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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: Mansfield Park

For those who haven't read Mansfield Park, it's about Fanny Price, who at the tender age of 10 or 11 is transplanted from her poor, overcrowded home in Portsmouth to the fabulous, sprawling estate of Mansfield Park in the countryside, per the request/demands of her aunt and uncle, Lady and Sir Thomas Bertram. They were presuaded by her other aunt, Mrs. Norris, who is a busy bodied old bitch, to take in at least one of the Price children to relieve the burden caused by Fanny's mom never closing her legs for her drunk sailor husband, Mr. Price. Good times. Lady Bertram is a beautiful lump of uselessness and Sir Thomas is the kind of guy you'd expect to go "Hem-hem-hem!" and bluster a lot in that affected British way. At least I did. He's well meaning but comes off poorly, gaining no affection from Fanny for most of the book. Probably few of the readers, as well.

Fanny herself is timid, trembling, lacking in any sort of individual opinion and is  frail as can be. A ride on a horse wipes her out (or knocks her up, as they said back then, which never ceased to amuse me). Her personality is largely shaped by her cousin Edmund Bertram, the younger son and most morally-bound child at Mansfield Park. He is the kindest one to her when she first comes to the house, and always keeps her comforts in mind until some tart comes and plays the harp at him, then he leaves her in a sweltering wood so he can talk clergy at this tart. The other children are Tom, eldest, Maria, eldest daughter, and Julia. They all sort of suck.

Other players are the Crawford siblings (on of whom is the harp tart), who come in and sort of screw everything up. Mary and Henry. The create a bunch of dramz.

Anyways, so the whole story revolves around a love triangle, or if you want to get really specific, a love scribble where everyone seems to love/admire someone else or if the love is mutual there is a conflict of moral interest. There's a play. Morals are put into question. Fanny is affronted. Edmund is stupid. Sir Thomas comes home and Lady Bertram wakes up. Mrs. Norris flaps her hands.

I sound harsh, but this was honestly my opinion as I read this book. Austen kept it entertaining enough with her writing, but I found no character I could admire or respect. I did feel bad that no one really missed Sir Thomas when he was in India, but then again, since Mansfield Park was built on slave labor, maybe I don't feel so bad after all.

Fanny as a heroine is absolutely peculiar and really not likeable either. She is described repeatedly as having a character and opinion and mind mostly shaped by Edmund himself. His interests are hers, his opinions are her facts and rest on pedastals, Edmund Edmund Edmund. Um, lame? She seems void of any backbone, spirit, individuality (except in thinking Henry Crawford is a complete asshole) or even loyalty to family.

When she returns home, it's ~too loud~ and the food is ~not refined~ and ~where is my East room~ She appears only to love Mansfield Park for its comforts and serenity and not for the idiots who raised her, and if you haven't guessed it, because of Edmund, which seems really weird, but hey, Patty Hearst fell for it so whatever.

So the first part of her life is spent pining for her family and I hope to hell pining for some respect and true affection for her as a person, and not as a silent companion (Lady Bertram), a whipping boy (Mrs. Norris), a foil (Maria and Julia), or worse, a meek blow up doll with a bible and a major case of hero-worship (Edmund, ugh). And when she finally goes home to Portsmouth, she's like, I hate these people, they are so crass and below me thanks to nurture vs. nature and all my siblings suck except for Susan who is the only one even remotely like me. So this selfless, mild-mannered heroine actually kind of stuck up and highfalutin' and has to order takeout every night to avoid the family meals. It's like the opposite of Overboard but without the awesomeness of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.

And don't get me started on Edmund. You know, when Stephenie Meyer was creating the fiasco that is Twilight, she chose the name Edward because that was the name of the hero in Sense and Sensibility, and Edmund was the hero of Mansfield Park. And I think she shaped Edward Cullen on old Edmund Bertram because E.B. basically gets to shape his beloved to his standards of femininity from the age of 10 onwards, tells her what to do, when to do it, when she's tired, when she should go riding, etc.

Oh, and he's an absolute idiot who can't even tell that when a woman says "Hey I think the clergy is stupid and you are too and it's too bad you aren't eldest with all the money and no requirements to work for it" that, since you are to go into the clergy and don't give a shit about money so much, that she is not the woman for you.
And when she is all "I love society" and you're like "towns breed indecency" and you don't listen and assume that she's simply been corrupted by others and isn't thinking for herself? Sometimes a chick just isn't into the same shit that you are. That's another part of his horrible personality. He doesn't accept Mary for who she is, instead he tries to do the same crap he did to Fanny. And when it doesn't work, well thank God the prototype was lying around doing needlework in his living room I guess.
Captain Obvious: I didn't like Mansfield Park. I read a bunch of critiques and reviews and essays on it (well I skimmed like four) and while there's not as much Edmund hate as I have in them, there is still a lot of controversy on Fanny herself. I wasn't pleased in the end, I wasn't happy with anyone, and I should have just wikied the book plot.

Northanger Abbey better beat the pants off this book, because I'm already 150 pages in.

Grade: D-

1 comment:

  1. Don't get tricked into reading the modern mystery remake "Murder at Mansfield Park" in hopes of having a redeeming experience. In what good murder mystery does the killer first strike on page 162? Ahhh! Even after that it was Boring. I felt actual anger while trying to trudge my way through that one. Why would the author do this to us?
    Anyway, keep blogging! You can make anything sound interesting