Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If only to make myself amiable

Jane Austen knows the way into my heart. Her words present a world so unlike my own; a world of candor and status and courtship. The stories Jane Austen tells are blatantly romantic but it's romance that no one in today's society has the privilege of experiencing. In Jane's time there was so much at stake when it came to love and marriage. One's fortune and happiness could be determined by a fortuitous match. And the likelihood of such a match was determined either on status economically or on the wit, beauty and accomplishments of the young woman in question.

But to me, there is something overwhelmingly romantic about the act of courting in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century. A man was an actual, legitimate gentleman. He had class and was learned and had decorum. A gentleman would gently woo a lady and ask the permission of her father before requesting her hand. It was just so lovely.

In today's society I cannot think of many men as estimable as Mr. Darcy. Oh yes. Pride and Prejudice remains to be one of my favorite love stories but I'm not here to comment on that presently. Though no male lead has ever captured my heart so completely as Fitzwilliam Darcy. No, today I want to talk about Mansfield Park.

I have been slowly reading through the works of Miss Austen and Mansfield Park was my latest completion. All the pieces of Austen's world - the class system, the gentry, the decorum - were all quite present and Fanny Price is an incredibly amiable character. She's such a sweet girl, if not a little too overrun by the desire to appeal solely to what is expected of her. Throughout the story her fear of speaking out of turn keeps her from reflecting on the true character of many to those who could gain and avoid pain through her insight as well as from fulfilling the desire of her own heart. It's characters like Fanny Price that makes me somewhat heartened that I live in the twenty-first century as opposed to Austen's time. Not all women were as lively and headstrong as Elizabeth Bennet. A great too many were meek and well mannered just like Miss Fanny Price.

Regardless of my issues with Price's withdrawal from outspokenness, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It held all my favorite parts of a world long since past with the proper degrees of scandal. A married woman running off with another man is just as scandalous today. Though an elopement is not nearly as bad as it would have been in 1815. Despite her desire to conform with the wishes of those around her, Fanny holds onto her upright morals and avoids the one man whose character she knows is completely foul in order to hold out for the one she truly loves. In this I know her to be admirable.

Until next time,


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