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Thread: The play in Mansfield Park

  1. #16
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    You are not a clergyman; nor do you share the zeitgeist of Edmund's Georgian world. Place yourself in his position, in his and Austen's world..
    I'll admit that most of what I know about Georgian England comes from reading novels. My novel-reading leads me to suggest that affairs and divorces were not unknown. They may have been scandalous, but Beau Brummel and the rest of the Dandies romping around England while Austen sat at home writing "Mansfield Park" were able to maintain some semblance of a social life. I just read a book called "A Venetian Affair" --a non-fiction history of an affair between a Venetian nobleman and a beautiful, half-English commoner in the second half of the 18th century. They seem to have avoided banishment, and, indeed, tried repeatedly to find a husband for the young beauty because that would have made conducting the affair simpler. People don't change all THAT much. I'll grant that adultery and divorce were more scandalous then than now, but not that this justifies banishing one's sister for life.

    Love (infatuation) is blind: Fanny is not.
    I'm not so sure of that. I think Austen sets Fanny up to appear to the reader to be an objective observer. But we readers also know (as the characters do not) that Fanny harbors a secret and illicit love for her cousin. If love is blind, mightn't this affect the way Fanny sees Mary Crawford, and Henry Crawford? She has a secret protection against Henry's wooing, and a secret (almost duplicitous) reason for disliking Mary. Austen misleads her readers into thinking that Fanny is objective, when it is actually clear that she is not.

    Mary is fair to Fanny: Fanny to Mary. Her brother's behaviour is despicable however much Mary dissembles. Mary tars herself with brother Henry's brush.
    Oh, Bosh! Why is Mary tarred by her brother's brush, but Edmund is not tarred by his sister's? Maria is the adulterer. If trying to help one's troubled brother involves tarring oneself with his sins, count me in. Edmund calmly avoids tarring himself by refusing to have anything to do with his sinful sister. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus said (or something like that).

    Today, we live in climate where integrity takes a back seat to flattery. Not so for Edmund, Fanny and Austen.
    o

    That's a false dichotomy. Integrity does not demand that Edmund tell Mary Crawford that he can no longer think well of her. He needn't lie; he could simply keep his big trap shut. "I had to be honest," is a poor excuse for cruelty. Nor do I think we can condemn Jane Austen for Edmund's behavior. Why automatically think she approves of it? To return to our earlier discussion, Edmund is unkind, and integrity does not demand it of him.

    How much do our opinions matter? The book is a masterpiece – perhaps Austen's best novel.
    I am in complete agreement. I think all six of Austen's novels are masterpieces, and that the mature three are slightly superior to the earlier three. Indeed, I think the moral ambiguities I have pointed out in Mansfield Park are among the things that make the book great. Is Sir Thomas a cruel autocrat, or simply a remote father? What did Austen mean by naming the novel after a famous judge who made anti-slavery rulings? Why is Fanny named "Price"? In Fanny, Edmund and Emma, Austen presents protagonists who differ dramatically from the standard heroes.

    Nonetheless, our opinions matter. One of the virtues of great literature is to make us think about issues of morality, of societal norms, and of character. Mansfield Park certainly succeeds in that regard (as well as in others).

  2. #17
    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    I'll grant that adultery and divorce were more scandalous then than now, but not that this justifies banishing one's sister for life.
    Maria banishes herself by her scandalous behaviour. Morality that rules in polite society does not, of course, bind the elite – either then or now. People do change little.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    If love is blind, mightn't this affect the way Fanny sees Mary Crawford, and Henry Crawford?
    I simply meant Edmund's love for Maria was blind. I see no textual reason to doubt Fanny's good judgement.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Why is Mary tarred by her brother's brush?
    Mary isn't: she tars herself. Maria lives in sin whereas Jesus forgave the woman who had committed adultery.

