“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore every body, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.” ~Jane Austen (narrator), p. 482
“I am worn out of civility,” said he. “I have been talking incessantly all night, and with nothing to say” ~Edmund, p. 289
I’ve greatly enjoyed movie and miniseries adaptations of Mansfield Park, but when I first attempted to read the novel when I was sixteen, high off of the satire awesomeness of Pride and Prejudice, it was disappointing and I never finished the novel. Fanny Price felt like an anticlimactic, boring heroine compared with Lizzy Bennet. Still, after seeing the newest adaptation with Billie Piper, I decided it was time to give it another chance. Also, as I’ve just read A.S. Byatt’s excellent novel Possession, I was in the mood for something long and utterly 19th century British.
I was not disappointed this time. I think Mansfield Park is a bit more complex than other Austen novels I’ve read before. Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice are all the fun. But Mansfield Park is a bit more robust in themes and characterization. My impression of the novel as a whole is that this is a novel about unrequited love. Edmund is in love with Mary Crawford, who likes him well enough until she finds out he wants to be a preacher. Fanny is in love with Edmund, but her lower status as the “lucky,” poor cousin who gets to live at Mansfield complicates her feelings and her ability to express them (also she is not so great at expressing feelings in general–she’s pretty much on the Bella Swan/Anastasia Steele spectrum for blushing and crippling shyness). Maria and Julia love Henry Crawford, who likes to lead everyone on. Henry Crawford, however, gets a taste of his own medicine and ends up falling for Fanny (who is convinced, deep down, that Henry has all the moral character of Joffrey of the house Baratheon; for those living under a rock and who haven’t watched Game of Thrones–basically medieval Justin Bieber with a touch of sadistic madness). What really and truly astounded me about this book was that Austen really made Henry fall for Fanny–of course, he gets caught up, obsessed, and wants so eagerly to please her. At first, he just wanted to flirt with her and break her heart the way had with the Bertram sisters. I think I truly felt for all of the main characters of Mansfield Park, except perhaps for Mary Crawford and Mrs. Norris. Mansfield Park is now one of my new favorites–maybe I’m just a sucker for novels about unrequited love.