Posts tagged books read 2009

Mansfield Park

Book #1 of 2009 – Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen

I went into this book expecting not to care for it much.  I’d read half of it before for a college course, but I’d entered the class late and was behind on the reading, so I never finished it, and what I had read had all been done in a very overview kind of way.  All I really gleaned from it was how unhappy Fanny was as a child, and how selflessly she loved Edmund, who may or may not have deserved it.

Now that I’ve finished it “for real,” as it feels, I don’t know how much extra wisdom I can add, but since I’ve already made my case for Henry Crawford, I thought it only fair I let Edmund Bertram have his moment.

As much as I have a soft spot for him (thanks in large to Jonny Lee Miller) I found it hard to believe that the end of the book would convince me that Edmund really loved Fanny in the way she would have liked him to love her, when even through the penultimate chapter he is talking and sighing over the sparkling eyes of Mary Crawford, who he so fully loved, or at the very least believed himself to love.  Anything else could only be settling, right?

But I’m not so sure.  Once his eyes are opened to her true nature, he realizes that he’s been in love with something built out of his own imagination, not Miss Crawford herself, and as much as I was expecting to, I can’t fault him for that.  After all, Edmund has lived a fairly sheltered life, both thanks to his father’s severities and also thanks to his own nature.  His brother Tom, in comparison, who has lived a bit more loosely (to understate it), is never particularly struck with Mary.  Edmund, on the other hand, has very little experience with such worldly women, and he can’t help but be blindsided.  If we take Edmund at his word, and believe that he didn’t really love Mary Crawford as much as the Mary Crawford he imagined, it’s not too much of a stretch for him to then realize the woman who has always stood by him, counseled with him, and done her best to make him happy.

Still, I don’t know that if the Crawfords hadn’t come into their lives, if Edmund and Fanny ever would have found each other, romantically.  It took Mary to make Edmund want to love, and Henry’s attention to make Fanny believe that she could be loved.  If the Crawfords had never broken up the tranquility of Mansfield Park, it might never have changed.  Edmund and Fanny each in their own way are so good that they had to have been taken by force to move them to action, and ultimately to each other.

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