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ConnieAnnKirk
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First Impressions of the Novel

Consider posting your first impressions of the overall novel here.  What do you think of Mansfield Park?  How does it stack up against other Austen novels you have read, if any?  Would you recommend this novel to a friend?  Why or why not?
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ukduchess
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Re: First Impressions of the Novel

I have read and enjoy all Jane Austen novels. I am actually reading Mansfield Park for the second time. Although I enjoy the novel, it is not my favorite of her works. It seems to me like the first several chapters are not as engaging as some of her other novels. I am curious to see if others feel the same way?
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dulcinea3
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Re: First Impressions of the Novel

The reason that this is my least favorite Austen novel is the character of Fanny.  She is rather colorless and just too 'good'.  She allows the others to treat her as a doormat.  She is so naive that she can hardly see what is going on around her, and if she does notice, she just disapproves and wonders how it can be.  She worships Edmund and takes everything he says as gospel.  She is also way too 'sensible' (as Austen uses the term).  When they asked her to participate in the play, she practically had a nervous breakdown!
 
Sorry, but that's the way I feel!:smileytongue:
 
It's been a while since I read it, so perhaps she will improve as the novel goes on (I'm through the first volume), but that is the impression I have always had since I first read it, so I doubt she gets that much better.
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Re: First Impressions of the Novel

I think that's a fair analysis through the first book.

Why do you think Austen paints Fanny this way? Austen is certainly skilled enough to create her as a more interesting character, as she has shown elsewhere. Why do you think she doesn't?


dulcinea3 wrote:
The reason that this is my least favorite Austen novel is the character of Fanny. She is rather colorless and just too 'good'. She allows the others to treat her as a doormat. She is so naive that she can hardly see what is going on around her, and if she does notice, she just disapproves and wonders how it can be. She worships Edmund and takes everything he says as gospel. She is also way too 'sensible' (as Austen uses the term). When they asked her to participate in the play, she practically had a nervous breakdown!
Sorry, but that's the way I feel!:smileytongue:
It's been a while since I read it, so perhaps she will improve as the novel goes on (I'm through the first volume), but that is the impression I have always had since I first read it, so I doubt she gets that much better.



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Re: First Impressions of the Novel



Everyman wrote:
I think that's a fair analysis through the first book.

Why do you think Austen paints Fanny this way? Austen is certainly skilled enough to create her as a more interesting character, as she has shown elsewhere. Why do you think she doesn't?


It's almost as if, although Fanny appears to be the heroine of the novel, she is meant to kind of fade into the background and serve more as a type of sounding-board, observing and reflecting the other characters.  It is their actions and attitudes that are more important, and her reactions to them are more of a commentary on them than on herself.
 
Another thing I was thinking about, somewhat unrelated, is that three of the six main Austen novels involve the theme of a man instructing and shaping the character of the heroine.  We see this here with Fanny and Edmund, in Northanger Abbey with Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney, and in Emma with Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley.  It seems to be a favorite theme of Austen's.
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Re: First Impressions of the Novel



dulcinea3 wrote:


Everyman wrote:
I think that's a fair analysis through the first book.

Why do you think Austen paints Fanny this way? Austen is certainly skilled enough to create her as a more interesting character, as she has shown elsewhere. Why do you think she doesn't?


It's almost as if, although Fanny appears to be the heroine of the novel, she is meant to kind of fade into the background and serve more as a type of sounding-board, observing and reflecting the other characters.  It is their actions and attitudes that are more important, and her reactions to them are more of a commentary on them than on herself.
 
Another thing I was thinking about, somewhat unrelated, is that three of the six main Austen novels involve the theme of a man instructing and shaping the character of the heroine.  We see this here with Fanny and Edmund, in Northanger Abbey with Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney, and in Emma with Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley.  It seems to be a favorite theme of Austen's.



I actually like Mansfield Park on a level with the other novels.  I think we always have to go back to Fanny's initial interaction with Mrs. Norris who tells her ... " Mrs. Norris had been talking to her the whole way from Northampton of her wonderful good fortune, and the extraordinary degree of gratitude and good behaviour which it ought to produce, and her consciousness of misery was therefore increased by the idea of its being a wicked thing for her not to be happy."
 
