Defending Mansfield Park


POOR MANSFIELD PARK.

It is definitely the most 'ignored' and 'underrated' of the six major works of Jane Austen. It is often the last on the list when people list all the novels, and it is often kind of... forgotten.

I have to say, first and for all, that, I have to agree, Manfield Park is not my favourite Jane Austen novel either. I'm not passionate about it. For this reason, this post won't be HEFTILY DEFENSIVE. Like, I won't use a disastrous amount of caps. (I bet you're happy to hear that.) The reasons why I don't love Mansfield Park as much as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Northanger Abbey is because 1. I think Mansfield Park does lack some 'engaging-ness', 2. Now and then there is a bit of an Elsie Dinsmore vibe. You know what I mean? and 3. I don't relate to Fanny Price fully. Also, I don't have a good movie to match. :-/

But this doesn't mean I don't like Mansfield Park. I still REALLY like it. I love it - I love Edmund and Fanny - even though I don't really relate to her, I LOVE her - she's such a sweet-heart, and she really is underrated.

Now I've said THAT, I can start defending this darling novel.

The pictures in the post are pictures of how I want the New Mansfield Park Movie to be like. I reaaally want a new version. There has to be a new version. BAAADLY.

This is what Edmund and Fanny should look like. This is 100% how I imagine them. :-)
- On the Actual Story -

Oh, and the things in bold are actual things people say in 1 star Goodreads reviews. I'm not bashing these people, I'm just gonna defend. That's what I'm here for. :-D 
"It's boring; nothing happens."  
"It's frustratingly dull."
"Plotless."
 I think it's true that Mansfield Park isn't as engaging as some of Jane Austen's other novels. It can be rather slow-paced, I agree. But it's really not that bad - the story really is NOT boring. There's plenty of stuff going on.

The story, if you think about it, is really almost fairy-tale-ish. Not exactly Cinderella, of course, but slightly. We have this girl from a large poor-ish family who goes off to live with her cousins and aunt. She's shy; she's introverted; she's seems a bit sickly, even; she has to be a good girl; she depends on them. Her 'new family' isn't exactly the warmest welcoming family in the world, and someone of the name of Mrs Norris is especially mean. But then there's the nice tall cousin, named Edmund, who helps Fanny feel at home. (This is why I love Edmund. He's so kind to everyone, even as a boy.)

Then the Crawfords come and kind of bash into Fanny's not-so-perfect-but-still-okay life. Mary is a pretty brunette and dazzles Edmund, who Fanny has quietly fallen in love with. Then we have all kinds of love triangles of all sizes sizzling around in Mansfield Park. It's like a puzzle. I love it - I always want to know which character will actually end up with who. There are plenty of possibilities, because characters develop throughout the story, and perspectives change.THINGS DEFINITELY HAPPEN. Hello. Definitely. 

The writing style may be slightly slower than in some of Jane Austen's other novels, but AHEM things most certainly do happen. Seriously? Plotless? :-D

Look how PERFECT Georgiana Darcy in "Death Comes to Pemberly" would be as Fanny. :-D
- On Fanny Price -
"Fanny Price hardly says a word - It's impossible to be interested in her." 
"Fanny doesn't seem to have a thought in her head that wasn't put in by Edmund." 
"Fanny Price is terribly dull." 
"Fanny Price is no Elizabeth Bennet."
These commentaries are almost painful to read, people. :-P As I said earlier, I cannot fully relate to Fanny Price. I consider myself an introvert in some ways (for example, I loathe big crowds) but I don't find myself relating to Fanny on a very personal level. (I'm not shy. I'm not such a sweet-heart, heehee.) But I still really love Fanny I'm so ready for my defence.

No, Fanny Price is no Elizabeth Bennet.

*SNORT* Of COURSE not. (If you want all the characters Jane Austen makes to be like Elizabeth Bennet, that would be boring.) This is the whole point, guys - Fanny Price is NOT like Elizabeth Bennet. No, she is NOT super witty and active. No, she is not open - she leaves a lot of things for herself. She doesn't shout and run around wildly - the book mentions that she get's tired quickly (I'm thinking maybe she has/had some illness once?) - Yes, she is shy and introverted. That's who she is. She isn't the kind of person who can tell people things easily. That's her character.

