Mansfield Park: A Book Review

About the author:

Jane Austen, one of England’s foremost novelists, was born on December 16, 1775, at Steventon Rectory in Hampshire. She was the seventh child of a country clergyman and his wife, George and Cassandra Austen.  She did not have the privilege to get an education outside her family. Within the family Austen and her older sister Cassandra got primary education, learned drawing, to play piano etc. As a child Austen began writing comic stories, now referred to as the Juvenilia.  Her first mature work, composed when she was about 19, was a novella, Lady Susan, written in epistolary form. Works like Sense and SensibilityPride and PrejudiceMansfield Park, and Emma gave her the identification of an author. Ironically, she was never publicly acknowledged as a writer during her lifetime.

About the novel:

Mansfield Park is an excellent piece of romance along with comedy, drama and little touch of pastoral. But there are very strong elements of seriousness in this book too. The author successfully provided COMIC RELIF to the readers by way of a comic touch. Funny moments exist alongside very painful and sympathetic ones. That was the most appealing characteristic of the novel; on the other hand Austen is a brilliant story teller.

Fanny: the protagonist:

Mansfield park is all about Fanny Price, when presented first she is only ten, shy, weak and a timid girl.  Her own family is too big and too poor to raise her well, so her mother decides to send Fanny to live with her wealthy relatives, the Bertram’s, at Mansfield Park. Mostly ignored, she grows up with her two aunts and four cousins. Her controlling uncle Sir Thomas Bertram is shown as a strict businessman. She finds a good friend and soul mate in her cousin Edmund. She had a great love for her real brother William; here we can say that these two were two halves of Fanny’s heart.

Forwarding many years, Fanny and her cousins are now adult and ready for marriage. Here readers are introduced to a wealthy brother and Sister Henry and Mary Crawford, who move to a nearby house and shake things up at Mansfield Park.

Melodramatic turn in lives of characters:

Love triangles and quadrangles start springing up like crazy. Two of Fanny’s cousins, Maria and Julia Bertram have a shallow nature and  are both in love with Henry; Mary Crawford tries to fall for Tom Bertram but ends up interested in his younger brother Edmund instead. A Mr. Rushworth is also on the scene as Maria Bertram’s fiancé. Mary and Edmund fall in love, though as a second son who will not inherit his father’s estate, Edmund isn’t entirely appealing to Mary. Henry decides to make Fanny his next conquest, but ends up genuinely falling for her. But when Henry proposes, Fanny refuses him, shocking all of her friends and neighbors. Fanny won’t tell anyone the real reason for her refusal, her refusal becomes the biggest suspense for the readers. Later, Maria marries Mr. Rushworth, but is unhappy. Then, Sir Thomas decides to send Fanny to visit her family in Portsmouth for the first time in these years of her stay. While there she feels that she is living with strangers, all her excitement and happiness vanishes discovering that Mansfield Park has become her real home, here, another theme is shown that is family and family affections. A number of tragedies and scandals happen to reach the end of Fanny’s life.

Mansfield Park: Great work of fiction

Mansfield Park amuses us not only by virtue of its use of irony in the portrayal of some of the characters, but also by virtue of the fact that it is a comedy of intrigue. Intrigue begins with the arrival of Henry and Mary Crawford at the Mansfield personage. Although there are no sensational or melodramatic incidents and situations yet the story arouses our interest from chapter to chapter. There is a plenty of suspense in the story, For instance, Fanny’s refusal to Henry, her secret love for someone, guess WHO?

The best part of the novel for me was its FAIRY TALE ending. Of course there is not any evil or very bad character but Fanny’s character has an appeal. She is a strong and consistent character. That is the reason she deserves a fairy tale ending.

Highlight on importance of good education:

In the novel, the themes of orientation and education have been closely interrelated with the theme of courtship and marriage. Austen has shown the importance of good education, as in the end Sir Thomas says that he tried to provide good education to Maria and Julia but their shallowness had proved that he failed as a father. Same with the case of their elder brother, he is a drunkard, completely unaware of his responsibilities. Only, Edmund,  his brother and sisters are mature adults. Here, role of family and education in building a character is focused and conveyed to the readers.

I would recommend readers to read Austen’s work at least once because of her REALISM. Her stories are realistic, and so is her portrayal of character. Realism is, indeed keynote of her fiction. There is nothing fantastic or in probable in her novels.

Kirti Singh