    John 8: 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

    The same Jesus said of the impenitent:

    Matthew 23: 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    What did Austen mean by naming the novel after a famous judge who made anti-slavery rulings?
    Like Shakespeare, Austen wrote for her audience and what either really thinks is less than clear. Our opinions matter most when wholly consistent with the text.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

  3. #18
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    Maria banishes herself by her scandalous behaviour.
    In that case, Sir Thomas and Edmund should beg her to return to the family fold. Also, the "textual evidence" is that Sir Thomas banished Maria:

    Where she could be placed became a subject of most melancholy and momentous consultation. Mrs. Norris, whose attachment seemed to augment with the demerits of her niece, would have had her received at home and countenanced by them all. Sir Thomas would not hear of it; and Mrs. Norris’s anger against Fanny was so much the greater, from considering her residence there as the motive. She persisted in placing his scruples to her account, though Sir Thomas very solemnly assured her that, had there been no young woman in question, had there been no young person of either sex belonging to him, to be endangered by the society or hurt by the character of Mrs. Rushworth, he would never have offered so great an insult to the neighbourhood as to expect it to notice her. As a daughter, he hoped a penitent one, she should be protected by him, and secured in every comfort, and supported by every encouragement to do right, which their relative situations admitted; but farther than that he could not go. Maria had destroyed her own character, and he would not, by a vain attempt to restore what never could be restored, by affording his sanction to vice, or in seeking to lessen its disgrace, be anywise accessory to introducing such misery in another man’s family as he had known himself.
    It is ironic that the monstrous Mr.s. Norris is the only one arguing for Maria's rehabilitation -- but Austen thrives on irony.

    I see no textual reason to doubt Fanny's good judgement.
    As for textual evidence to doubt Fanny's good judgment, I won't claim that Fanny's judgment isn't reasonably good. However, self-delusions and prejudices are a theme for Austen. Marianne Dashwood, Catherine Morland, Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse are all deluded, and must recognize their own delusions on their paths to happiness. Why should Fanny be so different? Here (just a page or two after her discussion with Edmund about his last meeting with Mary Crawford) Austen hints that Fanny dissembles about her own feelings and judgments:

    My Fanny, indeed, at this very time, I have the satisfaction of knowing, must have been happy in spite of everything. She must have been a happy creature in spite of all that she felt, or thought she felt, for the distress of those around her. She had sources of delight that must force their way. She was returned to Mansfield Park, she was useful, she was beloved; she was safe from Mr. Crawford; and when Sir Thomas came back she had every proof that could be given in his then melancholy state of spirits, of his perfect approbation and increased regard; and happy as all this must make her, she would still have been happy without any of it, for Edmund was no longer the dupe of Miss Crawford.
    The "or thought she felt" in the first sentence is a typical Austen masterstroke, and clearly suggests that Fanny is not without prejudices that blur her vision. I don't want to be too critical -- so are we all.

    Mary isn't: she tars herself. Maria lives in sin whereas Jesus forgave the woman who had committed adultery.
    Yes He did, which is more than Sir Thomas or Edmund are willing to do for their own sister. I didn't suggest that they invite both Henry and Maria to live with them while they are still living together -- but Mrs. Norris thinks Maria should be brought home (so it's clearly not socially impossible, however little Mrs. Norris's endorsement of the idea gives it moral credence).

    After all, all of us "live in sin". For "there is none righteous, no, not one." (Romans 3:10) Are all of us to be banished with Mrs. Norris?

    As far as some of my interpretations of MP, I think they are all "consistent with the text", while not being "demanded by the test". It is certainly possible to read MP without paying attention to the slavery allusions, without questioning Sir Thomas's autocracy, and without doubting Fanny's worldview. Doubtless most readers do exactly that -- as did I when I first read the novel. But questioning Sir Thomas' moral authority, or Edmund's influence over a worshipful Fanny (Austen says that her principles and personality were largely formed by him) does not detract from the quality of the novel. Instead, such interpretations (consistent with the text) demonstrate its richness. The same text can lead different readers down slightly divergent paths.

  4. #19
    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Also, the "textual evidence" is that Sir Thomas banished Maria.
    Hardly.

