Final Thoughts, Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park: Final Thoughts

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This has been my first reading of Mansfield Park, and, though I hate to say it, it is my least favorite Austen novel so far. It certainly had some redeeming moments, and I appreciate Austen’s sharp wit and keen social analysis as ever, but I found many of the characters infuriating, the story progression extremely slow, and the plot almost nonexistent.

I think that the character of Fanny Price is a highly accurate depiction of a young woman in her situation, but the tremendous anxiety that surrounds her from the necessity of walking on eggshells around the Bertrams and wasting away over the seemingly unobtainable Edmund had my stomach in knots with little resolution for satisfaction. Of course, the suffering of others, even fictional, need not be entertaining to be worth pondering, but the problem boils down to this: Fanny Price is boring, and most of the people who surround her are tedious.

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Almost all of the major changes to the story were in regards to setting, and usually it was simply a matter of switching rooms and people. Everything ticked along for the first two-thirds of the novel from room to room, and then suddenly there was an avalanche of closure. Most of the loose ends were neatly tied up without ever being fully undone. I have loved Austen for so long that I find it difficult to insult her. Nonetheless, I much prefer the other novels of hers that I have read, (which are, for the sake of full disclosure, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and a few pages of Northanger Abbey).

I think that it would be fair to describe Mansfield Park as the “Mumblecore” of Austen novels. If you are unfamiliar with this film genre, it has quite a slow progression and is highly conversational with less emphasis on structure and plot development. Much of the focus falls onto the characterization, resulting in a more lifelike depiction that is not overly dramatized like most traditional cinema. That sounds like Mansfield Park to a T, am I right?

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Although I must admit that I prefer the film application of these techniques, I am sure that I am somewhat blinded by my presentism. Perhaps the subtleties of human interaction, which are largely subjective to the constructs and conventions of your era, are more difficult to connect with out of the context of personal experience. Instead, the huge, overarching themes that are so unique to humanity and yet universal–love, fear, hope, family and so on–we can relate to no matter the year because they have, in some way, touched all of our lives throughout history for better or for worse.

Even though it wasn’t the most thrilling experience, I am glad that I shared Fanny Price’s journey. It has helped me to better understand the social aspects of Austen’s world and her other novels.

But I probably won’t be going back for seconds.

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3 thoughts on “Mansfield Park: Final Thoughts

  1. I love the marriage chart in the middle of the post. It sums up the novel with little text and it is entertaining.
    I agree that Mansfield Park is one of my least favorites of Jane Austen’s novels. However, I have to realize that through Mansfield Park, Fanny, and the other irritating characters, Jane Austen was conveying something to the reader that was important. No, the novel is not as suspenseful, exciting, or sensational as the other two we have read so far (Emma and S&S), but there is still value in the everyday social exchanges of the irritating characters. I think that is what I have to focus on. I know it has been said many times before, but that is where Austen’s genius lies; perfection exists in her talent and ability to describe human emotions and exchanges so brilliantly, even if it is annoying in Fanny and Edmund.
    I also have to say that while I like novel Emma more than Mansfield park, I respect Fanny more than Emma.
    Great summary post of the novel!

  2. I also love the chart in the middle! Good stuff. I’m not a fan on Mansfield Park, but as I’ve made my way through S&S, I appreciate the characters of MP, insipid and weak though some of them are. Great post.

  3. Like you, Mansfield Park was my least favorite Jane Austen Novel. I do not think I could get past Fanny and how absolutely boring she was. Luckily Emma redeemed Jane Austen in my eyes, because after finishing this book, I was really wondering what all the Jane Austen fuss was about.

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