I have been so busy that I haven’t had much time for writing lately. I do have a couple of posts that I have been slowly working on, but they probably won’t be ready for awhile. However, I have read a few posts about Mansfield Park that I found interesting. I don’t agree with everything written in these posts, but I at least found what they had to say thought-provoking.
What forms one’s character? This question, implicitly set forth by Austen in her masterpiece, Mansfield Park, is similar to the question posed in Plato’s Meno, “Can virtue be learned?” By transplanting the young ten year old Fanny Price into her Uncle Thomas Bertram’s household at Mansfield Park, the question is examined.
Remember, wherever you are, you must be the lowest and the last.
Such is Fanny Price’s fate in Mansfield Park, where, as the consummate poorer relation, she grew up in constant reminder of her position in her mother’s sister’s family, the Bertrams.
A quick skim on Goodreads throws up a series of criticisms remarkably similar to those damning Bella Swan – Fanny is too passive, too timid, too moral and submissive. Why, people demand, is she not more like Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse? Why, I ask, should she be? Austen had already written about Elizabeth and Emma. Why on earth should all the female protagonists of her books, indeed of any books, all be the same? Real women certainly aren’t.
I have never read the books discussed in the first half of “Damsels in Disgust”, but the defense of Fanny Price is interesting.
I’ve often wondered why in Jane Austen the interesting new acquaintances of the heroine’s age are often men rather than women. If the women are bad, they are petty, malicious, proud and inconstant. If the women are good, they are giggly, unintellectual, sometimes sensible, never really deep or profound. (We’re not talking about the heroines themselves). Perhaps Jane Austen preferred the company of men? (We seem to see quotes from her letters favourable things about the gentlemen she met). Was she trying to tell us something by having the heroines be friendlier (in a platonic sense) to men than women?
This post is not just about Mansfield Park, but several of Jane Austen’s other novels as well.
The passage shows that Fanny is the deeper, more superior sister, because she genuinely enjoys reading for its own sake, unlike Susan who only reads to appear genteel. Jane Austen here is having a sly dig at those people who are intelligent enough to read good books, but don’t care to be intellectual. While Fanny is intellectual and thoughtful, Susan is merely quick and intelligent. The originals of an idea or thought should be read to appreciate the author’s thoughts the best, and yet Susan prefers Fanny to interpret those works for her, because Fanny is easier to understand. This shows Susan can be shallow, and is learning only for self-vanity and interest. Susan is overall a sympathetic character, so I hope you don’t dislike her. Many of us are more like Susan than we care to admit.