Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Review: Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park (Everyman's Library (Cloth))
Jane Austen
Everyman's Library (1992), Hardcover, 528 pages
Mansfield Park (The Complete Classics)
by Jane Austen
Naxos Audiobooks (2007), Edition: Unabridged, Audio CD, 14 pages

Par délicatesse J’ai perdu ma vie (from Chanson de la plus haute tour by Arthur Rimbaud)

Two becomes one; and after, two becomes three.
Jane Austen’s first book, Sense and Sensibility tells the story of two sisters with different feelings about how to become woman. The contrast of personality between Elinor and Marianne is the contrast between sense and sensibility as well.
The following book Pride and Prejudice, although the title was chosen by the publisher, shows another contrast between two kind of judgments: pride and prejudice.
In the next novel, Mansfield Park with Fanny Price as main character, Jane Austen elects only one character, who with her sensitivity (délicatesse) contains all the roughness of feelings read in the previous books.
Mansfield Park has also a bound with the number three. Jane Austen writes a book in three volumes, she wants to write a comedy in three acts. The novel also tells how the party at Mansfield Park try to arrange a comedy (although there is only the rehearsals).
The number three is the structure of Mansfield Park because we find in it how the desire of someone or something is never direct, but always follows an indirect path.

Fanny wants to be desired by the others of the party when she is retreat in her rooms: ‘She alone was sad and insignificant; she had no share in any thing; she might go or stay, she might be in the midst of their noise, or retreat from it to the solitude of the east room, without being seen or missed!’ (p. 162) In the novel The Eternal Husband Dostoevsky wrote about the same idea: ‘might go or stay ... without being seen or missed.’ Fanny (number one) and the party (number two): they need the absence of Fanny (number three) so the party knows about Fanny.

The choice of Maria to marry Rushworth is, as always, an indirect choice (the third path). ‘Henry Crawford had destroyed her (Maria’s) happiness, but he should not know that he had done it; he should not destroy her credit, her appearance, her prosperity too. He should not have to think of her as pining in the retirement of Mansfield for him ...’ (p. 206) The third choice means resentment: Maria marries Rushworth only because Henry leaves her.

Mimetic desire needs jealousy and a third person. Mary talking to Fanny: ‘There is a daughter of Mr.Fraser by a first wife, whom she is wild to get married and wants Henry to take.’ (p. 371) Mary thinks that Fanny could desire to marry Henry only because another woman wants to marry him.

Fanny marries Edmund at the end. But it’s really happened? Austen suggests that happened ‘exactly at the time when it was quite natural that it should be so.’ p. (484)

Jane Austen with Mansfield Park tells about a world never narrated before. Apart from some sporadic descriptions of servants, Austen this time widens her view telling about poor people. Fanny unfortunately has to know her parents, and Austen takes the time to describe this world where they live.
The first encounter: William, Fanny’s brother, introduces their father to her: ‘But here is my sister, Sir, here is Fanny; turning and leading her forward’; - ‘it is so dark you do not see her.’ (p. 391) The dark room is not only lack of candles, Austen in a few words tells parental feelings, past story of a family, suffocating world, etc.
‘There was neither health nor gaiety in sun-shine in a town. She (Fanny) sat in a blaze of oppressive heat, in a cloud of moving dust; and her eyes could only wander from the walls marked by her father’s head, to the table cut and knotched by her brothers, where stood the tea-board never thoroughly cleaned, the cups and saucers wiped in streaks, ...’ (p. 452)

‘Here`s harmony! - said she (Fanny) - Here’s repose! There’s what may leave all painting and all music behind, and what poetry only can attempt to describe. Here`s what may tranquillize every care, and lift the heart to rapture! When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world; and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity of Nature were more attended to, and people were carried more out of themselves by contemplating such a scene.’ (p. 116)

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