I have a serious pet peeve with classics. Well, it’s not really a pet peeve – it’s a huge annoyance that almost ruins the books completely. I’m of course talking about how classics tend to come with introductions. And I don’t mind introductions per se. What I do mind, is when introductions spoils the book. In my edition of this book, the ending is told on the first page of the introduction. First line that talks directly about the book and it’s main character Fanny Price, tells us how it ends. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the ending is further spoiled in the notes to the text. One note not only reveals the ending but even adds details to how that ending is accomplished – and since Jane Austen doesn’t always write the most elaborate endings, this note almost writes as much as she does herself.
All this of course is part of the ongoing discussion about whether a book can be spoiled when it’s 200 years since it was published. And the answer is of course that it can. Now, I’m all for that people should be allowed to discuss these books and I think it’s wonderful when classics come with introductions written by scholars. I just think these introductions should be put at the end of the book – or at least come with a warning about how they are going to talk about specific plot points and that you might want to wait and not read it until you have finished reading the novel itself.
So with all that in mind, I’ll try to explain what this novel is about without spoiling it!
10 years old Fanny Price is taken in by her wealthy aunt and uncle, mister Thomas, and allowed to come live at Mansfield Park along with her cousins, two boys and two girls. From the start It is made clear that Fanny is lucky to have been allowed to live there and that she in no way should feel herself equal to her cousins even though she is raised together with the two girls. And she doesn’t. Fanny is a quiet type, an introvert. She is quite content with being allowed to just live there, helping out anyway she can and otherwise just leading a quiet life, trying not to draw any attention to herself.
But as she grows older, things start to change. A sister and a brother, the Crawfords, moves in and start socializing with the young people at Mansfield Park. The brother is something of a womanizer and quickly manages to get the sisters fighting over him. His sister flirts with the eldest brother, the heir to Mansfield Park who is something of a charlatan. When the master of Mansfield Park goes away on business, he takes his eldest son with him to try to install some sense in him, This leaves his youngest son Edmund and even though miss Crawford has claimed only to be interested in an heir, she still falls in love with Edmund – and he with her.
Which leaves Fanny in a sad position since she has been in love with Edmund for years.
Of course there’s also a rather nasty other aunt who is constantly putting Fanny down as well as putting herself forward as the one making sure everything is in order and that everything is proper. And this being Austen, there’s ill-considered marriages, elopements and just well-written goodness, sarcasm and humor.
This is only a small outline of what the novel is about because of course, since this is Jane Austen, there’s so much more to the plot. This is not just a love story or a tale of unrequited love. This is Austen, baby, and she always has something to say. Something more. Her pen is always sharp and spot on. In this novel, she discusses good and bad marriages, and how to accomplish them – and how not. She talks about the whole issue with having to secure the younger brother a position and an income. Jane Austen knows her time and she shows it to us so we knows it too. Even in one of her not quite as good novels.
So yeah, Mansfield Park, not her best novel, but you know what – I really like Jane Austen no matter what and she’s always recommended!
- Title: Mansfield Park
- Author: Jane Austen
- Publisher: The Penguin English Library
- Year: 1973 (original 1814)
- Pages: 462 pages
- Source: Own collection
- Stars: 3 stars out of 5