Mansfield Park by Jane Austen is the second last book of hers that I hadn’t read (not entirely true as I’ve read Persuasion, just 2 days ago but for the sake of the review let’s assume that is true) and although I watched the movie first, I still wanted to read it desperately. Out of all of her books, I found Mansfield Park to be the most Victorian in the way the characters were written and the societal norms that Austen touched upon.
Although, the story is great, it isn’t as revolutionary or transcending like Pride and Prejudice, Emma or Sense and Sensibility. There are themes in most of her books regarding the way her characters act, how they feel about love, or how they tackle difficult situations that make us love her books. Of course, her witty and funny writing is exceptional as well.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen gives us a lot of insight into how rank and status cages you into a certain class which you’re often reminded of by relatives, acquaintances, and society in general. The character of Fanny Price is an example of this very concept. She is adopted by her wealthier relatives the Bertams, to come and live with them, and take advantage of all the luxuries and knowledge they can provide her which she wouldn’t have received back home.
“There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another”
Soon after arriving at Mansfield Park, she is treated horribly and left in a room without basic furnishings or even heat. Although, she was brought there by the suggestion of an aunt close to the Bertams, it becomes clear that they’re “act of kindness” is more for show then actually being generous.
“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest”
Throughout the story, we see how each time Fanny is given some sliver of knowledge or freedom only to be reminded of her status in the house, or economic background. She grows up to be a well learned girl, interested in books and writing, and forms a good relationship with her cousin Edmund, even though her female cousins aren’t friendly or warm towards her.
“Everybody likes to go their own way–to choose their own time and manner of devotion.”
As the years pass by, their life is interrupted by the entrance of the Crawfords: Mary and her brother Henry, who are charmed by the idyllic countryside life, but still are Londoners at heart. Soon, they’re liberal ways, and conniving schemes entangle all the inhabitants of Mansfield Park, with Fanny stuck in situation that could either elevate her social status or leave stuck where she is.
“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”
Presented with the option of marrying well (which was the main advice of every older person to the younger lot, at that time) she has to make a decision between love and money.
“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”
Although, Fanny may seem like a timid, “held back” sort of character, I loved how she exerted her creative energies into her writing and communication with her brother, and communications with Edmund. As a person of “inferior” rank to her relatives, her on guard demeanor is only natural, when every day you’re reminded of how lucky one is to be blessed with such “caring” relatives.
Even though, their shallow and frivolous ways are anything but empathetic or kind. I really enjoyed this book, and I think Mansfield Park is great insight into how 19th century English people paid so much attention and effort into rank, respect, social and economic status, without a care for what is right or wrong.
Also, I do have to say that Mansfield Park is funny as well, although some of Jane Austen’s book can have a serious tone. If you read between the lines, you’ll be able to find a lot of wit and sarcasm hidden behind lovely words, and long sentences – that is an Austen forte.
If you’re interested in reading or checking out other Jane Austen novels, here are my reviews for a few that I have read:
Let’s get down to the basics:
- Rating: 4.5/5.0
- Favorite quote: “A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.”
- Reader level: A bit hard I will say.
- Should you read: Absolutely – if you like witty takes on Victorian Era England.
- Would I read it again: I might.
Till next time,