Plot synopsis from Goodreads :
Adopted into the household of her uncle – by – marriage , Sir Thomas Bertram , Fanny Price grows up a meek outsider among her cousins in the unaccustomed elegance of Mansfield Park . Soon after Sir Thomas absents himself on estate business in Antigua (the family’s investment in slavery and sugar is considered in the Introduction in a new , post-colonial light ) , Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive at Mansfield , bringing with them London glamour, and the seductive taste for flirtation and theatre that precipitates a crisis .
My thoughts on the book :
While several reviewers have too often moaned about Fanny Price ‘ s ‘ inferiority ‘ to the other Austen heroines , I think that they simply do not consider the fact that Fanny ‘ s social standing is very different from the rest . The chief complaint which everybody seems to have is this Fanny is too timid . Do these readers who complain that Fanny is ‘ a creepmouse ‘ expect her to have Elizabeth Bennet’s vivacity or Emma Woodhouse’s self assuredness while she is residing under her uncle ‘ s roof because her parents cannot afford to raise her ? A poor relation is only above the servants of the great house and has nothing to give herself airs about if you need some enlightening about how the society operated in Jane Austen ‘ s time . Sometimes , it is also upto the readers to get the expectations right . . .
But these not – so – favorable reviews actually helped me to get started with the book without much expections about the heroine and helped me to finish it without much regret . This should be the prime takeaway from this review – Have no great expectations and you will get through the book comfortably . Otherwise , you are definitely going to be disappointed . . .
One scathing observation from a critic quoted by Claire Tomalin in her Austen biography ( review here ) says that he found Fanny repellent : cold , self – righteous , rigid with prejudice , ‘ the most terrible incarnation we have of a the female prig – pharisee ‘ .
For me , while Fanny is rightly characterized as the creepmouse who is only too happy to sit sit unobserved and observe the drama around her , the fact that her internal monologues almost always run along the lines of ‘ Is this right ? Is this wrong ? ‘ seemed a little absurd and was really exasperating . Considering the characters of her companions at Mansfield Park ( with the exception of Edmund ) , it seems very odd that she should be obsessed with the rights & wrongs like this . I also felt that it was a bit uncharacteristic for Fanny to wax eloquent at times when time and again the reader is reminded that her education was not on par with the daughters of the house . . . I was able to overlook her out – of – character , almost – too – poetic raptures but even I had enough of Fanny ‘ s constant moralizing or her judgemental opinions ( regarding Mary Crawford particularly ) that I fully agree with the critic on every point except for finding her repulsive . Any reader would recognize the underlying jealousy ( which Fanny stubbornly refuses to acknowledge even to herself ) in the case of Mary Crawford – Fanny tends to play up even the slightest hint of a vice in Mary Crawford to Edmund particularly , while she comfortably remains mum on the subject of her cousins ‘ scandalous elopements . . .
Atleast for me , Fanny ‘ s inferiority is in the fact that she does not get or never got or probably would not get much love from the readers like the other Jane Austen heroines . We are not able to root for her like we did for every other Austen heroine – in fact despite all of Mary Crawford ‘ s ‘ deviousness ‘ as Fanny & Edmund would say , I wanted her to get married to the man whom she loved . But coming to think of it now , it ‘ s a match made in heaven between the two cousins . . .
That ‘ s enough of a rant about Fanny Price I guess . Now , lets talk about her love story .
I am not the first ( or going to be the last ) reader who has this complaint – Fanny ‘ s love for Edmund is always hinted but the same Edmund who exclaimed ‘ My only sister ‘ on seeing Fanny ( shortly after Mariah ‘ s elopement ) should fall in love with her some three or so chapters later is very much unlike Jane Austen who gave us Pride & Prejudice , Persuasion , Sense & Sensibility . If Austen had hinted at a budding romance halfway through the novel , I could have easily made peace with this romantic pair . The only problem with this lead pair is that nowhere in the book a keen reader would discern anything romantic in the interactions between the two until the big reveal . It seems that Jane Austen desperately wanted a happy ending for her book . With all other young people married or banished from Mansfield Park , she had no other people to pair up except for these two . .
Another sore point about Mansfield Park was the writing . There were too many overly long sentences that wrapping my head around those was a trial . It was becoming quite tedious reading about Edmund and Fanny discussing the Crawfords & their merits / vices at length . . . Austen heroines who were more insightful than Fanny ( like Anne Elliot ) did not bore the readers with discussions about the characters of their neighbours . I enjoyed the chapters on Sotherton excursion , Fanny visiting her family and any other family drama very much after plodding through yet another discussion between Fanny & Edmund or even worse , Fanny ‘ s thoughts . .
* Just an idea *
Another thing which struck me after reading about Lady Bertram & Mrs . Price is that Jane Austen prefers having only the silly or sometimes indifferent parent(s) or sometimes guardians ( like Lady Bertram as in Fanny ‘ s case ) around her heroine – If you think about Mrs . & Mr . Bennet , Sir Elliot , Mr . Woodhouse , Mrs . & Mr. Price , you might also begin to see the pattern . If Austen chooses to have both the parents instead of only one ( as in Persuasion & Emma ) , then it means that both have varying levels of idiocy or eccentricity . I wonder why Austen chose to characterize the heroine ‘ s parents as people who could use some of their offspring ‘ s intelligence . . .
On the whole , Mansfield Park is not going to be one of my Austen favorites . I still have Northanger Abbey and Sense & Sensibility to read and having seen much positive response to S & S , only Northanger Abbey will decide the final rankings for Austen novels . I am confident that in my rankings , no other Austen novel is going to beat Persuasion for the top spot . . .
Rating : 2 . 75 / 5
If you have already read the book , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book . . . Until the next review then . . .
P . S : I think that the current situation is the best time to tackle some classics . I don ‘ t think I would have had enough patience with Mansfield Park if I had read it during ” old normal times ” . Here are my discussion posts on Wuthering Heights – Part-1 , Part-2 if you want to check it out . . .