Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (14 of 37), Read 59 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, January 07, 2002 09:32 PM Wow! It's a tad difficult for me to keep everyone straight! Lets see.. A,B and C are sisters who marry Mr. D, E and F. They all have children called G, H, I, J, K, L..so on and so forth ..except for sister B, that is. She has no kids. Well, child M goes to live with her Aunt A and Uncle D. (Are you following me still?) THEN! Along comes this other couple (I'll refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. R.)..who take in two young adult children I'll call P and Q, who each become engaged to children G and H. (And I'm only on page 44!) Whew. Okay. I got it. Sorta. Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (15 of 37), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, January 07, 2002 10:28 PM I should add, despite the number of characters we meet early on, this is a great, great book, and I'm so glad Barb and Ann decided to read and start a thread on it! Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (16 of 37), Read 48 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, January 07, 2002 10:44 PM Saturday morning, I woke up early, brewed a cup of coffee and stayed in bed all morning finishing Mansfield Park. It was my idea of heaven. POSSIBLE SPOILERS: This one seems very different to me than the other Austens. For some reason, I thought that she addressed the issue of slavery a bit in it (I thought that even before I saw the movie), but not true. What she does address more than I remember in any of her other books is poverty. I got a pretty nitty-gritty sense of what it was like to grow up in Fanny's house, especially when she returned. I also found less direct humor, not as many of those lines dripping with direct irony. I did love the description of Maria's wedding though: It was a very proper wedding. The bride was elegantly dressed--the two bridesmaids were duly inferior--her father gave her away--her mother stood with salts in her hand, expecting to be agitated--her aunt tried to cry--and the service was impressively read by Dr. Grant.. Aunt Norris was also a humorous character, in a way, though also curiously sad, sort of poignant in her total lack of understanding even though she could also be incredibly mean. But, in exchange for the humor, there are far more layers to some of the characters than in the earlier books. Norris is a good example. The Crawfords were a pair too, weren't they? They always return to the bottom line. But, I have to say that I found them the most interesting people in the book. Beej's note reminds me that I had a bit of trouble following the dialogue in the early part of the book. I often couldn't figure out for sure who was talking but that improved enormously after the first 50-100 pages. Barb
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (17 of 37), Read 48 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, January 08, 2002 09:43 AM Barb, I read quite a bit last night and things have straightened out in my mind. I don't know why I was having so much difficulty keeping everyone straight. Must have been just me. Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (18 of 37), Read 47 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, January 08, 2002 06:07 PM Beej - I had only read the first chapter when I read your post, and it cleared everything up for me. Sherri Not all who wander are lost - Tolkien
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (19 of 37), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, January 09, 2002 09:18 PM Sherri, did you have difficulty keeping everyone straight at first, too? I've been having trouble focusing on what I'm reading lately, so I figured it was just me. But I'm enjoying this book enough now that I picked up 'Sense and Sensibility', Pride and Prejudice' and 'Emma', all combined in one book. Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (20 of 37), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, January 11, 2002 07:29 PM I'm not finished yet, but I know one thing; I can't stand that Mrs. Norris. Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (21 of 37), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, January 11, 2002 10:47 PM She certainly is a b----, isn't she, Beej? Ann
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (22 of 37), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 04:24 PM She was beyond being a bitch. She was an interfering, nosey, self flattering shrivelled up worthless waste of flesh. One reason I kept getting confused was that the couples kept playing musical chairs in the love department. These people sure switched partners a lot! And, that Edmund! Wow, was he ever blinded by Mary Crawford's looks. But, I have to say, Fanny was dull, dull, DULL! Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (23 of 37), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 06:17 PM BEEJ: Pretty please, perhaps the sentence should read: "One reason I kept getting confused was that the couples kept playing musical chairs in the silly infatuation department, the self serving mating department, AND the love department." pres
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (24 of 37), Read 32 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Alice CK aliceck@pacbell.net Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 08:06 PM Are we ready to discuss this yet? "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man." -- Francis Bacon
