- Mansfield Park was written after a silence of more than a decade. During this period, Austen moved several times, saw the deaths of her father and a potential suitor, and became the dependent old maid we find so often among her more pitiable characters. The Napoleonic Wars continued; England embarked on imperialistic adventures. Austen followed both with interest. Do you see evidence of these things in the novel?
- At the heart of its plot, Mansfield Park has three sisters. What kind of family life do you imagine would account for Mrs. Bertram and Mrs. Norris and Mrs. Price? Find something good to say about Mrs. Norris.
- Fanny is an Austen heroine who, throughout the course of the book, has nothing to learn. In this she stands in sharp contrast to Emma Woodhouse. Do you like Fanny as well as you like Emma? Less? More?
- In one of the book’s most famous scenes, Fanny sits wilted in the heat at the Rushworth’s estate, while the other characters come and go around her. Discuss the ways this epitomizes the entire plot of the book.
- The various roles played in The Lover’s Vows often result in Austen characters who are, under the cover of the play, allowed to act in ways more congruent with their real natures than polite society permits. They perform themselves.Meanwhile, William H. Galperin suggests that, when Fanny Price insists she cannot act, she is actually demonstrating her “inability to know one is always acting.” Galperin speaks of “a fundamental duplicity in which one literally performs one’s inability to act.”
Think about this until your head explodes.
- Plato has suggested that one cannot be both a good actor and a good citizen. What do you imagine he meant? Discuss the relevance of this to Mansfield Park.
- In most books, the villains are identifiable through their mistreatment of the hero/heroine. In Mansfield Park, the Crawfords are among the tiny handful of people who see the value of Fanny Price. Are they ever unkind to her?Why is Fanny so little moved by their interest and esteem?
In your opinion, is any of this esteem genuine?
- The Crawfords are superficially the most attractive characters in the book. Where do their virtues become vices? Answer the same question with regard to Fanny and Edmund.
- Kingsley Amis said, “Edmund and Fanny are both morally detestable and the endorsement of their feelings and behavior by the author . . . makes Mansfield Park an immoral book.” Do you agree? Is there any difference in your mind between Austen herself and the book’s narrator?
- Earlier Austen novels suggest a society in positive transformation; earlier heroines struggle towards the possibility of improvement. In contrast, Mansfield Park is about a society threatened with transformation. Fanny Price makes no positive movement. She protects Mansfield Park by her resistance, by her refusal to change. In the end, the society represented by the estate of Mansfield Park will not and cannot be saved? What in that society seemed valuable to you? Is there anything to regret about its loss?
So, I’ve had this dream for a while: to have a group of readers called “C.S. Lewis and Friends.” Actually, it’s not really just my dream. It is a brain-child of a group of friends of mine discussed several years ago. The primary draw at that time was the t-shirts we planned to make and wear, but I digress (The book club we never had but desperately love).
I’ve really wanted to have something like a book club relating to C.S. Lewis books and other like-minded or not so like-minded authors. However, it is next to impossible to gather a group of people together at the same time for multiple weeks to read one book, let alone an infinite number of books. So, like a bolt from heaven, a thought came into my mind: Why not a Book Review blog?
Not such a unique concept, by itself, but hang on for the kicker. I can’t read all these books myself, and many times, when I finish a book my only response is, “Wow, that sucked.” or “Wow, that was great!” I’m sure that could get boring real quick. So, my idea is to use your brains a bit by inviting you to write on a blog YOUR thoughts after you’ve read such and such a book. I know…I’m obsessed with the blogging thing, but I’m pretty jazzed about this idea.
The one question that came into my mind was, “What if I don’t agree with what someone is saying?” Well…that’s why they’re called opinions and I really don’t care what someone says (vulgarity excepted) so long as a discussion can be started. The great thing about WordPress is that you can have multiple authors on one blog. (I’ve never seen this on a blog-site before…but then again, my experience with platforms is limited.)
So, what do you say? I know I’ve got some super-smart people out there who like to read. I know that I’ve got some not-so-smart (wink) friends who have had some very smart responses to books and would willingly enter discussions on them. Let me know if this is something you may be interested in. If you are, AWESOME! I will jump for joy and get right on setting it up. If you aren’t, I will scrap the whole idea and be thrown into the depths of despair for years to come. If enough are, I’m sure that one or some of my particularly artsy people would be able to come up with a super-cool banner for the blog (and, yes, maybe even a t-shirt!)
God bless ya!