Compound the ten year old girl being told that she must be perfect and quiet and thankful and not complain and not ask for anything and she's not of the same quality of person as her cousins, etc..... And then she's sad about her brother and family and is intimidated... I think she just ends up growing up feeling that she really has no place.  That can make anyone vapid and appear weak.  She's not of the servant class, yet she's not of the upper class.  She's expected to have the same knowledge as the other children, even though she hasn't had the same opportunities.  It's almost like there's this family who only knows their own opportunities and expects that everyone else has had those same opportunities, regardless of class.
 
I like your idea of Fanny as a sounding board....because she is.  What I see, however, is that she has somehow immunized herself against turning into the types of people she is encountering in the Bertram household.  She maintains her "self" while all of these people run around acting like upper class buffoons.  No matter how old she gets, she is still that 10 year old girl.  The only person she absorbs anything from is Edmund.
 
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Re: First Impressions of the Novel



nvoggesser wrote:

I think we always have to go back to Fanny's initial interaction with Mrs. Norris who tells her ... " Mrs. Norris had been talking to her the whole way from Northampton of her wonderful good fortune, and the extraordinary degree of gratitude and good behaviour which it ought to produce, and her consciousness of misery was therefore increased by the idea of its being a wicked thing for her not to be happy."

 
Compound the ten year old girl being told that she must be perfect and quiet and thankful and not complain and not ask for anything and she's not of the same quality of person as her cousins, etc.....

As I was reading last night, I was also thinking about how Mrs. Norris constantly belittles Fanny and how that makes Fanny feel.
 
Particularly when Fanny does not want to participate in the play, and Mrs. Norris humiliates her in front of the whole company:
 
...Mrs. Norris completed
the whole by thus addressing her in a whisper at once angry
and audible--"What a piece of work here is about nothing:
I am quite ashamed of you, Fanny, to make such a difficulty
of obliging your cousins in a trifle of this sort--so kind
as they are to you!  Take the part with a good grace,
and let us hear no more of the matter, I entreat."

"Do not urge her, madam," said Edmund.  "It is not fair to
urge her in this manner.  You see she does not like to act.
Let her chuse for herself, as well as the rest of us.
Her judgment may be quite as safely trusted.  Do not urge
her any more."

"I am not going to urge her," replied Mrs. Norris sharply;
"but I shall think her a very obstinate, ungrateful girl,
if she does not do what her aunt and cousins wish her--
very ungrateful, indeed, considering who and what she is."

And later, when Fanny is invited to dinner at the Parsonage, and Mrs. Norris does her best to make Fanny feel that the invitation is undeserved and unlikely to be repeated:
 
"Upon my word, Fanny, you are in high luck to meet
with such attention and indulgence!  You ought to be
very much obliged to Mrs. Grant for thinking of you,
and to your aunt for letting you go, and you ought to look
upon it as something extraordinary; for I hope you are
aware that there is no real occasion for your going into
company in this sort of way, or ever dining out at all;
and it is what you must not depend upon ever being repeated.
Nor must you be fancying that the invitation is meant
as any particular compliment to _you_; the compliment
is intended to your uncle and aunt and me.  Mrs. Grant
thinks it a civility due to _us_ to take a little notice
of you, or else it would never have come into her head,
and you may be very certain that, if your cousin Julia
had been at home, you would not have been asked at all."

As Fanny starts out with a weak and fragile disposition, I suppose that this constant battering has a strong effect on her.  In general, nobody speaks up for her, although there are times when Lady Bertram, Julia, etc. do actually contradict Mrs. Norris when she makes accusations against Fanny.
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Re: First Impressions of the Novel

I think she just ends up growing up feeling that she really has no place. That can make anyone vapid and appear weak.

Yes, it can. But it needn't. Look at Becky Sharp, for example!
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Re: First Impressions of the Novel

And you admire Beck Sharp?



Everyman wrote:
I think she just ends up growing up feeling that she really has no place. That can make anyone vapid and appear weak.

Yes, it can. But it needn't. Look at Becky Sharp, for example!


"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: First Impressions of the Novel

I admire certain of her characteristics. I don't admire all the choices she makes, or her manipulations and using of other people for her own ends. But I admire her resilience, her vigor, and her refusal to let life beat her down.

I'm posing myself the question, which would I rather be married to, Becky Sharp or Fanny Price. I don't have an answer yet! (Given a free choice, my answer would be Emma. Or perhaps Penelope. [g])


Laurel wrote:
And you admire Beck Sharp?



Everyman wrote:
I think she just ends up growing up feeling that she really has no place. That can make anyone vapid and appear weak.

