Monday, September 9, 2013

Rereading Mansfield Park

I just finished Mansfield Park (for the second time) yesterday, and tomorrow I start Sanditon, so I thought I should write about it now while it is still fresh on my mind. Like I always mean to do, but rarely actually achieve. ;)

Getting into it this time was, I have to confess, a bit difficult for me.  I still like MP, but... well, it's probably on the bottom of my list of JA favorites. Which I almost hate to say, because it has a reputation it doesn't deserve of being not as good, and I still think it deserves more love.  But I was having a hard time getting into it.  One excuse, though, was that there was a lot of Distraction going on in my life at the time. (Ahem. :D)  When I read it the first time, of course, it was New and therefore more interesting (even though I'd already seen the BBC miniseries and knew the basic story--it's still different to actually read the book).

Anyway.  Whenever this does happen with JA, generally when you get further into the story you become more attached to it, and that, as well as actually determining to spend more time reading, moved things along a bit.

So, as I've already done reviews of all 6 of JA's main novels, I like to just talk about my thoughts on rereading the story--what I thought differently this time, what new I noticed, etc.  There wasn't really that much of a difference... although I have to say that this time I was *cough* a tad little bit more sympathetic with the Crawford siblings. *cough, hide*

They're still horrid villains and everything. It's just that I kind understood them a little better, even though I didn't particularly enjoy the feeling. HA.  And of course by the END it's just like... wow, you two are even worse than I thought. (Especially Henry. What a... I can't even... who could seriously think Fanny was wrong to refuse him by the end? Besides Mrs. Norris and Mary Crawford who are jerks and don't count? Goodness, even Sir Thomas admitted she'd been right!)

Okay, so I guess I didn't actually think any better of Henry this time.  It was just that he didn't drive me quite as insane the entire time. I guess it was Mary I liked a little better. She can be rather amusing, and she's not exactly the evil scheming sort.  I wasn't any less annoyed with Edmund for falling for her, though, haha... and still a little annoyed with him at the end, too, how he kept going on about that it was all owing to her upbringing and otherwise she would have been perfect. You know what... whatever. She's just not, okay? She is what she is. And though a lot is often due to upbringing/influence, some people can come through things and still turn out better... especially in stories, although of course he doesn't know he's in a story. (snicker-snort)

Well, anyway. Moving on. So, if you've read the book (and if you haven't you probably shouldn't be reading THIS), you know how towards the end it plunges into the most of the Heavy Stuff. In fact it's probably the Heaviest Stuff of any Jane Austen book ever. Which is why when I turned a page and started in with what ends up being the last chapter and saw--
Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore every body, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.
--this sort of Rush of Happiness went over me and I was like, YAY JANE! This is why I love you so much!!  Haha, obviously she was getting a little tired of it all, too.

Although I do still wish she'd have spent a little longer once everyone was restored to comfort. I should have liked to see exactly how everything happened with Fanny and Edmund, and instead she leaves most of it to supposition. Sigh. Well, she tells us the general end, but as to details, they are left to our own inferior imaginations. :P

However, I could just envision how lovely it could all be in a movie.  Honestly... why hasn't anyone done it?? There is so much New Stuff that can be done with a Mansfield adaptation, a REAL one in which everybody is portrayed like they're SUPPOSED to be... argh. Anyways.  Come oooon, BBC! I confess I was rather hoping the fact that the 200th anniversary being next year would inspire them, but alas, it would seem not...

And I really do think that it is all finished nicely even if I would want it to be longer.  I mean, Mrs. Norris is out of the picture with good riddance and everyone is happy.  Maria is ruined and deserves it. (Although maybe I would have liked to see Henry a with a bit more of a comeuppance.)  Susan Price gets to stay at Mansfield and doesn't have to live with the horrid Prices anymore.  Tom improves.  Sir Thomas is no longer an idiot about certain ideas he had concerning Fanny (namely, that she should have accepted Mr. Crawford, and that she should not marry one of his sons, haha); and it's a bit morbid of me but I found this hilarious: "...Dr. Grant had brought on apoplexy and death, by three great institutionary dinners in one week..." (cough). And of course, Edmund and Fanny live happily ever after.

One thing bugs me though, and that is this--
Could he have been satisfied with the conquest of one amiable woman's affections, could he have found sufficient exultation in overcoming the reluctance, in working himself into the esteem and tenderness of Fanny Price, there would have been every probability of success and felicity for him. His affection had already done something. Her influence over him had already given him some influence over her. Would he have deserved more, there can be no doubt that more would have been obtained, especially when that marriage had taken place, which would have given him the assistance of her conscience in subduing her first inclination, and brought them very often together. Would he have persevered, and uprightly, Fanny must have been his reward, and a reward very voluntarily bestowed, within a reasonable period from Edmund's marrying Mary.

