Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny’s uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry’s attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary’s dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords’ influence and finds herself more isolated than ever. A subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, Mansfield Park is one of Jane Austen’s most profound works.
Mansfield Park often gets a bad wrap as many feel like Fanny Price is the weakest of Austen’s heroines. I disagree. If anything, maybe she’s a little too “perfect” but I do like her. She’s crazy shy, introverted and highly moral. What exactly is wrong with that? The novel points to the fact that good character is more desirable than money. In the end, we see good character rewarded, and those of unreputable character receiving their just rewards (with perhaps the exclusion of Mr. Rushworth – unless you attribute his end to his stupidity for marrying Maria in the first place).
I’m taking part in a book club this year where we are discussing the roles of mothers in Jane Austen’s novels. The first read was Pride and Prejudice, and now adding in Mansfield Park, we have yet to see a mother cast in a good light. Mrs. Bertram is kind, but still pretty self-absorbed, and obviously, her daughters did not turn out to make the best choices in life. Fanny’s own mother is pretty much out of the picture, and since she had so many children of her own, she readily gave Fanny up to be raised by her sister. Just like Jane and Lizzy Bennett, we see that Fanny turns out okay despite her mother’s poor influence.
There are some great supporting characters in the novel. The Crawford siblings are charming yet shallow and self-absorbed. Mrs. Norris is simply ghastly. (And yes, Filch’s cat in the HP novels WAS named after her). Edmund is such a good boy that you have to like him — and root for him to “see the light” when it comes to the woman who has captured his affection and does not deserve him.
All in all, it’s a great little novel. Not my favorite of the Austen novels, but certainly an enjoyable one.
Would I recommend it to my BFF? Of course.
Would I recommend it to my teen reader? Yes.