Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Dullness of Mansfield Park

I finished Mansfield Park a week or two ago now, and have to say that my opinions of it did not change much after my initial post on the novel. I don't think I'm giving away too much to those who haven't read Mansfield Park yet to say that, in typical Austen fashion, things worked out in the end. The worthy, morally superior characters (Fanny Price, Edmund) were rewarded with happy marriages. The morally suspect characters (Henry Crawford, Maria Bertram) ended in ruins.

Despite the neatness of the ending I couldn't help from feeling that Fanny and Edmund would be two of the most boring people on earth to spend time with and that I would have chosen the 'cad', Henry Crawford, just because life with him would be so much more fun.

Austen excels at the novel of manners and of course she reflects the strict social codes of the society that she depicts. Usually however her heroines are charismatic as well as worthy. My favourite Austen characters have a feisty aspect to their personalities that prevents them from the interminable dullness of Fanny Price. Without a charismatic heroine such as Emma Woodhouse or Elizabeth Bennet, Mansfield Park seems like a historical curiosity. I can enjoy the plot and be interested in the world that is depicted but I didn't feel emotionally engaged with the characters. Reading this novel has motivated me to go back and re-read those other Austen novels that I love so much.


Rebecca H. said...

Well, enjoy re-reading those other Austen novels!

jess said...

Thanks Dorothy! Maybe I was too harsh on 'Mansfield Park'- I think my expectations were very high.

Anonymous said...

I think this is the Austen novel I least want to read, though I hope to get to it eventually. I saw the movie a few years ago, but it sounds like many liberties were taken with the story!

Anonymous said...

Fanny is dull isn't she? I struggled with Mansfield Park when I read it because I loved Austen's other novels so much and then there was this one. I was so disappointed.

Anonymous said...

I may love Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice more, but Mansfield Park is the Austen novel that regularly has me down on my knees at the sheer greatness. Yes, of course Henry and Mary are much more interesting than Fanny and Edward, but the thing is, Fanny and Edward are always right - and the enticing 18th-century world of the Crawford always stays tantalizingly out of reach. And the scene in the park where everyone gets lost and climbs over fences and tumbles (not really) into ha-has has got to be one of the top 5 brilliant scenes in English literature.

I find Emma, the protagonist, much less likeable than Fanny, by the way. In fact, I could kick Emma. (The novel is great, of course)