Fanny Price comes to Mansfield Park
"What if they were among them to undertake the care of her eldest daughter...?"
Mansfield Park ch. 1
When I finally finished binge reading all six of Jane Austen's major novels, Mansfield Park was hands down my least favorite. I struggled to even finish the book - twice. As for Fanny Price, I found her the least interesting of Jane Austen's heroines.
As it turns out, I was in good company. According to a survey of Janeites done by Jeanne Kiefer (1), only 4% of respondents picked Mansfield Park when asked about their favorite Jane Austen novel. When asked about a favorite heroine, Janeites were also not very kind to Fanny Price. Only 4% picked Fanny, although she did edge out Catherine Morland (3%) and Marianne Dashwood (1%). The correlation between novel and heroine favorability is not surprising as Jane Austen's heroines tend to dominate the novels.
This was the state of things in 2014 when JASNA CWNY (then JASNA Rochester region) met to discuss Mansfield Park during the anniversary year of it's publication. As a result of that discussion, I came to realize that there might be much more to Fanny Price than I had originally acknowledged.
Clearly, I had to read Mansfield Park again, much more carefully and with a better appreciation of the character of Fanny Price. Following an interest in writing and online media, I decided to read the book and write an online blog article about every chapter. This seemed the best way to slow down and read the book more attentively. Thus was born austenbits.blogspot.com
It took from May 8 until September 2, but I finished it. In the end, I was partially successful. I have much more respect for Fanny, and now regard Mansfield Park as Jane Austen's greatest literary achievement. However, if faced with a long plane ride or a day at the beach, I'll still pack Pride and Prejudice (although I have them all on my iPad).
I'll be discussing my attempt to better understand Mansfield Park at our next JASNA CWNY meeting. I may not convince you that Mansfield Park is Jane Austen's greatest work, but I'll show you how much work it took to bring me to that conclusion.
See you there!
Event: JASNA CWNY March meeting
Topic: Engaging Mansfield Park
Where: Barnes and Noble Community Room, Pittsford, NY
When: March 19, 2016 at 1 pm
1. Kiefer, Jeanne, Anatomy of a Janeite: Results from The Jane Austen Survey 2008, Persuasions On Line, Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2008
For an in depth discussion of the Fanny Wars see:
Troost, Linda and Greenfield, Sayre, A History of the Fanny Wars, Persusasions, vol. 36 2014.