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (25 of 37), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 08:12 PM For you, Pres, anything! And you are absolutely right. These folks' hearts went pitter patter over NOTHING! I mean, Fanny's little forehead curl fell out of her dainty ribbon while she was doing needlepoint, and the main macho man of the story almost went into apoplexy! Nothing like a wayward little curl to move a man to fits of love/infatuation/LUST! (Of course, he switches partners, too...several times.) But, I have read enough of these 19th century English classics to trust that this was exactly how the upper echelon of society 'wooed.' (At least the French and Russian literature of this era portrayed love with panache!) I'm going to read either 'Emma' or 'Pride and Prejudice' soon, if anyone would care to join me. Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (26 of 37), Read 32 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 08:37 PM Alice, I'm ready! I think one of the things that struck me was that the person who was actually born into the upper crust of society, Sir Bertram, was the one person who valued Fanny regardless of what class she was born into. And he was the only one who was not a blood relative! I was appalled that Mrs. Bertram and Mrs. Norris could treat their sister's child so terribly. It appears that 'old' money is much, much more charitable than 'new' money. Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (27 of 37), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 06:54 AM I'm ready too, Alice and Beej. How about you two, Ann and Sherri? Barb
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (28 of 37), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 12:54 PM I just finished this last night. This one kept my interest -- any Jane Austen would do that because she is one of my favorite authors-- but it appealed to me less than any of her other novels I have read, including Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma. Fanny barely seemed like an Austen heroine at all. She is really meek and non-assertive. Dare we call her a goody two shoes? Personally, I would much rather be around that naughty Maria. It's true that she lacked "moral fiber", but she got, and provided, a lot more pleasure in life. As for Bertram senior, he was rather snobby towards Fanny in the beginning, but his attitude changed in a very positive way after he returned from Antigua. That wasn't really explained, other than that she looked so much better he could finally appreciate her worth. I saw the movie version of this a couple of years ago, and they took great liberties with the book. The character of Fanny is completely different. At the time, I read that the writer and director tried to incorporate much of Austen's own personality into the character. I would scarcely recognize her from the book. For me this was an old-fashioned romance novel without any sex and only splashes of Austen's wit here and there. I liked it, but I would never be tempted to read it again, unlike Austen's other novels. Beej, I would like to reread Sense and Sensibility with you. What did the rest of you think? Ann
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (29 of 37), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 01:13 PM Oh, I agree that Maria would be more fun to hang with! Imagine what this book would have been, had Maria been the central character! I was shocked when Maria married that bland Mr. Rushworth. I knew she'd skip off with the first charmer that came along. And, Ann, I'm delighted that you're willing to read Sense and Sensibility with me! Thanks! Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (30 of 37), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 02:34 PM I haven't finished yet, but don't worry about it, I'll catch up. I find this one hard to get into, and I'm a big Austen fan. Perhaps it's not having a sympathetic character. Mrs. Norris is a selfish woman, all of them seem self-centered, and even Fanny is just wimpy. I don't recall in other Austen books there being such a meek character. I'm up for discussing S & S. But will continue with this one. Sherri Not all who wander are lost - Tolkien
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (31 of 37), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 02:39 PM Beej, did I say Maria? OOps, I meant Mary Crawford. Maria Bertram is far too mercenary for my tastes, although she would be fun to watch in action. Mary recognized quality when she saw it in Edmund, but she knew herself too well to think she could ever be satisfied with being the wife of a struggling country parson. Was that so bad? I criticized Fanny for being too meek and submissive, but really things were terrible for a dependent, female relative in those days. The position of such a woman was precarious and her choices were extremely limited because she really couldn't hope to support herself unless she became a governess, which seems to have been a really miserable career. No wonder Fanny had to be so careful not to offend anyone. Part of the problem a modern reader has with this book is that behavior that Austen's contemporaries might have found shocking doesn't strike us the same way. For example, it was hard for me to fully appreciate how Edmund, Fanny, and Sir Bertram could find the play so objectionable. Of course I understand that it was beyond the pale for a married woman to run off with another man, but it's difficult to accept that this behavior really ruined Maria's life forever. I suspect she just continued down the slippery slope of ever loosening moral standards. A sequel might have been interesting. :) Alice, you mentioned this book was one of your favorites. Could you elaborate? Ann