    Maria had destroyed her own character, and he would not, by a vain attempt to restore what never could be restored, by affording his sanction to vice, or in seeking to lessen its disgrace, be anywise accessory to introducing such misery in another man’s family as he had known himself.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    It is ironic that the monstrous Mrs. Norris is the only one arguing for Maria's rehabilitation -- but Austen thrives on irony.
    Irony indeed. Mrs Norris show how truly monstrous she is by arguing for Maria's rehabilitation and, ultimately, moving in with her.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    The "or thought she felt" in the first sentence is a typical Austen masterstroke, and clearly suggests that Fanny is not without prejudices that blur her vision.
    "She must have been a happy creature in spite of all that she felt, or thought she felt, for the distress of those around her," merely shows Fanny's fine empathy for others: Edmund, Sir Thomas and her own brother. The narrator pays her an unqualified compliment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Yes He did, which is more than Sir Thomas or Edmund are willing to do for their own sister.
    Since forgiveness presupposes repentance, your moral standards are way lower that those of Jesus, Mansfield Park or Jane Austen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    After all, all of us "live in sin". For "there is none righteous, no, not one." (Romans 3:10) Are all of us to be banished with Mrs. Norris?
    Everything hinges on penitence: Maria is not penitent.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    As far as some of my interpretations of MP, I think they are all "consistent with the text", while not being "demanded by the test".
    I take a different view. Good literature is a complex jigsaw and interpretation should leave as few gaps as possible.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

  5. #20
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Sir Thomas gives Maria the choice of not going ahead with the marriage to Mr Rushworth, as he can see she would never respect him. She is so desperate to escape Mansfield Park and her father she is prepared to even to marry an evident fool. As a result of that she is liable to seduction by Henry, who has consistently flattered her.

    Given her desperation to escape in the first place, she would hardly want to be received back there with the constant reminder she is no longer the star daughter.

    Henry could have married Maria after her divorce and given her a home, but he abandons her as well, which is far more shocking than Sir Thomas' attitude - Sir Thomas continues financially to support her at some additional cost to himself.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  6. #21
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    Hardly.

    Maria had destroyed her own character, and he would not, by a vain attempt to restore what never could be restored, by affording his sanction to vice, or in seeking to lessen its disgrace, be anywise accessory to introducing such misery in another man’s family as he had known himself.
    Your dismissive "hardly" is unjustified by your quotation. The quote is clearly meant to represent Sir Thomas's argument with Mrs. Norris, not the narrator's assessment. Of course we know that Sir Thomas thinks Maria has "destroyed her character" and should be banished -- whether his opinion is correct is exactly what is up for discussion. Here's a longer version of the quote:

    Where she could be placed became a subject of most melancholy and momentous consultation. Mrs. Norris, whose attachment seemed to augment with the demerits of her niece, would have had her received at home and countenanced by them all. Sir Thomas would not hear of it; and Mrs. Norris’s anger against Fanny was so much the greater, from considering her residence there as the motive. She persisted in placing his scruples to her account, though Sir Thomas very solemnly assured her that, had there been no young woman in question, had there been no young person of either sex belonging to him, to be endangered by the society or hurt by the character of Mrs. Rushworth, he would never have offered so great an insult to the neighbourhood as to expect it to notice her. As a daughter, he hoped a penitent one, she should be protected by him, and secured in every comfort, and supported by every encouragement to do right, which their relative situations admitted; but farther than that he could not go. Maria had destroyed her own character, and he would not, by a vain attempt to restore what never could be restored, by affording his sanction to vice, or in seeking to lessen its disgrace, be anywise accessory to introducing such misery in another man’s family as he had known himself.
    Sir Thomas also "hopes" his daughter is penitent, but that is irrelevant to his banishing her. So much for your argument that the banishment is due to her lack of repentance.

    Since forgiveness presupposes repentance, your moral standards are way lower that those of Jesus, Mansfield Park or Jane Austen.
    I'd suggest that by thinking owning slaves is sinful, my standards are way HIGHER than those of Mansfield Park. I won't mention Jesus in this regard, although some atheists use His acceptance of slavery against Him. Nor (unlike you) would I tar Jane Austen or Jesus with the accusation that they have similar standards to those of Mansfield Park. Why did Jane Austen name the Park after a famous judge who decided two notorious cases in favor of abolition? Why did she have Sir Thomas own a plantation in Antigua? Are these mere coincidences? Wasn't abolition a glaring political issue when Austen wrote MP? If "good literature is a jigsaw" shouldn't these pieces fit into the puzzle?