Yes, it can. But it needn't. Look at Becky Sharp, for example!





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Re: First Impressions of the Novel

I did enjoy reading MP.  I agree that Fanny's character is not very exciting whereas Mary Crawford's character is very colorful.  But, I don't think MP is really about Edmund (hero) or Fanny (heroine).  

Austen only names two of her novels after the estates, 1) Mansfield Park, and 2) Northanger Abbey.  In my opinion, she is focusing on the estates, and what they represent.  Mansfield Park represents a place of order and harmony.  In chapter 39, the narrator describes Fanny's thoughts:

Such was the home which was to put Mansfield out of her head, and teach her to think of her cousin Edmund with moderated feelings. On the contrary, she could think of nothing but Mansfield, its beloved inmates, its happy ways. Every thing where she now was in full contrast to it. The elegance, propriety, regularity, harmony—and perhaps, above all, the peace and tranquillity of Mansfield, were brought to her remembrance every hour of the day, by the prevalence of every thing opposite to them here…… Mansfield Park might have some pains, Portsmouth could have no pleasures

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Re: First Impressions of the Novel

I like that, Audrey. Somewhere Jane Austen said that she was now going to write a novel about ordination, which in her day meant not just the ordination of a clergyman but order, orderliness, putting and keeping things in proper order. Mansfield Park is definitely in danger of being put out of order by several events and characters in the story.

Audrey555 wrote:

I did enjoy reading MP. I agree that Fanny's character is not very exciting whereas Mary Crawford's character is very colorful. But, I don't think MP is really about Edmund (hero) or Fanny (heroine).

Austen only names two of her novels after the estates, 1) Mansfield Park, and 2) Northanger Abbey. In my opinion, she is focusing on the estates, and what they represent. Mansfield Park represents a place of order and harmony. In chapter 39, the narrator describes Fanny's thoughts:

Such was the home which was to put Mansfield out of her head, and teach her to think of her cousin Edmund with moderated feelings. On the contrary, she could think of nothing but Mansfield, its beloved inmates, its happy ways. Every thing where she now was in full contrast to it. The elegance, propriety, regularity, harmony—and perhaps, above all, the peace and tranquillity of Mansfield, were brought to her remembrance every hour of the day, by the prevalence of every thing opposite to them here…… Mansfield Park might have some pains, Portsmouth could have no pleasures




"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: First Impressions of the Novel

Laurel,

I also would like to add one more point.  In my opinion, Mary Crawford’s character represents change.  She cannot stay in one place too long.  In contrast, Fanny’s character represents steadiness.  I think Fanny is MansfieldPark.  She like the estate never changes.

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Laurel
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Re: First Impressions of the Novel

Great points, Audrey. And I think it's fine to not change if you're right in the beginning.

Audrey555 wrote:

Laurel,

I also would like to add one more point. In my opinion, Mary Crawford’s character represents change. She cannot stay in one place too long. In contrast, Fanny’s character represents steadiness. I think Fanny is MansfieldPark. She like the estate never changes.




"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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dulcinea3
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Re: First Impressions of the Novel

Those are very interesting thoughts, Audrey, and made me think!  I had never seen those novels from that angle before.  What are your thoughts on the significance of Northanger Abbey?
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Re: First Impressions of the Novel

dulcinea3,

If I am not mistaken, Jane Austen did not choose the title for Northanger Abbey, her brother did.  But, I think he chose a good title because NA is a gothic novel, which represents the difference between reality and imagination.  The estate like its owner, General Tilney, is a mysterious place.  A place with many dark corners.  

 



dulcinea3 wrote:
Those are very interesting thoughts, Audrey, and made me think!  I had never seen those novels from that angle before.  What are your thoughts on the significance of Northanger Abbey?



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Re: First Impressions of the Novel



Audrey555 wrote:

dulcinea3,

If I am not mistaken, Jane Austen did not choose the title for Northanger Abbey, her brother did.  But, I think he chose a good title because NA is a gothic novel, which represents the difference between reality and imagination.  The estate like its owner, General Tilney, is a mysterious place.  A place with many dark corners.  

 



dulcinea3 wrote:
Those are very interesting thoughts, Audrey, and made me think!  I had never seen those novels from that angle before.  What are your thoughts on the significance of Northanger Abbey?





You're right; I had forgotten that it was published post-humously and that her brother had named it.
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