Jane Austen – Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park (1814) forms a change from Jane Austen‘s first two novels Sense And Sensibility and Pride And Prejudice. Of course it is still a “contemporary” romantic novel, the contemporary element being only recognizable by the social structures and behaviors in which the romance takes place. Characterwise and in the development of the plot and the situations the plot can be transferred to almost any time and place, which is, I think, one of the major reasons why these novels have such great popularity, at least among female readers, even today.

What is a great change in this novel are two things. The first, and most important one, is the main protagonist. As always it is a female one, but gone is the strongheaded, free-speaking and rather liberal-minded one. Austen this time took the challenge to center the story around a demure, passive, overly sensitive and very timid young woman who prefers not to speak and stay on the background.

The second change is the style. The first two novels had and extend of comedy to them. Austen created plenty of amusing situations where the males and females in the story got caught up in what one could say were minor conspiracies from different sides which led to misunderstandings and unexpected consequences.

The latter is not completely gone in Mansfield Park. The difference however is that the situations are not happy ones. Mansfield Park has more drama in the tragic sense. There is no happy undertone when something does not go right. One feels it can only get worse and the characters are not as friendly between each other.

Overall thus this novel had quite a different atmosphere. Austen’s strengthens this effect by keeping a lower pace and spending more time evaluation the thoughts and events of her characters, which as said have a more negative tendency.

When the novel was nearing the end I was almost expecting some very different ending as the unwinding of events were heading for a perhaps bad ending. Austen did not let it go that far. Later than in here previous novels she threw in a major twist near the end. It was not coming out of nothing but I had not expected it to happen. Austen had followed a different course, and perhaps she would handle this story differently. Of course reader satisfaction in those days was of greater importance so I did expect she would provide some positive turn, although I did not foresee she would shake things up so much.

Mansfield Park shows Austen’s progression as an author and her writing skills. It was not not as entertaining as Pride And Prejudice but it did show more of different parts of the society of that days than the previous two novels, which I consider to be rather positive as the whole romance developments are of less interest to me, being a male reader. I look for other things in the novel to enjoy myself. Although the main protagonist is weak Austen manages to develop her more strongly than any of her previous characters and provides great insights in her thoughts and behavior.

Personally I enjoyed Pride And Prejudice more, for as far as I’ve read Austen’s novels, but Mansfield Park holds more literary quality, although the plotting and the romantic developments keep it on a more moderate level.

 

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