But that doesn't mean she's boring. Or dull. Or uninteresting. Or silly. Or stupid. NO MA'AM.

Fanny says what she thinks too - she does stand up for herself - especially as the novel progresses and when she refuses Henry Crawfords offer. She's humble and afraid to hurt people's feelings - but that's a good thing; that's amazing and sweet. I love Fanny Price. She deserves so much and she's so happy with little things. And so in love with Edmund - ohh, when she gets his letter and chain and re-reads the first four words over and over again. "My very dear Fanny."

I get that people don't relate to Fanny. But really, she's a sweet-heart. SUCH a darling.

I'd like to end this with a snippet of a comment Jessica Prescott, one of my lovely commenters, once wrote to me. Because what she writes I agree with. Strongly, and all that. :-D
I think the person I feel most sorry for in period drama is Fanny Price, actually, because she has SUCH a horrible time with her family. She's the kind of person who wants nothing more than to always do the right thing and please everybody, and yet she's constantly being criticized and told she's doing everything wrong by her relatives--particularly that awful, awful Aunt Norris. (I cannot express in words how much I LOATHE that woman.) It really hurts me to read about because I'm actually a lot like her myself--criticism and conflict really hurt. And then so many Austen readers criticize poor Fanny for being a "doormat," etc. But what they don't ever realize is, the reason she IS so meek and shy and timid is that she's taken so much verbal abuse for years and years, ever since she was 10. That sort of thing DOES have a real psychological effect, peoples. :) 
LOOK HOW PERFECT HE WOULD BE AS EDMUND. AHHH.
- On Edmund Bertram -
"Edmund is stupid." 
"Fanny does not deserve Edmund."
Okay, here's the thing. LOADS of people don't like Edmund Bertram. I think he's perhaps even more underrated than Fanny Price herself! And people don't even bother defending him - so let me be the first to do so. :-)

It's the same kind of case as Roger Hamely in Wives and Daughters. A young man - a younger brother - a kind person who loves a young girl like an older brother. Then a pretty, witty lady comes along and he fancies himself in love. Look; when Elizabeth fancies herself in love with Wickham, we don't mind. When Marianne declares herself VIOLENTLY in love with Whilloughby, oh, we're fine. And Edward Ferras was engaged to Lucy! We don't mind that. But when Edmund Bertram crushes on Mary Bertram, we're all furious and declare that, when he feels sorry for it, Fanny does not deserve Edmund.

I mean?!!

I agree, it annoys me that Edmund has his Mary-phase. And yes, it's annoying that Edmund actually tells Fanny to be with Henry. But he realises it's a mistake; and he feels sorry for it. Just like Roger Hamely did. 

Edmund, I think, is an amazingly lovely man. Even as a boy, he's the only one in a somewhat cold household that really makes friend with his small and shy cousin. He's cheerful, enthusiastic, very positive. He's cares for people, and puts himself last. He's a great gentleman, and I can really see him being an amazing husband for Fanny. Fanny loves him to bits, so that must mean something, right? :-)

(And for you guys who are completely weirded out by the fact that Edmund and Fanny are COUSINS and get married - in that time period it was dead normal. In fact, it was very much advised and applauded. Mr Darcy was matched up with Anne de Bourgh his whole entire childhood and more, and they were cousins too. (Thank goodness that never worked out.))

I'm still not sure about Lily James as Mary Crawford, but she definitely captures the sparkly brunette-ness. :-D
- On the Other Characters -
"All the characters are a bunch of cardboard cutouts."
*Coughs Politely* I don't think Mary and Henry Crawford are exactly 'boring.' They're not even quiet. Mary Crawford can be hilarious. Her 'A Watch is always to quick or too slow' quote is an example of her wittiness. Henry Crawford is annoying, but not a cardboard cutout. He does too much, he does.

Ahem. Sorry dear. No. Not Cardboard Cutouts.

This cover though. :-(
There you go. :-) Although this isn't my favourite Austen novel, I do think it needs some more love. Also Fanny Price. Why do people hate the poor girl?!! :-( AND EDMUND. TEAM EDMUND.