What... no. Jane. Please. DON'T. Don't indicate that Fanny would have married Henry in the end if all that Stuff hadn't happened. How could you do that to your own Fanny??  It's rather like the indication that Marianne wasn't really in love with Col. Brandon at the time of marrying him. (My thoughts here.) I prefer to have my own opinion on these subjects. Heh.

Just the same, I finished the book with the same sentimental feeling I always get when finishing one of Miss Austen's stories... and this little sigh escaped me which then made me giggle because it wasn't at all premeditated. Haha.

Anyway. I'll stop rambling now and close with two random quotes I scribbled down. (I wasn't very good at writing down quotes this time...)

"There is not one in a hundred of either sex, who is not taken in when they marry. Look where I will, I see that it is so; and I feel that it must be so, when I consider that it is, of all transactions, the one in which people expect the most from others, and are least honest themselves."
~Mary Crawford

"I was quiet, but I was not blind."
~Fanny Price


Miss Jane Bennet said...

To be honest, I've always felt a bit sorry for Henry. I mean, he's been brought up just as badly as Mary has, and while he still has bad morals and should have been better, he was trying. He started out just teasing Fanny, trying to win her heart because he was bored, but then he actually fell in love with her and he stuck to it. Of course, it would never work out 'cause she loves Edmund, but if he'd had a little more backbone, I might have felt more sorry for him. Anyway. This is one of my favorite Austen books (Well, fifth-favorite, after Emma, P&P, NA and S&S- it ties with Persuasion), and I always enjoy it, although it's definitely a bit too heavy for "light reading."
By the way, I'm doing a little Austen challenge of my own- I have a to-read list as long as my arm and a to-watch list that's possibly even longer, but I'm going to only do Jane Austen-themed posts. :)

Analiese said...

I love Mansfield Park - I think it's my favorite JA book. Looking forward to hearing what you think of Sanditon - it's different but a delightful read, certainly. :)

Anonymous said...

Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey are on the bottom of the list for me - I'm not sure which I like better. Every time I read MP, I think "Oh wow, why did I dislike this so much? It's so much better than I remembered! I quite like it!" And go on like that for most of the book. Until the end. and the proposal. The whole book leading up to Fanny and Edmund getting together, and then it happens on, what, the last page?! AGH. SO ANNOYING. haha.

Hamlette said...

MP is on the bottom of my JA list too. I would much rather have Henry do the change-of-heart-and-become-a-rakish-good-guy than have Fanny marry Edmund, who is too drippy to realize she loves him for how many years? I'm glad Fanny is happy, but I think she could be happy no matter what. So there. Hee.

Miss Dashwood said...

Is it too cliche to say that I felt pretty much everything you felt about MP? Well, if it is, too bad. I like cliches. :D

I do NOT think Fanny and Henry belonged together. Period. The End. C'mon, people, it is SO OBVIOUS that he is not the right guy for her. Yes, people can change. But I honestly don't think they're compatible. And I choose to blissfully ignore that passage you quoted. Heehee. Like the bit at the end of S&S about Marianne and the Colonel, like you said. LALALA CAN'T HEAR YOUUUUUUUUU. She LOVED HIM. She DID. END OF STORY.


Anyways. Great post, m'dear. And I blush to admit that I was a bit more sympathetic toward Mary Crawford too... at least in the beginning. I hated her near the end though. That's what I love about Jane Austen. She draws you in and makes you feel deeply for her characters each and every time. I KNOW Willoughby is a complete sleazeball, yet he always manages to seem a little bit likable at the beginning. I KNOW Mary Crawford will turn out to be a rat but when she first appears she really seems sweet, if not brought up properly. Knowing the ending doesn't spoil the trip getting there where JA is concerned. That's my theory, anyway. Which is why she's so great. :D

Eliza said...

I'm never sure whether I like or dislike Mansfield Park. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it. I liked the interesting plot and mostly well-developed characters, but I found Fanny a little weak and didn't really care for Edmund much. The ending was certainly not my favorite - it all was so rushed and I was always wondering whether Edmund really did love Fanny or not. (Yes, I do get a little carried away by some books. :) So, I'm not sure what I think of Mansfield Park. (And I totally agree about a new Mansfield Park adaptation. BBC, there is seriously a good possibility here).

