Book Review: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (Five Stars)


Book Review: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

(Five Stars)

“There certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to deserve them.”

Austen at her best. Gone is the self-assured heroine of earlier novels who sweeps all before her; enter the humble waif who must learn the ways of the world and society on the fly. Fanny’s internal dialogue sets Mansfield Park apart from Austen’s earlier works. It’s still Austen, but it grips the soul of the reader.

“Her consciousness of misery was therefore increased by the idea of its being a wicked thing for her not to be happy. Fanny’s relief, and her consciousness of it, were quite equal to her cousins’; but a more tender nature suggested that her feelings were ungrateful, and she really grieved because she could not grieve. Her cousins, on seeing her red eyes, set her down as a hypocrite.”

The reader gains a more mature critique on the corner of society which Austen inhabited. Yes, her experience was limited, but she was a good observer and describer of those around her. She still delivers great expanses of dialogue, but it rings true.

“One scarcely sees a clergyman out of his pulpit.” “You are speaking of London, I am speaking of the nation at large.” “The metropolis, I imagine is a pretty fair sample of the rest.” “Not, I should hope, of the proportion of virtue to vice throughout the kingdom. We do not look in great cities for our best morality.”

More is made of the faults of early nineteenth century England, and London in particular. Austen is socially conservative and loudly condemns the unruly trends of her day. This story gives greater insight into Austin’s views on the exercise of religion, though she still refrains from issues of faith.

“If he does not live among his parishioners, and prove himself, by constant attention, the well-wisher and friend, he does very little either for their good or his own.”

Austen shifts to first person, as the author, in the last chapter, which is essentially an afterword.

“We are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another.”