I have always considered Mansfield Park to be my least favorite Austen novel. This second read through hasn’t changed my opinion, that being said, in sticking with the theme of my other Austen reviews, this novel was definitely better on the second read through. The main impression I had left from my first time I read it more than three years ago was that I didn’t like Fanny Price because she didn’t have a backbone. I don’t know if it’s because I was able to form my own opinion this time instead of having to listen to my wacky professors, or if it’s because I have a different perspective now than I did then, but this time I was able to understand Fanny Better.
Fanny will, I think, remain my least favorite Austen Heroine, but now I can at least appreciate her for the tough little cookie that she is. The first time I read her story I could only think how much better things would have turned out and how much faster everything would have been resolved if Fanny would have just stood up for herself and told everyone else what idiots they were being. I stand by that opinion, but I can also now see that Fanny stood her ground as firmly as her incredibly timid personality would let her. In the matters of most importance, where she felt herself to be truly acting rightly, and within the bounds of her social status, Fanny really did stand up for herself, even when facing great displeasure from those who she basically owed her world to. I’ve spent a lot of time arguing with people about the Cinderella fairy tale and how, yes, Cinderella gets everything without technically working for it etc. but the point of the story is that she gets what she deserves because she is a truly good person at heart who does everything right even under incredibly difficult circumstances. Mansfield Park and Fanny Price are a lot like Cinderella in my opinion, Fanny never really does anything to reach her happy ending, but, in the end, she gets what she deserves because she is a morally upright and good person who does everything right, even when it’s hard.
With Fanny being my least favorite heroine it stands to reason that her love intereste, Edmund, would also rank as my least favorite hero. I actually like him considerably less than Fanny and, if I’m being perfectly honest, I would say that I don’t think Edmund deserved Fanny. Mansfield Park is the only Austen novel so far that has made me question whether I really want the hero and heroine to end up together. I didn’t remember the ending to well from last time, though I had some vague notions. Those vague notions of things that were coming were the only things that kept me from thinking that Fanny would be better off with her other suitor. Yes, Mr. Crawford does eventually prove himself to be entirely unworthy of her and she ends up with Edmund as we all knew she would. But really. For a guy who is respected for his moral nature and excellent understanding Edmund certainly seems to spend most of this novel completely blind to how wrong he is and how foolish he’s been acting. Right up until the last couple of chapters. Not to mention that for someone who considers himself so close to Fanny, and who is supposed to understand and value her more than anyone else, he certainly misunderstands, misinterprets, or straight up disregards her feelings, judgements, and opinions a whole heck of a lot. Because this is an Austen romance we all know that they live happily ever after, but, if it had been left up to Edmund they would have all whiled away their lives in misery.
After all that smack talk I do have to say that I really did enjoy this novel, that just because Fanny and Edmund are my least favorite Austen couple doesn’t mean I don’t still love them as characters. I even like Edmund, and I’m glad that everything worked out for him as it should in the end. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still like to give him a good slap upside the head though.
Even as my least favorite Austen novel (assuming Sense and Sensibility doesn’t completely disappoint) Mansfield Park would still land really high up there in my list of recommended books to read. I know I’m biased, but anything Austen is worth it because even when you don’t necessarily love her characters as people it’s impossible not to love them as works of literary art. 5/5 stars, of course.