Mansfield Park is not one of the more popular Austen novels, and I must confess, it’s not my favorite either. In fact, it’s probably my second to last favorite before Northanger Abbey. It’s much more serious than her other books. There’s not as much light humor. It’s really not very romantic. Many people find the heroine, Fanny Price, insipid. So much so that the two latest adaptations of it totally changed her personality.
Even though MP is low on my list of Austen novels, I think it’s far from being a bad or boring book. True, it’s focus seems to be more on morality rather than romance or comedy but I still enjoy it. While Edmund Bertram is admittedly low on my list of Austen heroes, I do like and admire Fanny Price, both as a character and as a person. Many readers may find her dull but I just don’t think so. Yes, she is weak and has low confidence in the beginning. But who can blame her? She wasn’t brought up in good conditions and then was taken away from her family at a young age. And Mrs. Norris has pretty much made her life hell. She has a strong set of morals in spite of this. She is able to see through the outwardly charming but inwardly ugly Crawfords (who even fool Edmund!) and will not back down in her refusal to marry Henry. This means so much more coming from her than it would from an outspoken girl, like Elizabeth Bennet. It took a lot more courage for the timid Fanny to stand up for herself and say no to Henry than for Lizzy, who always speaks her mind, to refuse Mr. Collins or Darcy, that’s for sure!
The Crawfords are pretty popular among some readers from what I’ve seen, so they’ve charmed more than the book characters, apparently! I’ve seen comparisons of Mary to Elizabeth Bennet, which surprises and irritates me. Yes, they are both witty, but that’s as far as I’d take it. Elizabeth, while immature in the beginning of the book, is still a compassionate and pretty much unselfish person. Mary Crawford is very selfish (she doesn’t even try to hide it) and is only after rank and fortune. She falls for Edmund in spite of herself but still tries to constantly persuade him not to be a clergyman because that is apparently not good enough of a profession for her. She really shows her ugly side in a letter to Fanny near the end in which she expresses her hopes that Tom will die so that Edmund will become heir to Mansfield Park and the baronetcy! Edmund finally opens his eyes to Mary’s true nature after Henry and Maria’s elopement. She doesn’t seem to have any awareness that their adultery is wrong, only that they were not discreet about it and got caught! Really, can you picture Elizabeth Bennet saying these things? I’ve never understood Henry’s popularity either. Yes, he’s charming. Yes, he did fall in love with Fanny. But do people really think she could have been happy with him or reformed him? He would have probably been back to his rakish ways in a short time if she did marry him. Fanny saw him toying with both Maria and Julia’s affections (despite Maria being engaged) and knew this. He ran off with Maria when things were looking up for his case! And he only started the whole affair with Fanny because he wanted to put a “hole in her heart.” Yeah, what a catch…
I think the only thing I really find lacking in this book is the romance between Edmund and Fanny. I know that Austen didn’t intend that as her focus and I am happy that Fanny got what she always wanted, but it still would have been nice to see some romantic scenes between them at the end. In spite of this I can safely call myself a fan of both Mansfield Park and Fanny Price.
My Rating: 8/10