Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mansfield Park: not so much with the liking

So, after reading a bunch of manga and lighter novels recently I was in the mood for something a little more antiquated, and decided to tackle Mansfield Park. I’d told myself at the beginning of the year that by the end of 2009 I would have finally read all six Austen novels, and I happened to have this one lying around in my room, so there you go. Now the only ones left are Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Yay me.

It’s funny, but whereas most people I encounter tend to either love or hate Jane Austen’s novels across the board I myself have a pretty evenly split opinion of them thus far; I’ve read two that I really liked (Emma and Pride & Prejudice) and two that I really didn’t (Sense & Sensibility and, now, Mansfield Park). It’s not that I downright hated this book (or S&S for that matter), but it just left me decidedly underwhelmed. In comparison with some of her other works, I found the characterization in Mansfield Park to be artificial and unbelievable. And at the end of the day an Austen novel is pretty much all about the characters.

As I was reading the book, I kept thinking of this one line from the film “The Jane Austen Book Club”. It’s the part where Allegra says to the others, “Aw, I hate Fanny Price, she’s such a goody-goody,” and I gotta say I totally see her point. Fanny is sweetness and goodness and incorruptibility personified, but she’s also dull as a doormat. Shy and soft-spoken, pure and virtuous, meek and humble and … not at all like a real, solid person of flesh and blood. (Does that make any sense at all? I think I’m having a little trouble articulating my meaning.) I wouldn’t even mind her quiet meekness so much if she only had the tiniest spark of something going on underneath the surface to make her the least bit interesting to readers. But, sadly, such is not the case. Now, I don’t mean to belittle Fanny’s virtues, which are considerable. If Fanny Price were a real person (which would not be remotely possible) I’d hardly be able to criticize her. In fact, she’d be so high above reproach she’d already be in Heaven. But as a fictional character, and the heroine of a novel, she is sadly lacking.

I guess I just like characters that are a little off beat, that have some quirks. With Fanny, it’s not just that she’s off beat; she doesn’t even have a rhythm. But just for the record, I don’t dislike her (as a heroine) because she’s shy. Jane Eyre was shy and diffident and reclusive, but underneath that exterior she was passionate, and she knew her own worth and when to assert it. Fanny, on the other hand, seems to have true self-esteem issues, which Austen moulds into a model of feminine virtue. If only Fanny would just once stand up for herself to her aunt or to Mary Crawford, or even to Edmund when she knows he’s making a terrible mistake! Would that really be too selfish of her? Would it diminish her goodness in any way? Apparently so, for she’d rather sit back until the very end rather than come forward and speak for herself, ready to sacrifice her happiness and Edmund’s as well. In the end, a change in circumstance, rather than her own initiative, results in her happy ending. I suppose we’re meant to understand that she’s been rewarded for her patience and silent suffering, but I say she just got lucky.

I was not particularly enthused about our romantic hero in this book either. For all that the narrator keeps reminding us how admirable and decent Edmund is, I rarely saw it reflected in his actions. He seemed to me to be pretty dense, self-absorbed, self-deluding, and (occasionally) hypocritical. Until the last three pages of the novel, of course, when he the clouds are lifted from his eyes and he sees the error of his ways, all thanks to a last-minute turn of events. Yeah, I was not impressed.

I’m glad I didn’t read Mansfield Park first out of Austen’s novels because it seriously might have turned me off the rest. Fortunately I know that she’s equally capable of turning out well-rounded, interesting characters as well. In spite of everything, I didn’t completely hate reading MP. I still really enjoy the language of it, and I appreciate Austen’s skillful mode of expression, even when what she’s expressing isn’t especially to my taste. I just hope that next time around I like the actual story and characters a little better.

1 comment:

  1. What a very nice thought you have here. I myself have wonderful memories of InuYasha last year (2010) . . .and the first English dubbed episode I watched was episode 5 . . I told myself that if I I watched a single episode. ...I knew my curiosity wouldn't stop /.. so I turned off the television. .but then the weekends drop by and the anime was replayed from episode 5 until episode 9 . . . .and immediately, the story or anime catched my attention . . .it was a very interesting anime . I was following it . .and we both know that on the first season of InuYasha . . the bond between the protagonists are not as much strong as they are in the end. . .and then I recalled . the first episode I watched in Filipino dubbed on my childhood days . . .it was episode 140 . and back then. ..I wondered why a lot this so called anime InuYasha is very popular and has a strong sense to the youth . . . watching that episode didn't gave me any hints about my question . . .until I continuously watched the episodes until season 2 (where InuYasha and Kagome's bond had started . . (episode 48) .. ) I became addicted not just on the anime itself created by Ms. Rumiko and VizMedia . ... . I also became addicted to the managa. .when I told reached somewhere on season 3 where there are so many fillers . I decided to read the managa FROM the beginning . .it was a hard task .I had to read it almost 24/7 just to finish reading the online graphic novels . .my computer's not that fast in downloading stuff . so I had to wait for minutes . .sometimes. the page won't even appear and it pisses me off . instead of reading the correct story line .I managed to read from page 6 . .to page 5 . so sometimes. it's confusing . .but to tell you . ..I completely agree that the manga is way better than the anime. . .for me, it's because it's the original story-telling of the author . .sure Ms. Rumiko was one of the staff in creating the anime but still. . .her individual works are at its best already just on a piece of paper . ..and then .. I read the entire manga online for 6-7 days . non-stop . ..and then . throughout every chapter .I analyzed the story . . I analyzed each characters and compared their behaviours against the anime . .Kikyo's behavior in the manga were less bitchy than in the anime . . she was tored apart in the anime . (episode 47 . with the knife (that was not in the managa . and there were more sweet talks in the manga than in the anime between her and InuYasha . . )) . . .after reading the manga . I finished the anime . .even the Final act. ..I can't wait to watch it in American dubbed . I managed to watch only a few episodes of the English dubbed anime of the Final Act you see. .just like you say . it's the memories that kept me coming back to this obsession. (even if only a year has just passed getting to know the InuYasha companion)


    A very nice blog I must say . thanks for posting it .