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Old 08-15-2012, 09:18 AM   #6
fantasyfan
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I'm getting a good deal more out of Mansfield Park this time around than in my previous reading. Since one's attitude to Fanny is so important in this novel, I think that those first couple chapters in which we see the child Fanny are crucial. So I would like to share a few thoughts about them--they are, of course, only opinions.

Fanny is clearly viewed with contempt by the sisters, Julia and Maria:

' “But, aunt, she is really so very ignorant! *Do you know, we asked her last night which way she would go to get to Ireland; and she said, she should cross to the Isle of Wight. She thinks of nothing but the Isle of Wight, and she calls it the Island, as if there were no other island in the world. I am sure I should have been ashamed of myself, if I had not known better long before I was so old as she is. I cannot remember the time when I did not know a great deal that she has not the least notion of yet. How long ago it is, aunt, since we used to repeat the chronological order of the kings of England, with the dates of their accession, and most of the principal events of their reigns!”

' “Yes,” added the other; “and of the Roman emperors as low as Severus; besides a great deal of the heathen mythology, and all the metals, semi-metals, planets, and distinguished philosophers.”

' “Very true indeed, my dears, but you are blessed with wonderful memories, and your poor cousin has probably none at all. There is a vast deal of difference in memories, as well as in everything else, and therefore you must make allowance for your cousin, and pity her deficiency. And remember that, if you are ever so forward and clever yourselves, you should always be modest; for, much as you know already, there is a great deal more for you to learn.” '

But she is sweet-tempered enough to be given a grudging acceptance:

'To her cousins she became occasionally an acceptable companion. Though unworthy, from inferiority of age and strength, to be their constant associate, their pleasures and schemes were sometimes of a nature to make a third very useful, especially when that third was of an obliging, yielding temper; and they could not but own, when their aunt inquired into her faults, or their brother Edmund urged her claims to their kindness, that “Fanny was good-natured enough.” '

However, despite the attainments of the Bertram sisters, Austen makes a very important observation about them:

" . . .it is not very wonderful that, with all their promising talents and early information, they should be entirely deficient in the less common acquirements of self-knowledge, generosity and humility. In everything but disposition they were admirably taught."

Thus, I believe that Jane Austen is preparing the reader to meet, in Fanny, a very different sort of character than Elizabeth Bennett. A character who has a lot less sparkle and wit but who knows more of suffering and may well be more complex and have a greater depth than the heroine of Pride and Prejudice.

Last edited by fantasyfan; 08-15-2012 at 09:45 AM.
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