Melody said...

Miss Jane,
Welllll... cough. I do not consider running off with a married woman to be "sticking to it" (loving Fanny, I mean). That is much worse than not having backbone. And he wasn't really trying to change, either, just trying to satisfy Fanny, which is the mind and not the heart. After they married he would have gone back to his old ways, I am quite certain with him, and she would indeed have been miserable.
And I certainly agree that Henry and Mary were in the same boat as far as disadvantages of upbringing--but again, I do not consider it an excuse.
Ha, isn't it funny how tying-for-fifth (and if there are two in fifth that leaves none) can still be one of your favorite JA books? :) I know exactly what you mean, though. I can't really call it "least-favorite"--that term is too harsh!

I am glad to find somebody who has MP as a favorite, simply because it's nice to know it has admirers. ;) I am so far enjoying Sanditon very much!

Ha, you mean the lack of proposal? ;) And it is rather irksome... although I think it's better when knowing what to expect. Northanger Abbey, though... it's not at the bottom of the list for me... ;)

Goodness! How very differently we feel. ;) But you see, Henry simply didn't have it IN him to become a better man. He's just a scoundrel at the core. :P And even if he wasn't, I still don't think he and Fanny were suited at ALL. The only thing he had in his favor was his admiration of HER. Instead of his liveliness complementing her reserve, it would have made her feel stifled and continually ill at ease. (I know, because though I'm not like her, I do have some of the same tendencies.) Edmund was much more capable of making her happy... and I can't blame him as much for not realizing she loved him as they WERE cousins and had been brought up together since she was ten. ;) There was actually a good excuse for the "you're-like-a-sister-to-me" routine which so annoys me in some other stories... haha.
And I don't think Fanny could be happy no matter what, either. She can try to be content, but happiness is different.

Hahahaha. Then I like cliches too. ;) I always love how alike we feel about all things Jane. (YTYM.)
And thank you for your second paragraph there. *HUGS* And HAHAHA about the "lalala I can't hear you"... ;D And as for "people can change"--people can, but HE can't. Which was the whole point of him running off with Maria, I think.
Oh, and now that I've reread this... I should like to hear your thoughts on Edmund, you know. Since they were slightly different in your reread. I mean, you liked him some of the time, at least. ;)

Now, I cannot abide having Fanny called weak. She is most certainly not weak. She is gentle, yes. But that is not at all the same thing--I think she has great strength of character. Knowing her disposition, her desire to please everyone, if she did not have strength--if she was weak--she certainly would have bent under all the pressure put on her to marry Mr. Crawford, especially from the speeches her uncle gave her. And in other points of the story, too. She was no pushover. ;)
As for Edmund... sigh. He is a character whom I long to defend but have trouble doing so. Haha. ;) As a person I liked him... he's such a good guy, and considerate to everyone... but really, the whole thing with Mary just drives me up the wall. However, I am perfectly convinced that Edmund DID really love Fanny. Jane Austen says so. That is enough. :)
And yes... I think that if there was a good adaptation of MP, one that brings it to life and elaborates without inaccuracy, everybody would like it more. And be convinced that Fanny and Edmund should be together. ;)

Melody said...

Oops, Mousie, I completely missed answering your last paragraph. *facepalm*
Yeah, Mary's rather likable at first but gets worse as the story goes along. Which makes sense, since we get to know her better. (Cough... and that is all in accordance with the other Miss Crawford, too... bahahaha.)
I never feel very much about Willoughby, though. :P Well, I guess I could say he seems likable in the 1995 version at first, but I don't remember liking him in the book at first--the fact that I Knew DID stop me, haha.
"Which is why she's so great"--haha, Reason Number One Million. ;P

Matthew Selwyn said...

I am completely with you in feeling that Mansfield Park deserves a good deal more credit than a lot of readers give it, but equally that it is one of Austen's novels I will be in the least hurry to return to. This not because it is weaker than her other novels - I dare say it is at least as strong, if not stronger than those I have read - but simply as it doesn't offer the same pleasurable reading experience as others. Northanger Abbey remains my favourite because it is fun. Not a very serious position to take, I know, but shouldn't reading be fun as well as brow-furrowing?

My review: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Melody said...

Hi, Matthew!
This is true. It is perhaps the most 'difficult' read of her novels. It kind of takes more work. And I absolutely think a book should be fun. I don't think Jane Austen would have any objection to a reader preferring another book over Mansfield Park because it offers more enjoyment and humor. :)

Would you rather hear the story...

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