Have you read Mansfield Park?
What do you think of it?

27 comments:

  1. TEAM EDMUND!!!! ;) :) I always tend to view Emma and then Mansfield Park as her Biggest Books from a literary standpoint.... When it comes to the books, my personal "favorite" order actually goes Emma and then Persuasion with Mansfield Park and P&P tying for third. :)

    And I know, the 80's MP is really pretty good.... but we so so so need a new GOOD new one!! ;D Also, I think it was in Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels, that I read that -- of all her characters -- Edmund and Mr. Knightley were JA's personal favorites. Fascinating, eh? ;)

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    1. Oh goodness, that's SO fasicating that Edmund and Mr Knightley were JA's two favourite characters!!! See?!! Edmund really IS a good one. :-)

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  2. *gasps* You quoted me! OH MY GOSH!!!!! I . . . I'm most awfully honored *blushes*

    I've been looking forward to this post for SO long--I'm really, really, REALLY excited to finally read it! (And I was not disappointed either :) ) Most interesting and thought-provoking. And you really hit a lot of important points.

    It IS a great novel, and the characters aren't just "cardboard cutouts." They're fascinating. Especially Mary Crawford--I hate her, but I feel a little sorry for her, too. She's definitely complex and multi-dimensional.

    I love Fanny so much. She's like my fictional "twin," sort of, except that she's even quieter and more timid than I am, and she cries more. But, like I said, that's because she's had such a rough life. Believe you ME, if I had grown up in the Bertrams' household I would be EXACTLY like that. (And then people would write horrid reviews of my character and say that I was a "doormat" and "unutterably boring." Yeah. See, I can sympathize :) ) And I love how she can see right through Henry and Mary Crawford, even though nobody else around her can. *coughcoughlookingatyouEdmundBertram*

    And that brings me to Edmund. To be honest, I don't like him so very much . . . You see, his thing with Mary bothers me, but not as much as the fact that he actually tries to get Fanny to accept Henry. ARGGGGG. Remember that scene when Henry is pestering Fanny by asking her "why did you shake your head at me" and Edmund just goes off in a corner to read the newspaper and doesn't intervene AT ALL? That scene literally makes my skin crawl. Because I know EXACTLY how Fanny is feeling--I absolutely hate it when people try to make me "explain" my thoughts/reactions when I don't want to--and I'm so mad at Edmund for leaving her alone to deal with that. He needs to be more protective, IMHO, and he just isn't. That's my biggest problem with him. Oh, and the way he totally ignores Henry's attentions to Maria during the whole "play" business.

    Oh. Um . . . I actually DO object to Elizabeth's infatuation with Mr. Wickham. A lot. I'm not being inconsistent, you see :)

    One more question: WHO IS THIS ELSIE DINSMORE OF WHOM I HEAR SO MUCH?

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    1. AHH THANKS JESSICA. Glad you liked this!!! :-)

      Look here though, about Edmund - he isn't actually Fanny father or anything. He doesn't have to ALWAYS be around her to stand up for her. I mean of course, it would have been nice if he would have said something in that scene, but he stands up for Fanny a LOT of the time - surely you can forgive him that one time?!!!! *pretty please*?

      Oh, haha, at least you're consistent. :-)

      Well, Elsie Dinsmore is the main character in this famous Victorian series (the Elsie series) - and she's basically SUPER soppy and sentimental and literally cries in EVERY SCENE. She's seven in the first book and the worst thing she does is... I forgot. :-) Her father is SUPER strict and she believes she's a really bad kid. BLECH. I don't like them. :-/

      ~ N

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    2. Haha, yes, Jessica and I ARE similar, it's *rather* suprising :)

      I think where our main difference is coming in is that for Jessica and I, one of the *most-important-above-and-beyond-all-else* things that a guy must do is be protective of the girl. Being protected is very important to us, even more so than someone who will banter/tease us or be able to keep up a sparkling conversation. I mean to say, we would settle for someone who would protect and love us even if they wouldn't be as charming as all get-out. I guess I'm trying to say, because we relate to/love Fanny so much, it frustrates us that "her man" doesn't have all the qualities that we would want . . . Perhaps the difference is in which flaws people are okay with and which they just can't tolerate. Does that make sense? I am afraid it was fearfully rambling and confused. Sorry :)

