Mansfield Park, aside from Northanger Abbey, is probably the least appreciated of all Jane Austen's works. And you know, I can see why that is. Fanny is introverted and shy, and the love interest, Edmund Bertram is maybe a little on the bland side. It's also a good deal more serious than Austen's more popular works, like Emma or Pride and Prejudice. But Mansfield Park is a very good book in it's own right! It's probably not the 'best' Jane Austen book, but hey! Jane Austen books are kind of relative, and I think that people like the ones that speak to them. I personally don't care for Pride and Prejudice, but I loved Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. Which one is the best one just depends on who you are and what you're looking for in a book. But yikes, holy diversion, Batman!
Ahem, let's tackle some of the reasons why Mansfield Park is commonly regarded as the least-good Jane Austen book, and refute them!
Unfortunately, Fanny is usually the number one reason people don't like this book. She's shy and doesn't express her feelings very often, because she doesn't want to offend anybody or make herself seem more important than she thinks she is. She isn't a vibrant and passionate Marianne Dashwood, and she isn't an energetic and witty Emma Woodhouse. But in the vast and wonderful world of literature, there is room for ALL sorts of fictional characters, not just the funny and outspoken ones.
Fanny isn't a heroine who goes with the flow. Mansfield Park is an unusual story in that it is more about staying still than moving quickly. And imagine how hard it is to stay still when everyone else is moving around you! That's how Fanny feels in the story. All around her are people who aren't acting the way they should, and Fanny is trying to be steadfast in the midst of all that confusion.
And because she is usually so timid and afraid of offending people, the occasions where Fanny stands up for herself are all the more satisfying.
What Does Edmund Bertram See In Mary Crawford? Why Doesn't He Love Fanny Right Away?
In all honesty, I think that Edmund Bertram is a little bland. That having been said, I understand why he wanted to marry Miss Crawford. She's pretty, she's intelligent, and she's good humored. Problems arise however, when Mary Crawford is disrespectful of Religion and the Clergy. Why on earth would Edmund put up with that? Both Mary and Edmund thought they could change each other to fit their own needs. Edmund thought that marriage would 'pin' Mary down a bit, and Mary just figured that Edmund was being kind of old-fashioned.
Edmund also had no idea that Fanny loved him. Remember, Fanny doesn't like to be open with her feelings. If the book were told from Edmund's point of view, we'd probably see him be very surprised when he at last discovers that Fanny loves him!
It's Just Not as Delightful or Fun as The Others
Remember what I said about there being room for all different kinds of fictional characters? Well, the same applies with stories, too! Not all stories can be funny and delightful. Some stories are just going to be more serious in tone than others. Of course, there is no one book in literature that EVERYBODY has to like. Everyone has different tastes, so not everyone will like every book. By writing this little review/rant, I hope that I cleared up a little bit of haze and if you didn't like the book, I hope that I at least inspired you to read it again someday. But I am by no means suggesting that we all fall down and worship Mansfield Park. Cuz' we all know that Emma is the best Austen novel. ;) Kidding, kidding, that's just my opinon. :D
The Verdict: B+
I don't know if I would consider this one of my favorite books, but I definitely liked it. :) It was very sweet and moving at times, and even though it wasn't really lighthearted, there were still many moments where the good ol' Austen snark showed through.