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (32 of 37), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 08:47 PM My book's intro, written by Paul Montazzoli, has this line: ..'it is a relief when Fanny, in chapter 39, has her first witty idea..' Well, that just about says it all! But, I'm sure you're right, Ann. She knew her place and she felt lucky to be at Mansfield Place, especially after visiting her parents. (Wasn't her father a trip?) Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (33 of 37), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Alice CK aliceck@pacbell.net Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 06:36 PM Fanny is probably the least liked of all of Austen's heroines. She is not witty like Elizabeth Bennett or Emma Woodhouse, not naive and charming like Catherine Morland, and not strong-minded like Elinor Dashwood or Anne Elliott. She is passive, meek, downtrodden, physically weak (subject to headaches, even has to be lifted onto a horse), and frankly pretty boring. The interest of the book comes from watching what the other characters do. Fanny is the "moral conscience" of the book. With regard to the character of Mary Crawford, more than one critic has pointed out that she shares many qualities with Elizabeth Bennett and Emma Woodhouse -- she is active, witty, charming, musical, friendly, good-hearted (she and Edmund are the only people who are at all nice to Fanny for most of the book), and in general much more attractive than Fanny. The lesson of the book (admittedly this is probably Austen's preachiest novel) is that those qualities aren't always enough. And it's worth nothing that Mary isn't really a parallel for Elizabeth or Emma. We can't imagine either Elizabeth or Emma condoning Maria and Crawford's illicit affair, as Mary does. And Mary's wit does not connote any real intelligence -- there are times when she is singularly dense (as when she fails to understand that Edmund would be totally repulsed by her attitude about Maria and Crawford). This is one of my favorite Austens because the book itself is so well constructed. As an example, the scene where they all go to Mr. Rushworth's house and end up wandering around looking for each other in the garden all afternoon, is very well done and is full of implications for the characters and plot. Edmund and Mary wander off through the "wilderness" together -- an analogy for the way in which Mary is tempting Edmund away from his true calling (as a minister). Fanny sits on a bench the whole time (enough said). Julia is left behind inside the house with the older people and is very upset about it. Mr. Rushworth is sent back to the house like an errand boy by Maria and Crawford, to fetch a key (just as he is later used as a mere convenience by Maria in their marriage). Maria wishes to pass through a locked gate (symbolic of her later marriage vows) but can't do it without the key (to be provided by the master of the estate/her husband), until Crawford shows her how she can "slip past the spikes" without harming herself (though when she later attempts to slip past the spikes of public opinion she gets seriously harmed). One last thing: I don't know why it took me so long to realize that this is a straightforward Cinderella story, complete with wicked aunt/stepmother, selfish stepsisters, transformation of Fanny into a "princess" by means of a new gown and a pretty necklace, and of course the grand ball. It makes one wonder how many real-life Cinderellas there may have been -- poor relations taken into their rich uncles' houses from motives of charity, but for whom charity did not extend to truly making them members of the family. Fanny was raised to be a lady and given a good education, but it is doubtful her uncle would have ponied up for a dowry for her, and if Edmund had not married her she would probably have ended up a kinder version of Mrs. Norris (living with her rich relatives all her life), or else used her education to become a governess (which was probably what Sir Thomas had in mind for her). "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man." -- Francis Bacon
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (34 of 37), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 07:06 PM Thanks, Alice. I especially liked your analysis of the visit to Mr. Rushworth's estate. It really did foreshadow everything else that happened later, although I didn't realize it at the time. You're right in calling Fanny a Cinderella character. Were you bothered by the transformation of the Bertrams from condescending, inconsiderate relatives to beloved family in the end? Or did this seem like a natural development as a result of Fanny's realization that life with her birth family would have been infinitely worse? Ann
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (35 of 37), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 07:57 PM I thought of Cinderella as I read this book, too. Alice, your insights and observations of the doings in the Rushworth gardens are just wonderful! I think one huge theme of this novel might be the nature/nurture issue, too. Fanny has been removed from the influences of poverty, and has culturally benefited from her wealthy relatives, even though she is little more than a servant. The comparison between her birth family and herself is incredible. She might be on the lower end of the cultural ladder within the Bertram family, but within her parents' house, she's obviously way, way beyond them, socially. In a way, this had to alienate Fanny even more. She fit in absolutely nowhere. And then to move on to the Crawfords who had been bounced from family to family for much of their lives. They seemed to have developed all the social mores of the upper crust, but personal development meant nothing to them. It seems that the higher people were in society, the less they thought of anyone but themselves. Did anyone else get the feeling Sir Bertram was a little too attracted to Fanny? Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (36 of 37), Read 14 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Alice CK aliceck@pacbell.net Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 10:44 PM Beej and Ann, thanks but I can't take credit -- the stuff about the scene in Mr. Rushworth's garden is from an Austen class I took in college -- my professor gets the credit, not me! Beej, very good observation about the Crawfords -- I did not recall that they had been bounced from household to household with no one really "raising" them. Austen usually puts a great deal of emphasis on home life and its effects on character, so I think she'd come down more on the side of nurture than nature -- though there are enough silly mother/daughter pairs in her books, that she probably felt heredity has something to do with it too. One more thing about the contrast between Mary Crawford and Fanny -- I think it shows up best in the letters they write to each other. Mary always writes these flip, silly little notes, that really don't make very much sense. The one she writes to Fanny after Henry Crawford tries to propose to her is an example: she tries to be arch and to hint delicately at her meaning, but she just ends up being confusing and incoherent. Fanny's reply, though she writes in great distress and confusion, is extremely clear and pertinent, and says exactly what she means to say while still observing the proprieties. One last thing: I think this is the only Austen novel where we are not treated to a single romantic scene between the heroine and her suitor. Maybe Austen didn't quite know how to show the transition from cousins to lovers. I think she should have at least attempted something of the sort, because the last time we "see" Edmund is when he's in the throes of disappointed and disillusioned love. We essentially have to take his falling in love with Fanny on trust, because we're never shown it -- the impression we're left with is that he is a sort of prize for Fanny because she deserves him so much. (This is very similar to the marriage of Marianne and Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility.) "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man." -- Francis Bacon
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (37 of 37), Read 10 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 11:22 PM Ann, you asked: "Were you bothered by the transformation of the Bertrams from condescending, inconsiderate relatives to beloved family in the end? Or did this seem like a natural development as a result of Fanny's realization that life with her birth family would have been infinitely worse?" This seemed to me quite natural, but not because of any realizations Fanny might have had. I think these people were so superficial and so wrapped up in themselves, that as long as their needs were being met, especially in the case of Mrs. Bertram...she now had Fanny's sister to wait on her hand and foot...and without Mrs. Norris around, it just simply didn't meet their needs to be anything but gracious. They could now afford to treat Fanny with grace. Plus, the scandal over Maria's affair, and Tom's illness must have been severe reality checks. Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (38 of 40), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, January 18, 2002 12:38 PM Beej, Good observation that Fanny was in danger of being educated to fit in nowhere. It's easy to forget how important social class was in Austen's time since it is so much more fluid in our own day and country. (Thank God!) Beej, did you see the movie Mansfield Park? It definitely implied that the father lusted after Fanny. I'm not sure if that idea was in the text, or if I thought there were hints of it because I'd seen it depicted in the movie. Alice, I think it would be true to say that Austen never wrote a good love scene. She certainly is wonderful in writing about the chase and all the detours leading up to the declaration of love, however. Austen herself never married and probably felt much more uncomfortable writing about love, as opposed to the yearning for it. As I remember, there were rumors that she once was very attached to a young man, but they both realized they could never marry because he owed it to his family to marry someone with money, which Austen certainly did not have. She agreed to marry another man at one point, but rescinded her acceptance the next day. If she had married, we may never have had her wonderful novels, so we are probably the richer for it. Also, she was very fond of her own large family, so I don't think she was lonely because she remained single. Beej, I checked out Sense and Sensibility yesterday, along with The Razor's Edge. Ann
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (39 of 40), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, January 18, 2002 12:57 PM Ann, Nope! I never saw the Mansfield Park movie. I picked up on Mr. Bertram's lust entirely from the book. I have 'Sense and Sensibility' right here beside me and will finish up some other stuff I'm reading and get to this, probably next week. Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (40 of 40), Read 13 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@hotmail.com Date: Friday, January 18, 2002 06:40 PM I,unfortunately, am getting a little buried by my reading pile, and since I'm having a hard time with MP, I'm going to give up, for now. I have Razor's Edge lined up and Sense and Sensibility, so will join in then. But I have been enjoying the discussion. Sherri Not all who wander are lost - Tolkien
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (41 of 56), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 01:33 PM BEEJ, you say: "I picked up on Mr. Bertram's lust entirely from the book." Evidence, please, because, by my own reading, it is not in the book. I would say that no male character in any Austen novel is observed to experience lust on or off the page. Financial interest, yes. Love, yes. Love at the expense of financial interest, yes. Lust, no. Further, I do not think it is in Mr. Bertram's character. If he is so high minded that he can be offended by the play, he is unlikely to be randy. And at his age. And why Fanny when he could have Mrs. Norris? (joke) And further, why are we to believe that mouse invisible Fanny is suddenly an houri of the parkland? pres