      However I do agree that Edmund is very good to Fanny, and she obviously loves him . . . I do love him in the scene where he says "Fanny, I am sure you have the headache" and gives her a glass of wine, because there he's caring for her and making her feel better, something her aunts definitely weren't doing - they just ignored her/scolded her. *sobs*

      So it's not that I don't think Edmund is a *bad* person or *wrong* for Fanny as Henry Crawford was, it's just that if I were writing the story, I would make Edmund a little different in that I would up the protective side of him and so on . . . I just feel that it's something that is important to Fanny. She's been ignored and looked down upon and ordered about her whole life, so that she's kind of lost the ability to speak up for herself, and so I think that it would be very good for her to have a husband that was protective of her and could speak out for her.

      Sorry again for such a confused comment - I'm afraid I'm not very good at putting my thoughts into words. Maybe you'll get a little more coherence when Jessica comments :P

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    3. I really get that, Rosie. Seriously. Thank you for the great comment! I'm glad you don't think he's a bad person. :-D *sigh of relief* :-)

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    4. Oh I am glad! *sighs in relief in my turn* :) No, Edmund is not a "bad person." But Henry Crawford is *glares*.

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    5. No. I'm sorry, Naomi, but I can't overlook that scene. Because it doesn't just irritate me, it SCARES me. It's too realistic. I can feel EXACTLY how uncomfortable and frightened and upset Fanny is (because I would feel precisely the same way) and I just can't forgive Edmund for not speaking up to help her. Because, like Rosie said, according to my standards a husband/lover/boyfriend IS always required to stick around and protect his girl whenever she needs it. Doesn't matter that he's not her father. That's still his JOB.

      You see, as Rosie would tell you, I'm not very good at defending myself. I get tongue-tied and frightened very, very easily in uncomfortable or scary social situations, and I really NEED someone to be there and help me out. Therefore, guys like Edmund whom I judge to be lax in fulfilling their "protective duties" are immediately placed on my list of Dudes I Will Never Ever Marry. Even though I understand Edmund has really good intentions and is genuinely fond of Fanny. He just kind of, well, upsets me. Does that make sense?

      It's the same way with Henry Tilney, how I hate the way he asks Catherine "what are you thinking of" precisely BECAUSE I cannot bear to be asked that question myself. It freaks me out. (And that's definitely an INFJ thing, by the way--we tend to be very, very secretive about our private thoughts and feelings and it really disturbs us if any "unauthorized person" tries to gain access to them.)

      But yeah. Like Rosie said, "protectiveness" is one of THE most important qualities that I'd be looking for in any potential husband. I don't care if he's not funny. I don't even care if he's not particularly smart. All I want is somebody who is nice and sweet-tempered and will take good care of me, and I'll be perfectly satisfied. (Which is why I love Colonel Brandon so much. Also it's why I'm so very fond of Captain America. :) )

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    6. Jessica, yes I really get what you mean. I hope you find someone like that one day!

      I love how Jane Austen wrote so many DIFFERENT characters! There's one for everyone. :-)

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    7. Aw, thanks so much! I really hope so, too :) (Hey, if you meet anybody like that, would you mind sending them my way? ;) )

      I know, right? I was just thinking to myself yesterday how amazing it is that each and every one of JA's heroes and heroines are completely unique individuals. She didn't "re-use" any personality types, not even ONCE. That's creativity for you.

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  3. OH OH OH THE POST I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR!!!

    This is Just So Awesome. I LOVE the pictures you found for Fanny and Edmund, they suit so much! And --

    *gasps*

    *looks again*

    YOU QUOTED MY SISTER!! Wahoo! Hurrah! Let's celebrate :P

    Okay. I'm calming down now. But that was a rather big moment for me :D You know, I really do love Fanny. She is so sweet and obedient to these people who are HORRIBLE to her. And kind to everyone. I just love her to bits :) And she's a lot like my sister, so that's another reason why I love her, even though I am basically nothing like her :P

    Edmund. *coughs* Well you see Edmund and I don't get along very well. No, just kidding. I do LOVE how Edmund is the only one who actually makes Fanny feel at home in her new and unfamiliar surroundings. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE it. I just think - well, that he could have been a little more protective of her sometimes. Oh, and I Object Strongly when Elizabeth thinks herself in love with Wickham.

