Friday, January 27, 2017

Jane Austen's Mansfield Park: In Defense of Fanny Price

The following is a quotation from Carrots for Michaelmas, a blog belonging to Haley Stewart.  This link will take you to the complete article.  

I want to thank Di from The Little White Attic  who alerted me to this article, "In Defense of Fanny Price,"from which this quotation was taken.

Mansfield Park is about superficiality versus substance. It’s about charm versus goodness. It’s about mere conventional propriety versus true virtue and it’s hard for an entertainment-obsessed culture that glorifies appearances and laughs at the idea of character to understand. All of the characters struggle and are tried and tested…but some fight the good fight and others reveal that they never had virtue to begin with.

This is the best, the most coherent, the clearest statement of the main point of Mansfield Part I have ever read. In a few words she expressed what I've been trying to say for years. 

Thank you, Haley Stewart.


  1. Isn't that Jane Austen's over-arching theme throughout her novels: superficiality v. substance?

    1. R.T.,

      Yhat's true. but in MP, Austen's depiction of the superficial Crawfords fools many contemporary readers into preferring superficiality to substance.

    2. That's where Jane Austen beats George Eliot: she means to create a charming character, and is so successful at it, that many readers fall for the charm and see nothing else; whereas George Eliot always makes sure that we admire her moral characters and dislike her amoral/ immoral ones that the characters she says are charming I've never found charming.

    3. Di,

      I never thought of that, but you are right. Eliot's most popular character is Heathcliff who really is a monster, but is admired by many readers, for reasons I can't see. Henry Crawford, at least, has considerable charm which fools his admirers, as it is supposed to do.

    4. R.T.,

      My error of course. Bronte. Eliot's bad characters are nowhere near as monstrous as Heathcliff, but they are obviously bad.

    5. i read quite a bit of Eliot once, under a sort of self imposed duress, and i found her to be a better plotter than writer; some of her sentences were pretty snaky... i must admit i like Jane's writing better, but her subject matter doesn't register very high on the Richter scale: it's mostly all been hashed over by others and gets wearisome... but that's probably just me...

    6. Mudpuddle,

      The real issue in all of Austen's works is being able to go beyond the superficial appearances of charm and social affability and discover just what the person is really like underneath the social trappings.

      Marriage was a very serious issue for women in Austen's time because for those in the middle classes, it was the equivalent of deciding the course of one's life and for which the only acceptable escape was death.

      That's why many male critics dismiss her works: they just didn't understand the position of women at that time.

      To dismiss her because of her subject matters demonstrates
      a shallow understanding of her works.

      PD James, the English mystery writer, once said in an interview that her favorite author was Austen and that if Austen had been alive today, she would be writing mysteries, because that is what the detective's task is--to uncover the real nature of the suspects.

  2. I have not yet read Mansfield Park. I will likely get to it this year. No doubt that it will be a fantastic reading experience.

    1. Brian Joseph,

      I don't know what kind of reading experience you will have as it brings up differing and opposing reactions. I do hope you enjoy it.

      I would be interested in hearing your reactions, either way.