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Posted by Laraine on September 19, 1997 at 13:47:25:
In response to A Theory of Mansfield Park, written by Ann on September 17, 1997 at 18:28:19
This is admirable, Ann. Thanks for sharing. There are a few specific areas I'd like to applaud and upon which I'd like to comment:
Thanks again for sharing, Ann!
- You said "It is hypocrisy, shallowness, and duplicity that Austen is dealing with in Mansfield Park." How very true about this book and about many of her works. While it's the main theme in MP and perhaps not the main theme of other works, it always operates. Austen is never ambivalent about these qualities. She abhors them and the characters who uphold them.
- Fanny is a worthy character who is misunderstood by the unworthy characters. She is not blind, and the unworthy characters are frequently blind. I believe this difference is important in the point you've made about her not being seen for what she is.
- You said, "Henry must be found out--his true character exposed to everyone or the book becomes nothing more than a romance novel." I'd take this farther and end the sentence at "nothing". The book is about marriage in an acquisitive society, as all of Austen's novels are, but without the downfall of Henry, the book has very little point to make. He and Mary are the characters who must be vanquished.
- I didn't ever like Henry; I always thought he was a goop. But I agree that Austen appeared to want us to wonder whether he and Fanny could make a go of it. My personal impression is that Austen had real trouble with "charming" people--she mistrusted them and, as least in her later works, wanted to show her readers the difficulties with charm. Frank Churchill and Mr. Elliot are characters in this same vein.
- For me, Frank Churchill is different from Henry in that while he flirts with Emma, he does so believing that her heart will not be touched. Henry flirts with everyone without caring whom he might hurt. Others must look out for themselves. As you say, Frank has more by way of scruples, but they are similar characters.
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