Quote Jane


“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

zondag 4 april 2010

Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park has the dubious distinction of being disliked by more of Jane Austen's fans than any of her other novels, even to the point of spawning "Fanny Wars" in internet discussion forums. Its themes are very different from those of her other books, which can generally be simplified into one sentence, or even one phrase: Sense and Sensibility is about balancing emotions and thought, Pride and Prejudice is about judging others too quickly, Emma is about growing into adulthood, and Persuasion is about second chances. The theme of Mansfield Park, on the other hand, can not be so easily described. Is it about ordination? Is it an allegory on Regency England? Is it about slavery? Is it about the education of children? Is it about the difference between appearances and reality? Is it about the results of breaking with society's morés? Any, or all of those themes can, and have been applied to Mansfield Park.

The major problem for most of the novel's detractors is the lead character, Fanny Price. She is shy, timid, lacking in self-confidence, physically weak, and seemingly—to some, annoyingly—always right. Austen's own mother called her "insipid", and many have used the word "priggish". She is certainly not like the lively and witty Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. But Mansfield Park also has many supporters, whose admiration and loyalty can be attributed to the depth and complexity of the themes in the book and to the main character—a young woman who is unlike most heroines found in literature.

One thing is certain, this novel is not like Jane Austen's others. The girl-gets-boy plot of her other work is mostly absent here, and the heroine's success in finding love is treated briefly, quickly, and for many readers—especially those who expected something like the romantic Pride and Prejudice—unsatisfactorily. Only in the final chapter—essentially the epilogue—does Fanny get the love she deserves. The story and themes of Mansfield Park are, therefore, not as closely tied with the heroine's road to marital bliss as in Austen's other novels.

Jane Austen began planning Mansfield Park in February of 1811 and finished it in the summer of 1813. It was published on May 4, 1814 and was Austen's third published novel; though, as with all of her novels, her name was not attached to it until after her death.
This was also the first of her novels which was not a revision of an earlier work. Elinor and Marianne was probably written in 1795 and finally revised and published as Sense and Sensibility in late 1811. First Impressions was written between 1796-97, and was finally published in 1813 as Pride and Prejudice. Mansfield Park, therefore, was conceived from its very beginning by a more mature Jane Austen than the previous two novels—written, as they were, first by the young Austen (~ 20 years old) and then the older Austen (~ 36). By the time Jane Austen began planning and writing Mansfield Park she had passed through her eligible years and, at 36, into confirmed spinsterhood.

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Austen werd geboren in Hampshire. Haar vader was een geestelijke. Het grootste deel van haar leven bleef zij in haar geboortestreek. Austen had zes broers en een oudere zuster, Cassandra, met wie zij zeer hecht was. Het enige onbetwiste portret van Jane Austen is een gekleurde schets die door Cassandra werd gemaakt en nu in de National Portrait Gallery in Londen hangt. In 1801 verhuisde de familie naar Bath. In 1802 werd Austen ten huwelijk gevraagd door de rijke Harris Bigg-Wither en zij stemde toe; de volgende dag deelde ze echter mee dat zij haar woord niet kon houden en trok haar instemming in. De reden hiervoor is niet bekend, maar Austen is nooit getrouwd. Na de dood van haar vader in 1805 woonden Jane, haar zuster en haar moeder daar nog verscheidene jaren tot zij in 1809 naar Chawton verhuisden. Hier had haar rijke broer Edward een landgoed met een plattelandshuisje, dat hij aan zijn moeder en zusters schonk (dit huis is tegenwoordig open voor het publiek). Zelfs nadat zij naam gemaakt had als romanschrijfster bleef zij in relatieve stilte leven, maar haar gezondheid ging sterk achteruit. Er wordt nu aangenomen dat zij de ziekte van Addison had, waarvan toen de oorzaak nog onbekend was. Ze reisde naar Winchester om behandeling te zoeken, maar stierf daar en werd begraven in de kathedraal.
Tot Austens beroemdste werk behoort de roman Emma. Het boek wordt vaak aangehaald vanwege de perfectie van vorm. Moderne critici blijven ook nieuwe perspectieven ontdekken op het scherpe commentaar van Austen betreffende de klasse van jonge, ongehuwde, aristocratische Engelse vrouwen in de vroege 19e eeuw.

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