Friday, February 14, 2014

this was the email update _after_ I got the flu, AKA Mansfield Park Part III: Son of the Reckoning

mansfield park vol iii - I didn't feel really well enough to have Great Insight into it, but I wanted to finish it and before the previous vols faded out in my head, altho I expected it to be Unpleasant, and a lot of it was. But not bad, not badly written, and certainly not unreadable (which sounds like faint praise, but everyone I know hates this book so much, and I was so surprised).

HENRY. OMG UGH. HOW CAN PEOPLE WANT FANNY TO MARRY HIM. And he's not like Darcy! When Darcy helps Elizabeth by bribing Wickham to marry Lydia, he does it on the Q.T. and never tells her and her aunt is the one who spills the beans, and he obviously isn't doing it just to impress her. But when Henry gets the bro's promotion, he rushes in to tell Fanny, AND that he did it for her, AND that he loves her and wants to marry her, all in about the same fifteen minutes. That's just gross. It's like Rochester wanting to be Jane's keeper. Ugh ugh ugh. Gag retch.

[This is possibly the corporeality of having the flu influencing the manner of reading. - Ed.]

Fanny is the observer in the book -- the one closest to the narrator, not in wit or insight but in actually seeing what's going on (everyone else is too self-preoccupied) -- nobody sees her, so she sees them. She doesn't trust Henry a bit, and why should she? He's acted awfully to Julia and Maria, and how he ends is perfectly in character, and actually Jane goes against the "a good woman will Redeem his Soul" cliche by putting the Fanny-blame in the mouths of the awful aunt and Mary C, the worst people in the novel.

Fanny says no! She keeps saying no! Under pressure from her guardian, and Egbert, and everyone! Mary tries putting the whammy on her! Come on, no literary critic (besides Lionel Trilling apparently) thinks this is impressive? It's just about as gutsy as Elizabeth standing up to Lady Catherine, if you ask me. Because Fanny has so much more to lose, as DEMONSTRATED by Sir Tumpty exiling her from her home back to her rude origins. It's pretty amazing how much Austen resists the romantic picture of the Reformed Cad with Willoughby, Wickham and Henry, all successively darker portraits, although the rake grows ever more dagerously charming.

I still hate Edmund/Edward/Egburp/whatever. I think of him actually as being sort of like Marianne -- which makes Fanny Col Brandon, I suppose. Now I have a mental picture of Alan Rickman in muslin which is just not going away.

Yeah E might carry a torch for Mary all his life or whatever, but I don't see him and Fanny as miserable. (Not even Wickham is completely miserable.) OTOH I hated Edgbard so much I was tempted to see him shackled to Mary because he'd be so unhappy in about two weeks, but then Fanny would be unhappy and do her patented overcome sobbing thing, and that was always a little heartbreaking. Even if I started picturing her as, like Alice, swimming in her own tears after a bit.

In fine: people who think Fanny Price is a doormat have never read  "The Clerk's Tale," which would make even Christina Hoff Sommers pick up a bra and a blowtorch.