    Mary Crawford is a Fascinating Character to me. She's so complex and interesting. I don't agree with basically anything she does but at the same time I really am fascinated (I know, I keep using the word, but I can't think of a better one :P) by her every single time I read her - a very good and layered villain I think. Or villainess. Whatever, you get the idea :)

    Great post Naomi I just loved it!! Finally Fanny gets some long-deserved love :)

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    1. Ahhh I'm glad you liked it!!!!! :-D

      Yes, Mary Crawford is very Layered. I'm fascinated by those kind of characters too. I generally am, with those kind of flirty/snob/but-still-warm characters. They're very... fascinating. (Exactly, t'is the only word. Haha.)

      You may scroll up to my reply to Jessica about further 'Edmund discussion.' :-D You two are so similar, haha. :-)

      ~ Naomi

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  4. Okay, I definitely want to read this now :)

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  5. You made a very good defense of Edmund in regards to his falling in love with Mary. I'd never really thought about it, but that's so true. We don't get mad at Lizzy, Marianne, or Edward...but Edmund? "Oh! He's terrible!" It's true, he does err in judgment by thinking that the Crawfords are better people than they are, but we all err at times. (Is he one of those characters who tends to be more trusting of people than otherwise? ...I haven't read the book in a while, so I can't quite remember.) The point is, though, that when he realizes his mistake, he's willing to admit to it. That's worth a whole lot.

    I do wish that there had been more of Edmund and Fanny together...especially after they'd come to an understanding that they loved each other. Sometimes Jane Austen ends her stories far too abruptly. :)

    Oh, and I agree! There are definitely things that happen in Mansfield Park! It is NOT a plotless book.

    This was a really good post, Naomi! Thanks for sharing. You've made me really want to read Mansfield Park again. :)

    Oh, and one more thing! Of course Fanny isn't Elizabeth Bennet!! That's one of the really neat things about Jane Austen. All her heroes and heroines are different!

    ~Miss March

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    1. Thank you so much, Miss March! I always thought the 'hate' on Edmund was a bit much! After all, everyone tolerates the others! :-) And, he does admit he is wrong! I love Edmund! :-)

      Yeah, I agree. Jane Austen could have done some more Fadmund (their shipname. Haha.) in the end. I also think she ended S&S too abruptly. :-P

      Thank you for the lovely comment, Miss March!

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  6. I haven't read it, soooo.....yeah. :-/

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    1. It's not your kind of book, Emma. :-D

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  7. Mansfield Park dull? Plotless? I find it the complete opposite! I personally love Mansfield Park. I first read it few years ago, and I immediately loved it. And I'm currently re-reading it right now:)
    My first impressions was that even though Fanny Price is shy and timid she has a lot of depth to her. My favorite chapters of the book is when Sir Thomas holds a ball for Fanny. I love that she comes out of her shell for a bit.
    Anyone who hasn't read it, read it. It might be slow at first, but give Mansfield Park a chance! And come on this is Jane Austen's writing! It can never be boring or "plotless".... :p

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  8. Finally someone who appreciates Mansfield Park!! I tell you this novel is so underrated. I think that from a literary point of view that novel is the best thing JA ever wrote.

    I admit it can be kind of long winded and there is a LOT of dialogue even by JA standards. (As I often jokingly say: the first 300 pages might be a little hard to get through, but they are neccessary to really appreciate the last 100 pages in all their gloriousness)

    And poor critisised Fanny. I wrote a whole defense post of her last year, so I don't go into all the details of how much I love her character, but suffice to say - she is one of my favourite literary heroines.

    Actually I am also one of those people who are annoyed by Edmund as he is my least favourite Austen hero. I'm not mad at him for falling in love with Mary, but it is painful to watch how much pain his obliviousness causes Fanny. He is a good character, though, trying to do the right thing and looking out for Fanny.

    I don't understand how anyone could call the other characters cardboard cutouts! They all have layers and development throughout the story. And I am still of the firm opinion that the Crawford siblings are the deepest and most complex characters JA ever made.

