Il club di Jane Austen – Mansfield park
Written between the 1812 and 1814, Mansfield Park, along with Northanger Abbey, is one of Jane Austen‘s lesser-known novels. Despite its current fame, at the time of its first publication, in 1914, this work achieved so much public success. So it was translated into French as early as 1916.
The novel, in its simplicity, wants to be a criticism, not only to the new bourgeoisie, which is taking the importance of the nobility but also to the “dissolute” city customs that were in contrast with those of the peaceful rural life.
The main character of the work is Fanny Price, a young woman who was adopted by her uncles and grew up with her cousins. The only one to treat her as a peer is, however, only her cousin Edmund, whom our heroine secretly love. One day, unfortunately, the two Crawford siblings arrive in the country, and forcefully introduce themselves in their lives to get their own return…
Fanny is an atypical Austenian heroine; she has neither the audacity of Elizabeth nor the character of Emma, but she is shy, reserved and sensitive. Despite trying to do what she can, she remains a motionless character, who risks her happiness to follow the rules and the etiquette. For me, she takes a position only when she refuses a marriage proposal facing her uncle’s wrath.
Probably her inability to act wants once again to criticize the power that the rich, albeit of non-noble origin, exercised on those considered lower class.
The last chapters, however, could redeem her in the reader’s eye, even if partially, because when she is returned to “home”, it is emphasized not only her importance as support for the Bertram family members, but also her relevance in keeping together her relatives guiding them on the path of good principles.
Her male counterpart is her cousin Edmund, equally immobile. He can not raise his voice in family affairs and gets carried away by two beautiful eyes. He, in fact, shapes the woman of his desires in Fanny but is betrayed by his feelings when he meets Mary, and as a punishment, even if he eventually chooses the first, he must learn to love her with a love less passionate than what he felt for the second.
The secondary characters, as always happens in the novels of Austen, are represented with descriptions full of irony. As always, badly-matched marriage is criticized, especially through the figure of Aunt Bertram, but also the lack of a parental figure is.
I did not really appreciate the actions of the two Crawford siblings, but I can say that they are typically Austenian negative characters, the social climber and the scoundrel. I hoped until the end that Henry would have changed and I was really upset when the events took away from him any chance to redeem himself in my and Fanny‘s eye.
But what I hated the most was Aunt Norris, an abominable person who does everything to feel indispensable to others but who does not have the same benevolence of Mrs Jennings, indeed, she is endowed with a lot of malice and a sense of superiority without end.
The return in the bosom of her biological family sees the main character broken in two, as if she belonged neither to that house, deprived of education, nor to Mansfield, where she realizes that the good principles with which she was educated do not come at all followed – making the opera look like a parody of the evangelical novel. So the reader realizes that the affections, those of the heart, sometimes are worth more than the biological ones because Fanny finally finds herself only next to her cousin.
I found very difficult to review this novel because every time I tried, I stopped. Although I appreciate the veiled criticism, the construction of characters and especially the natural environments described in a simple but evocative manner by Austen, I felt a profound indifference towards Fanny and the love story. In fact, I was not as thrilled as with the other works of the same author and I was also a bit disappointed.
The reading flows pleasantly thanks to the fresh and simple style. Overall, the work is enjoyable but you should not expect much and above all avoid comparison with other works by the same author.