    Sir Thomas is an autocrat -- a distant, unloving father. He is wrong in thinking that his daughter's deficiencies are due to a lack of moral instruction. Here's the quote (again, the narrator is speaking from Sir Thomas point of view):

    Here had been grievous mismanagement; but, bad as it was, he gradually grew to feel that it had not been the most direful mistake in his plan of education. Something must have been wanting within, or time would have worn away much of its ill effect. He feared that principle, active principle, had been wanting; that they had never been properly taught to govern their inclinations and tempers by that sense of duty which can alone suffice. They had been instructed theoretically in their religion, but never required to bring it into daily practice. To be distinguished for elegance and accomplishments, the authorised object of their youth, could have had no useful influence that way, no moral effect on the mind. He had meant them to be good, but his cares had been directed to the understanding and manners, not the disposition; and of the necessity of self–denial and humility, he feared they had never heard from any lips that could profit them.

    Bitterly did he deplore a deficiency which now he could scarcely comprehend to have been possible. Wretchedly did he feel, that with all the cost and care of an anxious and expensive education, he had brought up his daughters without their understanding their first duties, or his being acquainted with their character and temper.
    Why was Sir Thomas unacquainted with Maria's and Julia's "character and temper"? Because he didn't love them, didn't spend time with them, and didn't value or nourish their love for him. Would Maria have been tempted to marry Mr. Rushworth if she had a loving, close relationship with her father? I think not. Sir Thomas' parental failures are failures of love, not of educational style. Since, as Paul pointed out, "Love never faileth", Sir Thomas failed to really love his daughters in the first place. He has NOT learned his lesson by the end of the book, and continues to fail to love his daughters.

    I do have a couple of disagreements with the narrator. She says:
    Fanny was indeed the daughter that he (Sir Thomas) wanted. His charitable kindness had been rearing a prime comfort for himself. His liberality had a rich repayment, and the general goodness of his intentions by her deserved it. He might have made her childhood happier; but it had been an error of judgment only which had given him the appearance of harshness, and deprived him of her early love; and now, on really knowing each other, their mutual attachment became very strong.
    OK, great. Sir Thomas' charity is repayed with "a prime comfort to himself". Perhaps loving and accepting his eldest daughter would involve some discomfort -- but that's life. If one loves only those who provide him with "comfort", what moral merit attains to that? Sir Thomas, at the end of the novel, is comfortable, and the narrator seems happy about it, but (in my opinion) he hasn't learned his moral lesson.

    In addition:
    Could he (Henry Crawford) have been satisfied with the conquest of one amiable woman’s affections, could he have found sufficient exultation in overcoming the reluctance, in working himself into the esteem and tenderness of Fanny Price, there would have been every probability of success and felicity for him. His affection had already done something. Her influence over him had already given him some influence over her. Would he have deserved more, there can be no doubt that more would have been obtained, especially when that marriage had taken place, which would have given him the assistance of her conscience in subduing her first inclination, and brought them very often together. Would he have persevered, and uprightly, Fanny must have been his reward, and a reward very voluntarily bestowed, within a reasonable period from Edmund’s marrying Mary.
    Here the narrator supports my notion that Fanny is protected by her secret love for Edmund. Fanny sees things through a light filtered by that love and admiration. Indeed, the narrator seems to think less of Fanny's moral uprightness than I do; I don't buy that she would ever marry Henry Crawford, nor would I suggest that she should. But if (as the narrator suggests) she would have accepted his proposals once Edmund had married Mary, what does that say about how clearly she sees things? Doesn't it suggest that both her moral and practical points of view are shaped in part by her secret and illicit (by Mansfield's standards) love?

    Good points, Jackson. I certainly don't defend Henry Crawford, and it is possible that Maria would be more comfortable abroad. However, I don't think that advocating familial love and support suggests that my moral standards are "lower" than anyone's (well, I'll grant they may be lower than Jesus's, but I think He would agree with me in this dispute, not with Gladys).

  7. #22
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Anyway, getting back to the play. Pity these academic papers cost so much, but the preview is free.

    Edmunds tells his siblings he is convinced his father would totally disapprove (but why?) Apparently, the book was published in 1814 "in the context of a widespread dispute of the theater's didactic purpose." And, "The debate about the nature and force of the theater and theatricality was widespread." Some people had a particular problem with women acting it seems.