    So thank you for this post! It makes me so happy to meet others who share my opinions on this book!

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  9. What a lovely post.
    You are such a beautiful writer! and thank you for your comment on my blog. :D
    ~Lucy Amanda

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  10. So nice (and so unusual) to see someone stand up for Fanny Price! I can definitely relate to her - she's shy, but I don't think she is a doormat. If she's got one flaw it's that she's kind of judgemental, especially about the Crawfords - who I like too! They're rough around the edges, but I like that they're nice to Fanny, even though she's quiet and nothing like them. Edmund and Fanny do bother me as a couple though, not so much because they're cousins, but because they're brought up like brother and sister, and he's always seen her in that way. I wouldn't have put Fanny with Henry, but I do sort of wish she'd met someone else - maybe someone a bit livelier than Edmund.

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  11. Yes! Nobody appreciates the introverts! We can't all be Lizzy Bennets! Now I need to re-read this too!

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  12. Yayyyy! Mansfield Park deserves defense.
    And oh, I heartily approve of all the pictures you included. Please-PLEASE, BBC, make a new version with Naomi's pictures!!!!

    MP isn't my favorite JA novel either, but I did like it very much when I read it. And I love Fanny. I can relate to her in some ways, and she's just SO sweet and good. Part of the reason I don't care for Edmund as much is just how long he takes to notice her! Why, WHY would he like Mary better? Plus, I felt his "switch" from Mary to Fanny at the end was a little too fast or something. I felt like we missed out on some relationship growth. I don't know. But that's really my only complaint. :)

    Oh, I LOVE your "synopsis". You make it sound so glittering and exciting without being "untrue" to the novel. Good job!!

    And ohhhh....Georgiana IS Fanny. That's all there is to it.

    Noooooo..how could those people say those things about Fanny?? That's so terrible. Fanny certainly does have her own thoughts- “Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions."

    BRAVO! Your defense of her not being like Elizabeth Bennet was SPOT ON. And Jessica's comment!! So VERY VERY true!!! How can people think she is a doormat??

    Despite what I said about Edmund above I DO agree with your defense of him. He is a really nice, kind, gentleman. I think he just....gets his head turned a little to easily. ;) In a way, Fanny can be "stronger" than him as she is the one who holds out against putting on the play...Edmund gives in early on. Just another defense of Fanny observation. ;)

    Oh wow, I REALLY like the idea of Lily James as Mary Crawford!! She's so pretty as a brunette, and I definitely think she could believably capture Edmund's attention.

    Anyways, wonderful, lovely post!!! I agree with pretty much everything you said. :D

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  13. So, I think my main problem with MP is that it makes me feel like a grown-up when I read it, and I don't like feeling like a grown-up, and so it kind of annoys me. I don't hate it, I don't even dislike it, I just don't like it all that much either.

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  14. Yes, yes, yes! It's good to hear someone appreciates this book as much as I do.
    "Fanny Price is no Elizabeth Bennet"?? Of course she isn't! This is Mansfield Park, not Pride and Prejudice! I must say, when I saw the cover for the 1999 Mansfield Park, I thought Frances O'Connor looked JUST how I pictured Fanny... and then read reviews saying they'd turned her into Elizabeth Bennet! She isn't *supposed* to be a sparkling heroine that everyone appreciates; she's shy and easily overlooked, but that doesn't mean she's boring. No one in today's society appreciates patience, modesty and humility, I suppose.
    And to say that Fanny doesn't deserve Edmund?!? As if! Edmund doesn't deserve Fanny!

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  15. I just started reading the book, and I don't think it's boring or dull, just a bit different from other Austen's works, and the writing style is different (at least in finnish, haven't read it in english)which makes it a bit less entertainig to read.
    But now about the movie. It was trash. Complete TRASH. First of all the actors. Fanny looked way too old, and Henry was too handsome. And I didn't think Maria and Julia were THAT beautiful. Mrs Norris and Mrs Bertram were quite good. But still, I didn't like the movie at all. So please, SOMEONE, make a new version of this story, it DESERVES it!

    Yours truly,
    ~Geraldine Seymour~

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