Mansfield Park was a book with baggage. Lots of bad baggage. I originally read the book after seeing the 1999 film with Johnny Lee Miller that I absolutely adored. Honestly, I can’t tell you how many times I watched that movie. Video Warehouse probably hated me with how torn and damaged their VHS copy was by the time I graduated and moved away. This was all before my Jane Austen obsession.
Even though I wasn’t quite the book fangirl I am now, I still wanted to read the source material. But Mansfield Park just wasn’t a book I should have attempted in high school. Obviously, I hated it and chucked it into a dusty corner to be forgotten. Until now!!!
Fourteen years have gone by and man, what fourteen years can do. I loved Mansfield Park this time around despite all of the anxiety and apprehension I felt going in. I’m also well aware that the 1999 film only borrowed bits and pieces from the novel and is in no way an adequate representation of Austen’s original story. And, for me, that’s okay. I still love the movie for what it is. Although I was a bit shocked at how sexualized everything was in the film…not that I should have been. Edmund is also far more appealing in the movie.
I read Mansfield Park over the course of four weeks. Slowly, but surely, I made my way through Austen’s most serious novel and mostly adored every word. I liked Fanny – her moral compass, although rigid, was respectable because she truly believed in her morality in the face of so many detractors. She fiercely defended her beliefs and didn’t back down for anyone. That’s far more than we can say about Edmund and his fickle morality in the face of Mary Crawford.
Sir Bertram is another father figure I’ve come to love (I know that Sir Bertram isn’t always the kind of character one can praise – specifically when you consider whether or not he was involved in the slave trade). Jane Austen can write some excellent fathers. Aunt Norris is a despicable bit of comic relief. I loved that Aunt Norris dotes on Maria while trashing Fanny which only manages to ruin Maria in the end.
As for Fanny and Edmund’s ending, holy rushed romance, Batman! Jeez. Edmund essentially just decides to be in love with Fanny and marry her in about two sentences. To me, this romance is underdeveloped and swept under the rug which tells me Austen’s point wasn’t to get Fanny a hero, but rather to let her be her own hero. I like that. I like Mansfield Park. For the moment, however fleeting, it shall stand as my favorite Austen. Until my next reread…