    So Jane Austen's contemporaries would understand the Sir Bertram's disapproval of acting, but we don't. To me this is a weakness in the book. With most of Austen's other games and puzzles we understand what is going on. For instance, when Mr Elton writes that charade about courtship in Emma. The meaning of the word 'charade' has changed, but that did not take me long to understand. I did not guess the answer of the charade, but I understood why Mr Elton had chosen that word. I don't suppose Jane Austen realised people would still be reading her book 200 years later in a much changed world, but I think it would have been good if she had alluded as to why Sir Bertram would disapprove.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  8. #23
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Sheila Kay-Smith and G.B. Stern (both excellent novelists in their own right) wrote two books (maybe more) about Jane Austen. They theorize that MP was written during a time of religious revival -- hence the prohibition of the play and the strictness of the morals. I don't quite buy it -- I think Austen had "author" reasons (not personal ones) to make MP seem different from her other novels (but who am I to say?).

    I don't think the play is a "weakness", however. Why would it be? Why can't the reader just assume that some strict parents disapproved of amateur acting? In addition, the play is clearly a venue for flirtation, role-playing, and dangerous closeness between the sexes (think how many modern actors end up falling for each other). If one of the themes of the book is ordination, perhaps the play is meant to be contrasted with the sermons for which the ordained Edmund will be responsible. Both involve performances and speeches.

    Also, the play provides an opportunity to flout Sir Thomas' authority, to physically change the Eden (in Fanny's eyes) that is Mansfield Park, and to scoff a bit more at Mr. Rushworth with his four and twenty lines. It's all good fun, I think.

    Stern and Kaye-Smith, by the way, wonder about the last chapter, which I've been quoting above, where the narrator writes,"Mrs. Rushworth had gone, for the Easter holidays, to Twickenham, with a family whom she had just grown intimate with: a family of lively, agreeable manners, and probably of morals and discretion to suit, for to their house Mr. Crawford had constant access at all times. " They wonder about the creator of Elizabeth Bennet equating "lively, agreeable manners" with "morals and discretion to suit." Personally, I think Austen often enjoyed testing her readers with such seeming contradictions, and thus stimulating them.

    In addition, Austen's defense of the novel (a fairly new literary form, often disparaged in her day) in Northanger Abbey makes it seem unlikely that she thought the older art form of drama was actually dangerous or despicable.

  9. #24
    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Of course we know that Sir Thomas thinks Maria has "destroyed her character" and should be banished -- whether his opinion is correct is exactly what is up for discussion.
    As you say, repentance may not have saved Maria from banishment. Tellingly, the sole objection to Maria's banishment comes from the morally bereft Mrs Norris...and yourself! Henry Crawford and the monstrous Mrs Norris lack moral sensibility.

    The wisdom of Maria's banishment is patent:

    It ended in Mrs. Norris's resolving to quit Mansfield and devote herself to her unfortunate Maria, and in an establishment being formed for them in another country, remote and private, where, shut up together with little society, on one side no affection, on the other no judgment, it may be reasonably supposed that their tempers became their mutual punishment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    I'd suggest that by thinking owning slaves is sinful, my standards are way HIGHER than those of Mansfield Park.
    Austen's allusion to slavery is undoubtedly intentional. Nowhere have I defended the behaviour of Sir Thomas regarding slavery or child-rearing. Society holds men, especially influential men, to a lesser standard than women, as Austen would be only too aware. Incidentally, slavery is becoming increasingly common in the West.

    By contrast to Sir Thomas, the behaviour of Fanny and Edmund is commendable albeit imperfect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    But if (as the narrator suggests) [Fanny] would have accepted his proposals once Edmund had married Mary, what does that say about how clearly she sees things?
    Fanny is only human. Besides, Henry might change for the good, either before or after their marriage although it does seem improbable.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

  10. #25
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    As you say, repentance may not have saved Maria from banishment. Tellingly, the sole objection to Maria's banishment comes from the morally bereft Mrs Norris...and yourself! Henry Crawford and the monstrous Mrs Norris lack moral sensibility.
    Well, if you're suggesting that by agreeing with Mrs. Norris I'm automatically wrong, that's an ad hominem argument. Hitler was a vegetarian who loved dogs. That doesn't make eating brussel sprouts or liking dogs wicked.

