Mansfield Park – Jane Austen

For a change the Book Group decided to visit one of the classics, Mansfield Park was chosen, it has to be said although I and one other member of the group are big Jane Austen fans it wasn’t either of us that chose it, despite the fact that we are both in that minority of Jane Austen fans who also like Mansfield Park.

Mansfield Park isn’t the light tale of society romance that to many is Jane Austen’s hallmark, however on reading it on this occasion it did strike me as being surprisingly contemporary.  Yes it is still set in Austen’s own times, but the views expressed in it would hardly be unfamiliar to many in today’s world, the attitude of Miss Crawford towards the Church, the struggles of conflicting morals and that familiar scene of ‘while the cat being away the mice playing’ when in Sir Thomas’ absence the play which, is in my view the pivotal point of the book, is conceived and organised.

It has long been debated as to what the book is all about, in this readers opinion it is primarily a book about change.  Fanny Price starts not wanting the changes that have been enforced upon her life, then when the time comes that she can try and turn back the clock and return to her own home she discovers that the changes that she didn’t really want are want she now wants, Mansfield Park not Portsmouth is now home to her.  Change in it’s true style is never content but always self perpetuating yet more change and Mansfield Park is touched first by illness and then scandal and the attitudes that surround it, and although Fanny is still in Portsmouth the consequences of these changes still impact on her, and soon, she returns and the consequences of all that has past makes the future clear.  But this book is about more than Fanny, she isn’t alone all around her others also confront change, changes which despite their fortunate position in life are also being thrust upon them, attitudes to women, slavery and morality are all changing and have an impact not just on Fanny Price but on the cozy bubble which is Mansfield Park.

Of course by the end of the book the girl gets the boy, it is Jane Austen after all, but the twist and turns, the darker nature and the complexity of the sub texts in this story make Pride and Prejudice look like a children tale.

All in all we agreed it was  great to revisit a classic and have decided that, indeed that is what will we do on every 6th book club in future.

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4 thoughts on “Mansfield Park – Jane Austen

  1. I always find it interesting that nobody dramatising Mansfield Park has ever really got to grips with Fanny’s stern morality, but either seem to bog themselves down is turning her into a sexual and religious hysteric or, as in the most recent TV version, playing her pert and modern and totally against the character as written by Jane Austen.

    It is also fascinating to compare Jane Austen’s very tolerant attitude to the socialite Tilneys in Northanger Abbey with her distaste for the in many ways very similar Crawfords. I suppose it is all part of the beginning of the evangelical revival of the early and mid 19th century.

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  2. Lissa I would go a step further than you to say that the TV version was so loosely bassed on the actually book that it was almost a different story altogether. Mrs Norris was probably the only character it protrayed with any accuracy.

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  3. The only ‘good bit’ in relation to it being anything like the book is the way they ended it. They changed the order that things happened in, had Fanny present at Mansfield when she wasn’t, and all but totally forgot about William. That being said it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t Mansfield Park!

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