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Monday, August 19, 2013

Mansfield Park Read Along - Discussion Questions, pt 1.

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Fab button art c/o The Antique Fashionista!

Hello, Janeites, and welcome to the first set of discussion questions for Mansfield Park! If you've read Mansfield Park and want to chime in, or would like to join the read along, you can sign up here, and answer the questions at your leisure. (Don't have a copy? See the sign up page for lots of ways to get it for free!) Feel free to answer them as you see fit - via blog, vlog, funny gifs, concise tweets - whatever works for you! Also, feel free to skip questions here and there or altogether - the read along is for enjoyment and community, and you're by no means obligated to answer questions you don't want to. Feel free to discuss - or not - whatever you'd like.

If you do choose to participate in the discussion, please link your responses below so that other read along participants and Austen in August followers can come by and add to the discussion. I also highly encourage participants to visit others discussion posts - especially if you've read the book before or rate it highly. This is a book that many struggle with, so drop by and lend your support and enthusiasm!

Last year for Persuasion, I posted all of the discussion questions at once. This year, though, since Mansfield is universally considered the most complex, difficult, and often hard to love, of Austen's works, I don't want to overwhelm you with everything all at once. So today, for our first round of questions, I thought we'd take things a little bit light, and ease our way into the story with our initial impressions and such, and the happenings of Volume 1. If you have read the entire book, or this is a reread, it's up to you whether you want to give your impressions overall, or only discuss the first volume and save the rest for subsequent discussions.
Now, let's get to it!

Quick getting to know you Qs:

  1. Was Mansfield Park the first Austen book you read?
  2. Is this the first time you've read Mansfield Park?
  3. How many other Austen books have you read?
  4. Will you read more of them/reread them?
  5. Do you or will you read Austen adaptations?

Responses to Mansfield Park:

  • What were your initial impressions of the story? Not just the characters and their respective situations, but also the style and tone - if you've read Austen before, do you find Mansfield Park to be very different in any significant ways? 
  • Going more into the characters now, Mansfield Park's inhabitants are pretty universally considered Austen's hardest to love. What was your response to them through the first half of this story? Do you feel for any of them? Hate any of them with a vehemence beyond that which you normally reserve for fictional characters? And if you try to look at them objectively, do you have any more sympathy (or disgust) with their actions and behavior?
  • Fanny is often considered to be a very milquetoast, frustratingly passive heroine. Do you agree with this perception of her? Do you find yourself making excuses for her or holding things against her? Or do you feel that Fanny is underestimated as a character? Consider the scene in the Rushworth's park, as Fanny sits for hours, waiting to be noticed again, while everyone around her seeks their own amusement.
  • "The Play" and preparation for it is one of the most telling and pivotal scenes in Mansfield Park - discuss your reaction to the entire Lover's Vows storyline: what it brings to light in the characters, what changes and ruptures it causes among them, things that amused or irritated you, etc.  Did your feelings about any of the characters change as a result of The Play? How did you feel about Fanny during this whole incident? Would you have liked to see the play - and its aftermath - without the intrusion of the returning Lord Bertram?
  • Many of the relationships we've been introduced to so far are very contentious: Maria and Julia, sometimes Tom and Edmund, Mrs Norris and everybody. And in fact, the story starts with a rift in the family. What do you make of the "friendships" and family dynamics in the story, and of the changes wrought by the entrance of the Crawfords?
  • Is there anything else you'd like to talk about from Volume One? 

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