Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love Mansfield Park. It is my favorite Austen, which I know makes me an anomaly with those who cry at Fanny's "dullness" and "prudish perfections." Yet, I think Austen makes it clear that while Fanny has excellencies of character and mind, her reticence to put herself forward, her lack of speaking at appropriate times to protect herself or others makes her imperfect. Even at the end, Susan's speaking up and animated character makes her perhaps the better companion when compared with her sister.
I wanted to read Mansfield Park this time and particularly consider education and formation of taste. It seems to me that the whole book is taken with the idea of education, habit formation, and the actions of the characters which flows out of their thinking and habits.
So much of what Austen discusses here is adherence to some sort of external, objective standard or rule -- a rule that can be learned and become habit. Edmund directs Fanny's reading and by discussing it with her, directs her thoughts, emotions, habits, and mind. He teaches her what she "ought" through both his example and his words.
Her correct way of thinking and considering is tested by the play at Mansfield, the attack of Henry Crawford's love, and the visit home to Portsmouth. In each case, she is shown to be wise and observant. Her patient, steadfast demeanor protects her from acting against her morals. Her disinterested love for Edmund protects her from Henry's selfish love. Her proper way of thought brings pockets of calm even into the chaos that is her father's home.
This habitual way of living and thinking makes for a joyous, fruitful life and a beautiful establishment for Fanny.
View all my reviews