“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”
― Jane Austen, Mansfield Park.
The day before yesterday, I made a bet with my elder sister. The bet was I have to complete all the six novels of J.A. in 4 weeks, watch their movies, take the quizzes and well prove myself as a true Janeite!
I started with my least favourite Austen book, Mansfield Park ….yeah the one with the over righteous heroine, the preachy guy who is supposed to be the hero and two a Mansfield Park was published posthumously in a four volume book with Northanger Abbey in 1818. Jane wrote it in the last years of her life before dying in 1817.
While reading the book, I found a lot of similarities between the heroine Fanny’s life and Jane’s life, although their personalities were completely different. Several incidents in Jane’s life including the adoption of her brother Edmund by the Knights, a rich childless couple who had taken to her quiet brother on one of their visits, the controversies involving the extravagant Prince of Wales and his society compelled Jane to take up her pen and convey her ideas about the surrounding affairs through her novel.
Mansfield Park is different from the rest of Jane’s novels because of its high moral taste and the strength of the principles taught to us during childhood. I must confess, i do not like Fanny Price as a heroine nor does Edmund Bertram feature anywhere on my favourite heroes list. Yes, we must be moral, do the right thing and believe in our principles but being a prig is not always the right thing to do. Its not like i hate Fanny Price..its just that she is well, a prig. In the beginning of the book I felt appropriately sorry for her but as she grows up, she develops weirdly priggish tendencies and is always big on all her rocket high moral standards which is definitely unfair for the people who live with her and would love some fun and games. Throughout the book, she is shown to be a morose and quiet doormat who is regularly in conflicts with her conscience. From the beginning, her cousins have been showing her either ill treatment or no treatment at all, infact they have not being associating with her at all as she herself has not being encouraging them. Understood, that she is shy and of a silent nature but hey! you do have a supportive cousin too who does encourage you to talk and correspond with people right?
Aware of the fact that Ms Price is definitely not going to appeal to her audience, Austen cleverly manges to gain our sympathy at the end of the book for Fanny. At one point of the book, i was surprised to find myself shouting “Go Fanny go!” and i really do not exactly change my opinions about someone so easily!
The novels follows Fanny’s life as she is adopted by her rich uncle and has to leave her poor family. Bossed around by her dominating Aunt Norris (who is an annoyingly hilarious presence throughout the book ) and intimidated by her strict uncle, who also has moral standards but is no match for his niece’s standards. Poor Fanny, ignored by all her female cousins who find her ignorant and indifferent finds a true friend in her second cousin Edmund whom she grows to love romantically. The story moves forward with Sir Bertram going abroad and the Crawfords entering Mansfield park and charming their way into everyone’s hearts leaving Fanny to deal with her insecurity and jealousy. The Crawfords entry into society change and alter everyone’s lives at Mansfield as they battle their own decisions and the consequences of faulty actions.
What makes Mansfield Park worth reading is the message conveyed by Austen to its readers. All the characters so beautifully and realistically potrayed as to leave the readers no doubt of the reasons behind some of their actions. Right from Aunt Norris’s
irritating behaviour to Mary Crawford’s gold digging one, the characters keep you hooked on to the story.
I watched the 1999 version of Mansfield park yesterday. Fanny Price’s character was altered from a timid doormat into a sharp tongued, outspoken lady, the villains were made more villainous, Sir Bertram’s character made pervy and despotic and Lady Bertram into a junkie….yeah..hell of a movie! but it was actually fun and i enjoyed it although purists may not agree with me.
Well, then another J.A. book next week! Most probably Northanger Abbey…will post soon! 😀