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (42 of 56), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 02:01 PM ALICE CK: I've very much enjoyed your discussion of Manfield Park. MP has the reputation of being the most difficult (i.e., slowest reading, least interesting) of Austen's novels because Fanny is a mouse without a squeak. But if the reader will have patience, the book is almost Dickensian with characters and social observation. Pays rereading, too. The book certainly parallels Cinderella, but the comparison is no favor to MP, where the happy ending is won in a real rather than a dream world. pres
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (43 of 56), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 02:21 PM Perhaps this is why I'm having problems with MP - I hate Dickens. Mostly, I think it's because there is not a sympathetic character, and Fanny is wimpy, I know it fits her station in life, but it bugs me anyway. I had seen the movie, but don't remember much of it, and I do want to get through this, it's just going to take a lot longer than her others. Sherri Not all who wander are lost - Tolkien
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (44 of 56), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 02:34 PM Pres, There was just something there. And the fact that Ann tells me it was portrayed as such in the movie, which I haven't seen, further convinces me. Mr. Bertram was not cherished by his family. In fact, they were relieved when he left for Antiqua. When he returns, Fanny listens to his stories. She pays authentic interest in him. He constantly remarks about her newly developed beauty and form. He is obviously greatly impressed. Mrs. Bertram has become a whiny, helpless child. Perhaps Fanny reminds Sir Bertram of the woman his wife was when they were young. I do not think Sir Bertram would verbalize his attraction toward Fanny, much less act upon it. But, I wondered, when he was talking with her about her refusal to marry Mr. Crawford, if he, very briefly, thought Fanny might be attracted to him, too. 'Sir Thomas looked at her with deeper surprise. "This is beyond me," said he. "This requires explanation. Young as you are, and having seen scarcely anyone, it is hardly possible your affections---" He paused and eyed her fixedly. He saw her lips fixed into a NO, though the sound was inarticulate, but her face was like scarlet. That, however, in so modest a girl might be very compatible with innocence, and choosing at least to appear satisfied, he quickly added, "No, no, I know THAT is out of the question--quite impossible. Well, there is nothing more to be said." ' At first take, it might seem that Mr. Bertram is asking Fanny if her affections belong to another man, but I truly think he was asking her if he was the object of her affections. Fanny told him "No." I doubt Fanny was capable of lying. She said no and she meant, no. If he had meant any other man, she, because of her feelings for Edmund, would have merely said, "Yes", and left it at that. In the following paragraph, it says: She would rather die than own the truth... But, I think that had nothing to do with what Mr. Bertram was asking. I think it simply meant she would not admit her love for Edmund to anyone. I am not saying I am correct in this, but only that this was what I personally picked up. Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (45 of 56), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 03:04 PM As I think I said in my earlier note, I really missed the wit that is so present in Austen's other books. It's not just that Fanny is a bit wimpy. There's much less humor throughout. I wondered if it was delivered in a more subtle manner, because I can be a bit dense about subtlety sometimes, but I don't think so. However, I did like the relative complexity of the plot and the interweaving of the characters and their motivations. Alice, I greatly appreciated your comments about the chapter in the Rushworths' garden. I had the sense that the events were significant but was too involved in the story to stop and try to make the connections. When I listened to the biography of Austen on tape, there was a lot of attention to the chronology of the writing of her books. A number of them were written, then reworked extensively by the time she finally managed to get them published. However, I have the sense that Mansfield Park and Persuasion were primarily written when she was a mature writer. I really liked the way she incorporated the poverty of Fanny's family and made it almost palpably real. I wonder if she could have done that when she was younger. I always have sensed the vulnerability of women with meager finances in Austen's world. However, Fanny's situation takes us beyond her usual light treatment of it. I liked that. Barb
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (46 of 56), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 03:08 PM BTW, I felt a bit squeamish when I was reading Mr. Bertram's opinions about Fanny upon his return from Antigua, particularly his comments about her figure. However, I wondered if it was my modern sensibilities speaking. Barb
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (47 of 56), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 03:14 PM Barb, I would also think comments such as those Sir Bertram made concerning his niece's figure would have been even more startling to readers when this book was first published. I really do believe Austen was alluding to an uncommon attraction of an uncle toward his niece, even a niece by marriage. Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (48 of 56), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 02:31 PM SHERRI: CR Maxim: "I want to get through with this" means "Time to put it aside". It took me years of picking up and putting down Jane Austen before I became an addict. And Jane Austen paints Folly with masterful strokes. pres