    In addition, I suspect that the vast majority of modern readers would agree with me. I can't imagine that most modern Westerners would support the notion of stoning Maria to death, either. But I don't think that suggests their "moral standards are way lower" than those of Jews in the time of Jesus. Of course a modern Maria, with her expensive education, would be a corporate lawyer, and wouldn't need Sir Thomas' economic support. Banishing her would mean refusing to admit her to family Christmases or Thanksgivings. Nonetheless, I think most modern readers (Christian or not) would think that overly harsh and unforgiving.

    Even if they didn't, though, my opinion stands. We agree that adultery is immoral. We agree (correct me if I'm wrong) that stoning is a cruel and immoral response to adultery. We're arguing about whether banishment is a cruel and immoral response. I think it is (to a far lesser degree than stoning). You think it isn't. I'll grant that banishment was more APPROPRIATE and ACCEPTABLE in Austen's times than in our own - just as stoning was more appropriate in Jesus' times - but that doesn't make either punishment morally superior to forgiveness.

    I don't know if you are a parent. I am. I know (or think I know) what my response would be, if I were in Sir Thomas' position. I would rush to my beloved daughter's side, and say, "Oh, Maria! What have you done? How miserable you must be? Come and give your father a hug." Then I would hug her, and say, "I remember when you were one year old. What a miracle you were! How I loved you! Nothing has changed. You are still a miracle, and I still love you beyond reason or judgment or hope. Nothing can change that." Then I would cover her with kisses, as though she were still a one-year-old baby. Maybe that would be wicked, but I don't think so, and even if it were I would do it anyway.

    If I were Edmund, and Mary Crawford started talking about plans to help Henry and Maria out of their fix, I would say, "As a pastor in the Church of England, and as a Christian man, I cannot promote any plan that involves Henry and Maria continuing to live in sin. I appreciate your concern for them both, and although the scandal must separate you and me, I will always remember you. Goodbye."

    Then I would go to my father and say, "Dad, let's talk about what should be done about Maria. I don't think banishing her will benefit her immortal soul -- and, since I love my sister, that is my main concern. By the way, I don't think banishing Maria will benefit OUR immortal souls, either."

    I grant that burning heretics, crucifying thieves, owning slaves and stoning adulterers was not as blatantly immoral back in the days when such behavior was generally accepted as such punishments would be now. Same with banishment. I further grant that Jane Austen appears to think banishment reasonable and acceptable (we can't tell for sure). That doesn't mean that she's right, or that I'm wrong in rejecting such cruel punishments.
    Last edited by Ecurb; 11-14-2018 at 11:45 AM.

  11. #26
    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    In addition, I suspect that the vast majority of modern readers would agree with me.
    You may have noticed that I only address Mansfield Park within the context of the novel. How attitudes and behaviours in the novel would translate—would fare—in some culture in today's world is of no interest to me. Such translation is a fraught enterprise.

    Therefore, I have nothing to say on your last post.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

  12. #27
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    You may have noticed that I only address Mansfield Park within the context of the novel. How attitudes and behaviours in the novel would translate—would fare—in some culture in today's world is of no interest to me. Such translation is a fraught enterprise.

    Therefore, I have nothing to say on your last post.
    Gee, I failed to notice that. Maybe that's because you wrote, "... your moral standards are way lower that those of Jesus, Mansfield Park or Jane Austen." For some strange reason, I thought you were comparing my (modern) moral standards to those of Jesus, Mansfield Park, and Jane Austen. Novels, of course, don't have "moral standards" (although they can promote them). So I assume that the "moral standards (of) Mansfield Park" are largely those of its denizens, including its autocratic ruler, Sir Thomas and his son Edmund.

    I think it is impossible to read novels without OUR values influencing how we see the characters and situations on the story. I also think that discussing the moral values of fictional characters -- and deciding whether align with our own -- is a reasonable and enjoyable pastime, however "fraught"(fraught with what, I wonder?). You are certainly free to discuss whatever you want to discuss, and to be interested in whatever happens to interest you. But you're the one who opened this particular can of worms, and it would be unseemly of you to pretend otherwise. Also, I think my defense of my own standards (compared to those of Mansfield Park's, if not compared to Jesus's and Jane Austen's) has been at least reasonably robust.

