A young Fanny Price, taken out of her family's poverty to live with her mother's wealthy, yet morally frail relatives at their Mansfield Park estate, proves that real worth goes beyond the tally of any bank account and, in so doing, finds true love at last. Fanny Price is the eldest daughter of the nine Price children. Her father, a retired naval officer, makes barely enough from his pension to support his wife and children. Fanny's mother has two sisters, though. One of these aunts married a wealthy aristocrat, Sir Thomas Bertram, and resides in comfort at the country estate of Mansfield Park. Feeling a sense of obligation to help out their less fortunate sister, the two aunts decide to foster Fanny at Mansfield, to lessen the financial load on Fanny's parents.
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Fanny is stunned by Mansfield Park, by its beautiful, well-manicured lawns and sprawling woods. Her cousins, though – Tom, Edmund, Maria, and Julia – are another story. The girls are insufferably spoiled and shallow, and Tom, even in his teens, is beginning to display the drinking and gambling problem that will ultimately come close to killing him. Only Edmund, who has plans to be a priest, even seems to care that Fanny is there. Even Fanny's aunts treat her like a presumptuous visitor who refuses to leave, never mind that it was their idea to bring her there in the first place. Edmund is kind and solicitous, aware of Fanny's treatment and wanting to provide a better example. It is here that Fanny begins to nurture her secret feelings of love for her gentle cousin.
As she grows into young adulthood, Fanny's treatment scarcely changes. She is continually treated as less than the rest – something between a prisoner, a servant, and an unfortunately unavoidable member of the family's lesser branch (which is, in a way, precisely what she is). Nobody but Edmund, and then only in a platonic sense, seems to recognize her moral resilience and value.
It's around this time that Sir Thomas takes Tom for an extended trip to his plantation in Antigua, intending to cure his eldest son and heir's dissolution with a little dose of hard work and responsibility. This also coincides with the arrival of Henry and Mary Crawford, a pair of wealthy, attractive, and charming aristocratic siblings, new to the Mansfield area. They are an immediate sensation. Fanny's female cousins, Julia and Maria, become obsessed with Henry. And Mary Crawford sets her sights on Edmund, much to Fanny's horror.
But the Crawford siblings are more than a little callous and vaguely sociopathic. They are simply playing games with the Bertram children. After Maria is reluctantly compelled by her debt-ridden father to marry a rich but stupid older man, Henry turns his manipulative attentions to Fanny, who is still focused entirely on Edmund. Unfortunately for Henry, though, what begins as a game becomes all too real, as he actually falls in love with the non-receptive Fanny and proposes to her. She rejects his proposal, which shocks and appalls her aunts and Sir Thomas, who believe she could never do any better.
Before Fanny can change her mind, though, Henry has an affair with the now-married Maria, causing a scandal that rocks England. The two of them run away, and Sir Thomas realizes that Fanny was right to reject Henry. Fanny is finally recognized as the virtuous and dutiful daughter Sir Thomas always wanted. Meanwhile, Edmund's infatuation with Mary takes a turn as her callous nature becomes clearer and clearer. He breaks it off at last and suddenly sees Fanny in the same light that she has seen him all along. The novel ends with Fanny embraced by the Mansfield Park family and happily married to Edmund.
Best part of story, including ending:
It's not my favorite Austen book, but it's still a great read. While Fanny's morality can feel a little heavy-handed at times, Austen still makes you empathize completely with how under siege she feels with her Mansfield relatives.
Best scene in story:
The scene where Fanny returns to her parent's home after years at Mansfield Park is brilliantly done. She wants to believe herself above petty creature comforts and the vain superficiality that dominates her cousins' lives (especially her female cousins), but the filth and dilapidation of her hometown appalls her, and this awareness unsettles her even more.
Opinion about the main character:
Again, Fanny can feel a little too perfectly pious at times, which is extremely obnoxious (as well as artificial....since nobody is that good), but overall her keen sense of observation makes her a warm and intelligent narrator.
Fanny Price, a poor and unloved cousin living with wealthy relatives, sets relationships straight through her passive devotion to honor and duty. A controversial figure among Austen afficianados, but demonstrably one of the greatest.
The review of this Book prepared by BobbieG