Item description for Mansfield Park (Classic Fiction) by Jane Austen & Juliet Stevenson...
Outline ReviewThough Jane Austen was writing at a time when Gothic potboilers such as Ann Ward Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho and Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto were all the rage, she never got carried away by romance in her own novels. In Austen's ordered world, the passions that ruled Gothic fiction would be horridly out of place; marriage was, first and foremost, a contract, the bedrock of polite society. Certain rules applied to who was eligible and who was not, how one courted and married and what one expected afterwards. To flout these rules was to tear at the basic fabric of society, and the consequences could be terrible. Each of the six novels she completed in her lifetime are, in effect, comic cautionary tales that end happily for those characters who play by the rules and badly for those who don't. In Mansfield Park, for example, Austen gives us Fanny Price, a poor young woman who has grown up in her wealthy relatives' household without ever being accepted as an equal. The only one who has truly been kind to Fanny is Edmund Bertram, the younger of the family's two sons.
Into this Cinderella existence comes Henry Crawford and his sister, Mary, who are visiting relatives in the neighborhood. Soon Mansfield Park is given over to all kinds of gaiety, including a daring interlude spent dabbling in theatricals. Young Edmund is smitten with Mary, and Henry Crawford woos Fanny. Yet these two charming, gifted, and attractive siblings gradually reveal themselves to be lacking in one essential Austenian quality: principle. Without good principles to temper passion, the results can be disastrous, and indeed, Mansfield Park is rife with adultery, betrayal, social ruin, and ruptured friendships. But this is a comedy, after all, so there is also a requisite happy ending and plenty of Austen's patented gentle satire along the way. Describing the switch in Edmund's affections from Mary to Fanny, she writes: "I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that everyone may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people." What does not vary is the pleasure with which new generations come to Jane Austen. --Alix Wilber
Product Description At the tender age of 10, Fanny Price is "adopted" by her rich relations, and is removed from the poverty of her home in Portsmouth to the opulence of Mansfield Park. She struggles to come to terms with her new life. The music is provided by Beethoven, Weber and Mendelssohn.
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Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature. Her realism, biting irony and social commentary have gained her historical importance among scholars and critics.
Austen lived her entire life as part of a close-knit family located on the lower fringes of the English landed gentry. She was educated primarily by her father and older brothers as well as through her own reading. The steadfast support of her family was critical to her development as a professional writer. Her artistic apprenticeship lasted from her teenage years into her thirties. During this period, she experimented with various literary forms, including the epistolary novel which she then abandoned, and wrote and extensively revised three major novels and began a fourth. From 1811 until 1816, with the release of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote two additional novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began a third, which was eventually titled Sanditon, but died before completing it.
Austen's works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century realism. Her plots, though fundamentally comic, highlight the dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and economic security. Her work brought her little personal fame and only a few positive reviews during her lifetime, but the publication in 1869 of her nephew's A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public, and by the 1940s she had become widely accepted in academia as a great English writer. The second half of the 20th century saw a proliferation of Austen scholarship and the emergence of a Janeite fan culture.
Reviews - What do customers think about Mansfield Park (Classic Fiction)?
Complex and Thought-Provoking Jan 27, 2008
Mansfield Park is the story of Fanny Price, who at ten years old is taken away from her indigent family to live with her rich cousins, the Bertrams of Mansfield Park. Both Fanny's uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, and her Aunt Norris, his sister-in-law, want the distinction of rank preserved between Fanny and her richer cousins. Consequently, Fanny suffers under the tyranny of her Aunt Norris and the neglect of most everyone else at Mansfield Park. The only real exception is her cousin Edmund, who, as Fanny grows older, becomes both friend and counselor to her. The monotony of Mansfield Park is upset when brother and sister, Henry and Mary Crawford, visit their sister at the parsonage of Mansfield. Henry Crawford toys with the affections of Fanny's cousins, Maria and Julia, while Mary Crawford earnestly seeks the affections of Edmund. Fanny quietly observes all.
Mansfield Park is a complex and sometimes disturbing novel, and its conclusion has a tendency to feel less than satisfactory. Jane Austen contrasts the very moral Fanny Price and her cousin Edmund Bertram with the very charming but amoral Mary Crawford and her brother Henry Crawford. While doing this, Jane Austen never actually tells her readers what to think about her characters. She presents their thoughts, words, and actions in an almost unbiased manner and leaves judgment up to the reader. The novel is definitely food for thought, and every time I read it, I find myself feeling differently about both it and its characters than I did the time before. I appreciate both the storyline and its thought-provoking complexity.
The Oxford Illustrated edition of Mansfield Park contains a copy of the play Lovers' Vows referred to in the novel, which is such a treat. After reading both the novel and the play, one cannot help but be struck by the parallels between the two. I recommend this edition to anyone curious about the controversial play in the novel.
