Welcome to Week 1 of the Mansfield Park read-along! I'm so excited to start 2018 discussing this book with all of you. If you haven't heard the details yet, you can learn more about the read-along schedule in this invitation post. (We're reading 12 chapters per week.)
Today we're going to discuss chapters 1-12 (Volume I). If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Mansfield Park read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up on some reading, you're welcome to check in later this week or whenever you're ready. :)
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
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Mansfield Park Volume I: Chapters 1-12
Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week's reading
- "Nobody meant to be unkind, but nobody put themselves out of their way to secure her comfort." [How tragic for Fanny...and how true, that kindness isn't just an absence of cruelty, but requires action and reaching out to someone else.]
- "He made reading useful by talking to her of what she read." [It's such a boost to the memory and what we can gain from a book to be able to talk about it with someone else, like what we're doing today!]
- "You see but half. You see the evil, but you do not see the consolation. There will be little rubs and disappointments every where, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then...we find comfort somewhere—and those evil-minded observers, dearest Mary, who make much of a little, are more taken in and deceived than the parties themselves." [I found this discussion intriguing. I believe Mrs. Grant is speaking here, and I like how she defends marriage. It's easy to get bogged down in the little things, missing the bigger blessing.]
- "It was better for Miss Bertram, who might be said to have two strings to her bow. She had Rushworth-feelings, and Crawford-feelings, and in the vicinity of Sotherton, the former had considerable effect." [I won't comment on Miss Bertram's conflicting feelings here...but I do think this description is clever.]
- "A whole family assembling regularly for the purpose of prayer, is fine!" [Preach, Fanny!]
Summing up our thoughts on twelve chapters is going to be difficult, I know! There's a lot that happens...so much to comment on regarding this very interesting cast of characters.
I'm not sure any one really stands out as overly likable to me, other than Fanny. Edmund has me quite torn, as there are lines and moments where he seems to really shine. He obviously cares about Fanny, and his active kindness to her makes all the difference in her experiences at Mansfield Park. I love when his affection becomes apparent; how he defends Fanny, fights for her need to get out, exercise, and be a part of things. And what's most important to Fanny (like her brother), Edmund shows great respect and attention toward.
On the other hand, there's Miss Crawford—and Edmund's obvious infatuation, despite the fact that they don't really seem to share many values. They flirt, they have some good discussions, but for someone like Edmund whose values run deep, you would think he'd be paying a little more attention to what really matters instead of the surface level. (She can play a harp splendidly, but would she really stand by your side as a pastor's wife?)
Still, I suppose it's a realistic scenario, and Miss Crawford gets Edmund to examine and share his beliefs; she paves the way for thought-provoking conversations. I think Fanny can do that too, especially with her extensive reading and book knowledge, but her views have been so shaped by Edmund and are so similar to his own that she probably doesn't challenge Edmund in the ways that Miss Crawford does. And a man does enjoy a challenge, doesn't he?
(Not to mention the fact that Fanny is still quite young and probably feels more like family to Edmund than a potential love interest. So...I get it; I just don't necessarily like it. :))
As for the other characters and their relationships, I'm not sure what to say. I feel bad for Julia having to compete with her sister for a guy's attention, while her sister already has a fiance. But then, both Julia and Maria are so focused on pride and status. I feel bad for Mr. Rushworth and his mother, who are stroking Maria's ego while her heart has wandered down a completely different path.
Mr. Craword should have stayed home. Buuuut now he's back, which does not bode well for the girls of Mansfield Park.
And then there's Mrs. Norris, who seems to be getting along just fine without having to sacrifice for anyone. But the selfish road is bound to be a lonely one, lacking in meaning. It's too bad she missed out on getting to know Fanny and having such a sweet companion.
So far, I'm enjoying the read. I'm hoping to see Fanny grow in confidence while maintaining her gentle nature. And while it would be satisfying to see certain characters open their eyes before it's too late, it will be interesting to see exactly where these not-so-ideal paths lead.
Feel free to answer one, two, or all three of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!
1. Would you consider the Bertram family taking in Fanny to be a kindness in the long run? If so, why? If not, could it have been a kindness if they approached things differently?
2. If you were a governess teaching the Bertram children and Fanny, what lesson would you specifically choose for each of them (as kids or adults)? Feel free to have fun with this!
3. Imagine you had joined the group on their visit to Sotherton. Which part of the tour would you most have enjoyed? Would we find you wandering the halls or meandering through the wilderness?
Join us next Wednesday for our second discussion!
(Vol. I: Ch. 13-18 and Vol. II: Ch. 1-6)