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (49 of 56), Read 14 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 04:27 PM I suspected Mr. Bertram's motives towards Fanny because of all the references to the fact that he found her so much more attractive physically when he returned. However, Pres you really do have a point that it is difficult to associate lust with any of Austen's characters. I think perhaps Bertram just valued Fanny more because she was suddenly pretty. I found him rather offensive, although I suppose his attitude is rather typical of society in general. Barb, good point about the insights the book provides into a life of poverty. In the case of Fanny's family, the total lack of organization, the downright chaos of family life, certainly made things even worse. You know things had to be bad for her to miss that totally useless and selfish Aunt Bertram so badly. I started Sense and Sensibility today and Austen's wit is apparent on every page. Sherri, I'm not a great Dickens fan myself, although I make exceptions for Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. Ann
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (50 of 56), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 04:31 PM But, to give the devil his due, Sir Bertram did stop Mrs. Norris' abhorrent treatment of Fanny, and I believe he had Fanny's best interest at heart. All said and done, I became very fond of Sir Bertram. Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (51 of 56), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 04:58 PM Beej, by modern sensibilities, I mean that today we are sort of trained by the media and psychology to assume sexual abuse wherever we go. Even if it was going on, I don't think they thought as much about an uncle commenting on his niece's figure in Austen's day (if it was done in a "genteel" way). It seems like the same sort of the same thing as the closeness among women expressed at those times. Today, we would assume that it had underlying sexual connotations. Barb
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (52 of 56), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 05:11 PM Hmmmmm..maybe you're right, Barb. I really didn't mean that I thought Sir Bertram acted in an improper way, only that I thought he might have had feelings that were not altogether appropriate. Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (53 of 56), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Alice CK aliceck@pacbell.net Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 01:24 AM I agree there's not much of the famous Austen wit in this book. The parts that come closest to being funny are those that have to do with the competition between Maria and Julia over Henry Crawford. I think this book is seen too much through Fanny's eyes, and Fanny has very little sense of humor. If Austen had allowed all the latent humor of the Maria/Julia rivalry to come through, it would have jarred with Fanny's shocked outrage at their behavior. I wonder if the fact that Fanny is from a lower middle-class family has anything to do with her puritanical sensibilities? Although the young Bertrams are hardly the giddy aristocracy, they all (except for Edmund) seem fairly lax in their moral standards. Austen explains this as the pernicious influence of both Mrs. Norris (for spoiling them) and of London (for corrupting them), but perhaps it is more fundamentally a conflict between the younger generation and the older. It's somewhat amusing that Fanny's father, as boorish as he is, has no doubt that Maria's behavior is reprehensible. (I'm sure there are plenty of parents today who would agree with his proposed method for her reform!) Perhaps there's more in common between Mr. Price and Sir Thomas than at first appears! I never thought of any sexual connotation to Sir Thomas' newfound interest in Fanny, probably because Austen never deals with such subjects in her novels. His altered attitude towards her seems to me to have more to do with his disappointment in the way all his own children have gone to the dogs, than with any sexual interest on his part. I certainly never thought that when he grilled Fanny about why she refused Crawford, there was any insinuation that he was asking her if she was in love with him. I'm sure he would have been properly appalled at such an idea (any potential sexual feeling towards her would have been so repressed that he would have been totally unaware of it). Fanny's increased clout in the household (a fire in her room, she gets the carriage to go to the Crawfords' for dinner) is, to me, more of a signal that she might be elevated to the status of "daughter" rather than "poor, dependent relative" now that Maria is gone and Julia spends all her time in Maria's house. I want to return to the character of Mary Crawford, because she fascinates me. I liked Beej's comment that Mary would be much more interesting and fun to be around than Fanny, who was a wet blanket. Mary was flawed, but she had good instincts -- she valued Fanny highly when no one else but Edmund did and was properly outraged at Mrs Norris' treatment of Fanny even before she knew Fanny well; she recognized quality in Edmund even though he was unfashionable, not witty or flirtatious, etc. In a way it would have been more satisfying if she had been the heroine and had come to realize that her upbringing had left her with (by Austen's standards) "darkened" morality, and had allowed Edmund to "improve" her. After all, Mr. Darcy rectified his own faults of pride and prejudice through love of Elizabeth! I can't picture Edumund and Fanny's marriage -- their household wouldn't be a very interesting place. "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man." -- Francis Bacon
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (54 of 56), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 10:41 AM Alice, I like that idea of Mary being the heroine of the novel, instead of Fanny. It's been awhile since I read Emma, but I think in that novel Austen took as her subject a heroine who was immature and in need of some moral improvement. By the end, Emma was finally worthy of her mate. Mary represented a similar opportunity.
