7.31.2009

#31. Mansfield Park

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"I do not quite know what to make of Miss Fanny. I do not understand her. I could not tell what she would be at yesterday. What is her character?--Is she solemn?--Is she queer?--Is she prudish? Why did she draw back and look so grave at me? I could hardly get her to speak. I never was so long in company with a girl in my life--trying to entertain her--and succeed so ill! Never met with a girl who looked so grave on me! I must try to get the better of this. Her looks say, 'I will not like you, I am determined not to like you,' and I say, she shall."

Author: Jane Austen

Synopsis: The shy and sensitive eldest daughter of ne'er-do-well parents is sent to her wealthy aunt and uncle to be brought up a gentlewoman. She is kept below her cousins and shamed by her aunt Norris, but when scandal occurs, her steadfastness and love for her cousin Edmund prove the most stable forces in the family.

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This book of Austen's gets a lot of complaints because it is darkly moral, because the protagonist has little to say for herself, and because the machinations working against the desired happy ending come off as too successful. Members of our society are just as likely to sympathize with the womanizing Henry and his mocking, unprincipled sister Mary as Edmund or Fanny.

Not me. I find it a joy to read a novel in which the primary characters are decent moral human beings, ultimately able to sacrifice their own self-interests for the sake of something considered objectively right. It's like drinking clean water, breathing fresh air.

I also find it easy to empathize with a character fond of books and nature and family but not fond of talking.

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