You know, I wasn’t expecting much out of this book. I have heard SO MANY TIMES that this is the most boring of Jane Austen’s novels, and that Fanny Price is too… I don’t know, too prim, too perfect, too nauseatingly virtuous to be exciting enough to read about.
And well, given that today’s society isn’t particularly obsessed with virtue, I can see why Fanny Price would produce such controversy.
You know what I think? Fanny Price is a strong woman. She’s quiet, she’s sweet, she doesn’t want to bother anyone, she’s always worried about other people’s feelings instead of trying to take care of herself. When she’s in love, she doesn’t say a word, because it wasn’t proper. She endeavors to be happy in her circumstances. And that is SO not what the modern feminists tell us a strong woman looks like.
And I don’t think that makes her weak! She’s so full of integrity that I just can’t help but love her. It takes so much stretching of soul to do what Fanny does in this book, even if people are pretty sure she never DOES anything throughout the novel. I’d say Fanny does a LOT, but it’s hidden inside her mind and soul.
I was surprised to find myself identifying with Fanny despite the fact that I do sometimes get a little bubbly in social settings… something that really just isn’t in Fanny’s nature. Fanny is just like the quiet inner self that I don’t share with people, though. I identified with Fanny’s extreme discomfort in social situations, and not wanting to marry the “it” guy because I didn’t actually think (based on observation) that he was firmly attached to principles of any sort, and not wanting to profess love to someone because it wasn’t proper. She also reminded me of my sister in her self-effacing ways.
One thing I read on Wikipedia this morning is that Austen could have titled this book Conscience and Consciousness because really the novel is about the contrast between how Fanny and Edward always try to follow their conscience, and many others such as the Crawfords are far more conscious and worried about their public image than what is actually right and wrong.
So really, I adore Fanny. I’m only a little bit like her, but enough that I understand her. And I think I understand why she isn’t well liked today, although I suppose that means a novel about me probably wouldn’t be well-liked in today’s world… Oh well. I can deal with that. And you know what? I like Mansfield Park at least as much as I like Pride and Prejudice. I know, blasphemy.
But I think the contrast between conscience and consciousness is just too missing in today’s world, that maybe more people should read Fanny’s story, even if they think she’s too perfect: even reading about “too perfect” people is instructive in how to live, even if we’re perfectly well aware we’ll never achieve that perfection ourselves. You need to be able to shoot for something above you if you’re going to rise above yourself.
Now… to find a film adaptation that hasn’t completely rewritten Fanny’s character to make her more relateable to modern audiences… Is that even a thing? Hmmm.