  13. #28
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    I can't edit my post. Obviously, I meant, "compared to Mansfield Park's...." or "compared to those of Mansfield Park."

  14. #29
    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Gee, I failed to notice that. Maybe that's because you wrote, "... your moral standards are way lower that those of Jesus, Mansfield Park or Jane Austen." For some strange reason, I thought you were comparing my (modern) moral standards to those of Jesus, Mansfield Park, and Jane Austen.
    I commented to the extent you reflected on Mansfield Park, Jesus or Jane Austen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Novels, of course, don't have "moral standards"
    Novels portray moral climate derived from when and where they are set.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    I think it is impossible to read novels without OUR values influencing how we see the characters and situations on the story.
    Quite so, but we try.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Well, I don't see any necessity of trying to read novels without being influenced by our own values. Nor do I object to your questioning my values -- I'm willing (even eager) to defend them. Obviously, I don't see them as "lower" that any other set of values; if I did, I would change them. (Of course I may not always adhere to my own values perfectly, but that's a different issue.)

    I agree with you, though, that we should ALSO look at the moral climate in which the novel is set, and take that into account. Toward that end, I have criticized Edmund and Sir Thomas for failing in basic Christian virtues, like kindness, forgiveness and love. I assume you agree that certain Christian values are eternal and unchanging. Since our friend Edmund (I may criticize him, but I still think he's basically a decent guy) is a Christian minister, surely it's reasonable to quote the Lord's Prayer to him. Also, although mores involving banishing daughters for scandals may change, to the extent that such mores may be incompatible with more basic values, it's reasonable to point that out. Slavery was widespread in the 1800s, so we shouldn't be TOO critical of Sir Thomas for enriching himself through slave plantations, but surely Thomas Jefferson (he of "all men are created equal") can be called hypocritical. (Also, the slave plantations of the West Indies were notoriously cruel and horrible, as Sir Thomas must have been aware once he visited them.)

    In keeping with the free-flowing literary discussion that I'm advocating, I think Fanny might be meant to be a sort of younger, more timid form of Anne Eliot. However, for me at least, she isn't nearly as attractive. I like active, eager, witty, and adventurous people -- Fanny is specifically set up to be timid and unadventurous. That's not a moral criticism -- it's merely a matter of personal taste. Everyone values Anne (except for her father and older sister). Her sister "needs" her. When she goes to the Great House, everyone seeks her out for conversation. When Louisa and Henrietta want to dance with Captain Wentworth, Anne plays the piano for hours (Fanny would probably retire with a headache). When Anne goes to Lyme she blossoms in the sea air; when Fanny goes to Portsmouth she shrinks in the perceived squalor. Fanny can talk with Edmund; Anne can hold educated (even brilliant) conversations with relative strangers, like Captains Benwick and Harville. Fanny agrees with her beloved Edmund about everything. Anne takes her sex's side in her argument with Captain Harville, and even takes her own side in claiming to Wentworth that she was right to listen to Lady Russell. Perhaps Fanny will mature into someone a bit more like Anne, but she's not there yet. In addition, one risk of creating a heroine whom the other characters fail to value is that the readers may agree with the other characters. I don't think Fanny is a failure as a heroine; she's one of Austen's most interesting (if not attractive) characters. I think Colonel Brandon suffers in this regard; Willoughby and Marianne make fun of him for being a fuddy duddy who wears flannel waistcoats, and he never quite sheds that stigma through the action of the novel.

    As to your point about conventional mores -- think of the other major scandal in Austen's novels, Lydia Bennet running off with Wickham. Although sexual mores may have changed (most modern moralists continue to think that 15-year-olds shouldn't run off with officers), Austen (and Elizabeth) emphasize the non-sexual aspects of Lydia's betrayal of her family: the trouble, money and shame they elicit from her father; the harm the scandal imposes on the prospects of her sisters, etc. Modern readers must, of course, agree that Lydia's "sin" involves these things (as it might not in modern times). Thus Lydia sins against family loyalty, love, and kindness (as well as violating the sexual taboos of the day). Nonetheless, although Mr. Bennet is glad that Wickham's regiment is stationed some distance away from Longbourn (am I remembering the name right?), he is nonetheless willing to invite his daughter back home, once she is married (and Lydia, we know,is not penitent).

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