quartered print was some times painful, but it’s well worth it. Mansfield Park counts for my Back to the Classics Challenge (Reread a classic of your choice) and also counts for The Classics Club. There will be an update later this week about where I am with my challenges and life.
I first read Mansfield Park sometime during college, not for a course, but because I realized I was never required to read Jane Austen and she was this entity that I found fascinating. So many of the teen movies from the early 1990s were based on her books (and Shakespeare’s plays) that I just had to read the originals. I remember reading them back to back but not what order, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Emma – and I eventually read Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition. I’ve enjoyed all of them but Fanny Price remains one of those characters who sticks with me no matter what I read.
In this version Margaret Drabble does an excellent job of explaining why Mansfield Park and Fanny Price are so divisive within the Austenite community – the novel is Austen’s first ‘adult’ novel and throws of the perfection in the suit of marriage and Fanny Price is an absolute product of her upbringing and you either know that and give her credit for it, or you don’t and hate her for it. I fall in the first category.
As I was rereading the novel I found myself despising Fanny’s aunt (Mrs. Norris) even more so than the first time I read the novel. Mrs. Norris goes out of her way in abusing Fanny (verbally) and in doing so has completely created a subservient, quiet, hesitant person. Not only does she do this directly to Fanny, but she encourages others to as well. If there is one thing I don’t like in a person I meet and that I like even less in a character is when they put on airs. All I wanted to do was shake Mrs. Norris and say look at you, look at what you’ve done. You’re the worst out of everyone and came from the same place everyone else did. I do feel she gets her just rewards even if it does take quite awhile.
I planned on including some of my favorite quotes but decided against it. Maybe I will if I reread the novel again while I’m still blogging, but who knows. Most of them just served to reveal character’s personalities.
The only real drawbacks of the novel are that it sometimes gets a bit preachy (but doesn’t approach Louisa May Alcott’s level) and it takes until nearly halfway through before things pick up. If I were reading this when it was first published I’m not sure I would’ve made it through Volume One, but Volume’s Two and Three were definitely worth the read.
Recommendation: Read it. If you’re interested in learning more about Austen as an adult and think her other novels are too ideal check this out, you might be surprised.
Opening Line: “About thirty years ago, Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income.”
Closing Line: “On that event they removed to Mansfield, and the parsonage there, which under each of its two former owners, Fanny had never been able to approach but with some painful sensation of restraint or alarm, soon grew as dear to her heart, and as thoroughly perfect in her eyes, as everything else, within the view and patronage of Mansfield Park, had long been.” (Whited out.)
Additional Quotes from Mansfield Park
Click here to see my 2015 re-read where I included many quotes from the work.