Worth reading Sep 16, 2007
I love Jane Austen and would actually give this book 4 1/2 stars. It's a little slow in parts but like all of her characters, I loved getting to know Fanny Price. Fannie is a quiet girl who is sent to live with her wealthy uncle. She has a very kind heart and is very patient with her Aunt Norris who loves to "put her in her place". She is often reminding her that she is in a different class than her cousins that she is so fortunate to live with. It is wonderful to watch as Fannie grows into a young woman, how she learns to speak her mind and not allow others to manipulate her as they once did. It is definitely one of my very favorite books.
Not about imperialism or slavery Feb 6, 2007
Since Edward Said wrote his foolish piece on Mansfield Park it has become de rigeur to attach agendas that reflect the intramural (ie bogus) leftism of the academy to novels (sorry texts) Even so this effort to do so in Mansfield Park is particularly outlandish. In fact the question "What is Mansfield Park about" is less interesting than the question "what is it like to read Mansfield Park" To answer that question one has to explore the LANGUAGE of the novel and see where it leads. The plot of Mansfield Park is off-putting--the verbal architecture of the novel is unsurpassed. Trust me--delight in the language, the layers of irony in a sentence or scene. Ignore current opinion which is both intellectually lazy as well as dishonest. Jane Austen made her feelings clear about the slave trade in EMMA. That A "political" intereprative industry should have grown up about this book testifies to the reigning stupidities of English Studies-- well an English Professor has got to make a living.
Didacticism over Pleasure: A Rare Imbalance in Austen Aug 21, 2006
In MANSFIELD PARK, Jane Austen expands her sphere of moral vision. In her earlier novels, she focused on the relationships between marriage partners that were framed in a comedic context of how the typical English society of the late 18th century might complicate the likelihood of a series of happy marriages. In this novel, however, she abandons the world of light and trifling romantic comedy for one in which she shows the unpleasant underside of the genteel society that was so noticeably lacking in say, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. This dark underside includes a number of troubling aspects, all of which are antithetical to the world of light comedy.
First, Austen relentlessly considers the impact of the lack of moral values as a result of inadequate education of children. The patriarch of the Bertram family, Sir Thomas, dearly loves his four children but he has given them a profligate style of life without teaching them how to live that life without being corrupted by its debilitating disadvantage of conspicuous consumption. Second, for the first time in her writing career, Austen boldly places the theme of good versus evil squarely on the interaction of several of her characters. The virtuous Edmund, who is as priestly as the collar that he wears on his neck, is tempted by the lascivious charms of the amoral Mary, who sees in Edmund only a fleeting diversion. Further, Austen places London itself as a den of urban iniquity, the source of the theatrical evil that threatens the pastoral innocence of Mansfield Park. Third, she calls into question some basic paradoxes about the nature of character itself. Are peoples' characters fixed at birth or are they molded by environment? And when character is fixed, is it capable of change, and if so, by what, by whom, and to what extant? These latter questions come into play mostly in the person of Fanny, the outcast relative of the Bertram family who loves Edmund. She is presented as impossibly virtuous, but in the face of her open defiance to marry the rich Henry Crawford, she is labeled as an ingrate and worse. No one in that group perceives her virtue, but the readers certainly do. From where does this virtue spring? It cannot be genetic since several others of her family are woefully deficient in virtue. It cannot be solely the result of environment since, except for the equally virtuous Edmund, the others treat her as uniformly unwanted and unloved.
The answers to the above questions are raised, but only partially answered. Part of the problem in seeking answers to such eternal questions as love versus honor, duty versus obedience, and heredity versus environment in a novel is that this is a novel, and for Austen, a didactic one at that. Since she chooses to use a number of flat characters to represent allegorical archetypes of good and evil, their responses to their encounters cannot convey the full spectrum of thought that a more fully fleshed person might. Further the many plots--the love affair between Fanny and Edmund, the plots of the Bertram sisters, and the interweaving of the many strands of plot between the Bertram children--combine to cause the reader to zero in on these many threads rather than ponder their potentially more universal significances. What is lacking in MANSFIELD PARK is a pleasing balance and harmony among the many snipped strands of plot and theme which cry out for a splicing that does not occur even at the happy marriage of Edmund and Fanny. This imbalance, combined with Austen's atypical use of realism and pressing social concerns, and her lack of a truly engaging heroine along the lines of Elizabeth Bennett, make MANSFIELD PARK a dutiful slog rather than a joyous read.
not as crazy about it, but still good Jul 31, 2006
i'm not as in love with this story as i was about Pride and Prejudice, but it's still austen and it's still an excellent read.