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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mansfield Park Read Along Discussion Questions, part 3

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Hello, Janeites, and welcome to the final installment of the MP Read Along! This is the last set of discussion questions for Mansfield Park; though it may be over for the year, you're still welcome to join 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 missed the questions from Volumes One and Two, you can find them and all pertinent links on the sign up page.
Now, on to Volume Three!

Volume Three begins with Fanny having just been proposed-to by Henry Crawford, and upon declining, being confronted by Sir Thomas about it; it then continues to the end of the novel, and all that entails...
  • Please, please discuss the entire Henry Crawford fiasco. Anything that you most want to discuss - his falling for Fanny, his proposal and her refusal, the reactions of those around them, etc. Consider also: Fanny in Portsmouth, Henry in Portsmouth, and Fanny's steadfast refusal, and the return to Mansfield. Lots to discuss with this one!
  • Perhaps one of the biggest points of contention for readers of Mansfield Park is the Crawfords. Though Fanny may look like a prig beside them, they are the only ones throughout the novel to truly appreciate her and praise her. Do you feel their esteem is genuine? Why do you think no one else appreciates Fanny for most of the story? And do you think the esteem which some characters show her in the end will last?
  • Mansfield Park as a story wouldn't exist without the actions and marriages of the original three sisters (now Lady Bertram, Mrs Norris and Mrs Price, respectively); each are very different in character, and each have made very different matches, setting the tone for everything that follows. What do you think of these three women and who they've become? Do you see any similarities between them - a free-spirit who marries imprudently, an emotionally-stoic, proper woman who marries very well, and a bitter, interfering curmudgeon who marries well enough - and other Austen characters? How do you imagine these three have changed over the course of their lives? And how did their story play out over the course of this book?
  • One of the things we've talked about quite a bit this Austen in August is the idea that Mansfield Park is much less a love story, less a story of romance, than people would generally have you believe. What do you think of this? Do you find it a solid romance, or do you think that's merely a surface story, with a much deeper shadow story playing underneath?
  • Now that we've read Mansfield Park in its entirety, are there any characters or aspects of the book that are generally disliked, which you'd like to defend? How do you feel about the respective marriages/pairings/endings for everyone? Is there anything you'd change, if you could?
  • If you've read other Austen novels, how do you think Mansfield Park compares or contrasts to the rest of Austen's work? (class mobility, likeability, class represented, tensions, etc. compatibilty of romance, ending, etc.)
  • If you've seen any of the movie adaptations, what do you make of them? Mansfield Park adaptations are notorious for making massive changes, especially to the character of Fanny (to make her more "likable," more fiesty, to connect more with a modern audience); do you think this is necessary? Does making Fanny more "fiesty" lessen the impact of the story?
  • Is there anything else you'd like to discuss from Volume Three, or the novel as a whole?

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  1. Re the Henry Crawford fiasco: Here is a sentence near the end of MP which confuses me, in part:

    "All that followed was the result of her imprudence; and he went off with her at last, because he could not help it, regretting Fanny even at the moment, but regretting her infinitely more when all the bustle of the intrigue was over, and a very few months had taught him, by the force of contrast, to place a yet higher value on the sweetness of her temper, the purity of her mind, and the excellence of her principles."

    Could anyone explain to me the part about "because he could not help it"?? Did Maria hold a gun to his head? Why did he have to run off with her? I understand how he "could not help" sleeping with her, if one could use such a characterization of having no willpower. But how could he "not help" running off with her? Anyone have a clue as to this one? Thanks!

    Also interesting about this sentence is what Austen says about Henry's character. She is saying that he really does regret what he has done and what he has lost. I think she feels sorry for him and his weaknesses. As do I. I still wish Fanny had ended up with him instead of Edmund.

  2. I interpreted the 'because he couldn't help it' as because he couldn't resist it, even though he knew even at the time that he shouldn't be doing it. So vain!

    I think it's probably better that she ended up with Edmund. She's quite a harsh judge of character and Henry often behaves in ways she wouldn't like so I wonder how happy she'd be, plus long term I can't help but feel that he might've got bored with her. However, I quite like Henry, so in my mind he now knows what he's looking for in a woman and he will find somebody else to become a better man with :)


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