How’s it going, Mansfield people?
I know Mansfield is a lot of people’s least favorite Austen novel, but you guys…I’m really enjoying it (albeit slowly). Yes, Fanny’s a wimp and Edmund is the wettest blanket of all time, but the black (or, okay, dove-gray) comedy of it all is plenty to keep me entertained and reading on. Just as importantly, my mother is reading along—she’s more or less new to Janely things—and is totally into it.
Thoughts on this section:
- Oh, you guys, leave it to Jane to add into the mix that most hilarious and recognizable character: the Theater Guy. Oh, Mr. Yates! You don’t want to intrude; it’s just that some old chick was rude enough to die right in the middle of your rehearsal schedule, so it’s just as well that you found a new group of friends to help you recreate the diverse and exciting world of Glee. You want to be in a play so badly. This is probably so that you can hang around backstage with a headset mike and your hand in the back pocket of your production girlfriend’s/boyfriend’s jeans while the popular kids belt out “Seasons of Love” onstage, and then go out for pizza and probably some underage drinking. Or…so I hear.
- Ugh, Edmund. FINE. You don’t want to be in a play. You’re afraid of the “warm” bits (…hee). Is “The only thing worse than being in your stupid play is having that weird neighbor kid be in your stupid play in my house, so hand over that script” so hard to get out?
(Okay, I know. Different times, theater as place of scandal!, protector of reputation, etc. But really: You must chill. YOU MUST CHILL.)
- I continue my…not love affair with, exactly, so much as deep enjoyment of, Mr. Rushworth. Do we think he could marry his pink satin cloak? I’m pretty sure it would like him more than his fiancee does.
- So, Mrs. Norris’s outburst: is it, or is it not, the climax of Book I? What a revealing moment—of course she considers herself superior to Fanny, but somehow the public announcement makes things a thousand percent worse for everybody, involved or not. It’s just such a turn for the sinister, even if the behavior behind it is the same as it’s always been. But where does this put us with Mary Crawford? Do we love her? Do we hate her? You’re a fickle mistress, Jane.
Next week: same bat time, same bat channel, chapters 17-21. Maybe more.
What do you think, readers?
In which the plot of Mansfield Park actually begins, with much manipulating and private pouting and a whole lot of sitting on a bench, and we get to giggle and say “ha-ha” a lot. I am not going to shut up about this, just so you know.
• Of COURSE Edmund falls for a lady because of her harp. That is not a euphemism.
• I very much enjoyed Edmund and Mary’s exchange about the role of the church (and not ONLY because of the payoff when Edmund busts out with “…I’m going to be a minister; didn’t you know?”)—both as keen character development and an exploration of what might have been going on in Jane’s own head, faith-wise. From a character point of view, this conversation is a rather detailed and neon sign pointing out how ill-suited Edmund and Mary are, even when it comes to the basics of family life—which, of course, does approximately nothing to stop Edmund from abandoning Fanny (“but you’re so tiiiiired!”) and heading out for some hot under-tree-sitting. It’s obnoxious, of course, because we can see what a terrible couple they’d make, but it also rings terribly true—we’ve all been there, willing things to work out with someone who is clearly not the right person. Basically: ugh, Edmund, stop being such a HUMAN.
On the other hand, we have Jane playing dueling points of view on the role of the church, the graves of Scottish clergy, and the wisdom of having a whole chapel just for the family [NB: Terrible idea, obviously]. This interests me mostly because religion is so absent from most of Jane’s work—there’s church, of course, but mostly as a cultural institution and rarely in this much detail, and the devil’s-advocate quality of this passage struck me as a) pleasingly detailed and b) surprisingly modern. Iiinteresting!
• Do you know who I love? I love dumb, rich, earnest Mr. Rushworth. I do hope he gets to spend some quality time with his cousin, Mr. Collins.
• So Fanny sits there, stuck in the park, as everybody streams past her in a collective fit of mildly rebellious fence-climbing (“Oopsy daisy,” says Hugh Grant). We’re supposed to take this as…Fanny’s captivity? Fanny’s self-restraint? I suppose it’s the latter, though not in the heroic Elinor Dashwood sense. Fanny COULD hop the gate, like everybody else. She COULD leave when Mr. Rushworth shows up with the key. She WANTS to visit the knoll and talk about improvements, or whatever; it’s just that she doesn’t want to do any of those things without Edmund, which isn’t as attractive as the kind of restraint that comes from personal virtue or discipline. This, I think, is why we don’t like her—she won’t cross the fence even when the key is present.
• “…in danger of slipping into the ha-ha” may be the most wonderful phrase ever written. I am putting this at the top of my resume as we speak, right below my address and above the part where I list “sorting jelly beans into rainbow order” under my list of skills.
• More than you ever wanted to know about ha-has. So to speak.
For next week: Chapter 15, at LEAST. Possibly further! Or possibly we will be reading this book long into the future!
How’s it going, Mansfield folks?