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (55 of 56), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 11:50 AM I like this idea of Mary being the heroine of the book but watching her development out of her fairly superficial value system. However, I'm not totally sure that Mary, the way Austen paints her initially, could have made that journey. Also, I had the sense that, in this novel, Austen wanted to focus on Fanny's position as a truly poor outsider, not just one with limited funds as in some of her other books. Barb
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (56 of 56), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 01:22 PM Maria Bertram was the character who most intrigued me, and I wish we had been told more about her. Engaged to Mr. Rushworth, yet emotionally involved with Mr. Crawford, I think she was a fascinating woman. She went through with that marriage only because it was expected of her, and because of Mr. Rushworth's wealth and social standing. She already HAD wealth and social standing, but would have brought shame to her family had she not gone through with this marriage. Fanny did the opposite....love was her criteria. She took every risk of disappointing her uncle, of losing his approval. She was, in effect, the absolute opposite of Maria, in this regard. The Rushworths were very successful in their social 'obligations.' They had all the obligatory parties and such, yet it seems Maria got to the point where all this meant not a thing. She ends up leaving Rushworth and taking off with Crawford. We are left knowing she never finds acceptance. Her decision to marry for reasons of social acceptance has negated any chance of total contentment for her. I wish we could have known more about her life, thoughts and emotions during her marriage. I think that would have been a fascinating story of how very much social rank affected people, especially in contrast to Fanny's life and choices. Beej
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (57 of 57), Read 8 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Wednesday, January 30, 2002 11:06 PM I just finished reading MP, having read S&S first. I really loved this book. I've enjoyed all of the posts here and I have a few comments to add. Alice, thank you for your post about the importance of the garden scene. For some reason, I felt that the play was also quite important, demonstrating the official start of the Bertrams' slide toward corruption. What could be the harm of a little family production? But the first thing that happens is that Edmund decides to participate against his better judgement, to protect Miss Crawford, don't you know. Then Julia is left out because Henry Crawford has chosen Maria. Two steps, and the family is out of whack. Fanny is asked to help the acting lovers rehearse their lines, and she sees it all happening and knows it's not right. And at last, Sir Thomas comes home and they all seem to know that they've been caught doing something they shouldn't be doing. While I didn't discern anything lustful, I did think that part of Sir Thomas' admiration of Fanny was because she was so much like himself - a person of steady morals. I laughed out loud at the end when Mrs. Norris decides that since she's not wanted she'll just go to be with Maria. Poor Maria! Barb, I chuckled at your first post about finishing the book in bed on a Saturday morning. I recently read the archived discussion of Wings of the Dove, and you did the same thing for that book! Strike now, or else the iron cools. - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (58 of 58), Read 8 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Thursday, January 31, 2002 09:25 PM That play really was a turning point, wasn't it, Mary Anne? I loved the contrast of the reaction of the guest (the guy who finally married Julia) and the rest of the play's members when Sir Thomas came home. He thought there would just be a pause and they would continue in their preparation. The rest of them all seemed to suddenly see it through different eyes. I had forgotten that I finished Wings of the Dove in bed on a Saturday morning. How funny! Don't you love to do that though? A cup of coffee, pillows propped up, everyone else still asleep or busy elsewhere....heaven. Barb