Mansfield Park: (Starbooks Classics Editions): Volume 3 (Novels by Jane Austen)
Literary significance and criticism
Mansfield Park is the most controversial of Austen's major novels. Regency critics praised the novel's wholesome morality, but many modern readers find Fanny's timidity and disapproval of the theatricals difficult to sympathise with and reject the idea (made explicit in the final chapter) that she is a better person for the relative privations of her childhood. Jane Austen's own mother thought Fanny 'insipid', and many other readers have found her priggish and unlikeable. Other critics point out that she is a complex personality, perceptive yet given to wishful thinking, and that she shows courage and grows in self-esteem during the latter part of the story. Austen biographer Claire Tomalin, who is generally rather critical of Fanny, argues that 'it is in rejecting obedience in favour of the higher dictate of remaining true to her own conscience that Fanny rises to her moment of heroism.' But Tomalin reflects the ambivalence that many readers feel towards Fanny when she also writes: 'More is made of Fanny Price's faith, which gives her the courage to resist what she thinks is wrong: it also makes her intolerant of sinners, whom she is ready to cast aside.'
The story contains much social satire, targeted particularly at the two aunts.
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