Thursday, 23 January 2014

Mary Crawford and Louisa Musgrove as reactions against Elizabeth Bennet

3 blog entries about Mary Crawford in "Mansfield park":
And 1 essay:

The good thing about reading all of Jane Austen's novels, besides seeing her progress and sharpened skills throughout her career, is that I read them with perspective and can see them in relation to each other.
For example, from "Northanger abbey" to "Sense and sensibility", if Jane Austen doesn't deliberately mock the romance plot by letting Catherine Morland fall in love with Henry Tilney, the right man, at 1st sight (which is a possibility), she may see it as problematic and tackle the theme of wrong 1st impressions in "Sense and sensibility" through Marianne Dashwood and John Willoughby, and to her 3rd novel, may explore and develop it further, not only in falling in love but in judgment of character in general, in "Pride and prejudice".
Then, having finished "Pride and prejudice", which she herself sees as "light, bright and sparkling", Jane Austen produces a book that is much more sombre and serious in tone. That is "Mansfield park". Here, she chooses Fanny Price, an opposite of Elizabeth Bennet, as her heroine- quiet, introspective, timid, passive, easily fatigued, and more shockingly, creates a bad girl who is in many ways similar to Elizabeth Bennet- intelligent, witty, charming, vivacious. Then she turns everything around, Mary is thoughtless, self-centred, mercenary, frivolous, rather manipulative, and immoral.
If one reads her books and thinks of the author more than the characters, this has great significance. 1st, Mary Crawford's personality and character adds to the complexity of "Mansfield park". 2nd, without quoting much of the conversations between Mary and Edmund, Jane Austen's able to explain why Edmund is charmed by and attracted to and in love with Mary. Readers like Mary, and in many cases, become blind to her faults the same way Edmund is. This is done masterfully like the way readers are made to see everything from Emma Woodhouse's view in the following book. I also think that how a reader feels about Mary Crawford reveals much about them. 3rd, Mary Crawford, in my opinion, is Jane Austen's reaction to Elizabeth Bennet, or "Pride and prejudice" as a whole, which shows that she's much more than a mere writer dealing with romance, marriage and small talk.
For the time being I haven't had a theory on how from "Mansfield park" Jane Austen goes to "Emma", but placing "Emma" next to "Persuasion" one can see that Lady Russell is quite similar to Emma Woodhouse.
It should also be noted that even though Jane Austen's characters are distinct individuals and never repeated, there is 1 character in "Persuasion" reminiscent of Elizabeth Bennet, Louisa Musgrove, and whilst I may be wrong, I can't help thinking that perhaps Jane Austen has Elizabeth in mind when depicting Louisa, as when conceiving the personality of Mary Crawford. Like Elizabeth and Mary, Louisa is high-spirited, lively, charming, cheerful. More importantly, Elizabeth is adored for her independence and strong-mindedness and self-determination, 1st when she rejects Mr Collins, 2nd when she declines Mr Darcy's 1st proposal, and 3rd when she refuses to give lady Catherine de Bourgh a promise; these admirable qualities exist in Louisa but are taken to excess and become stubbornness and recklessness (Jane Austen must have been thinking of "the golden mean"). 

Anyhow, I'm glad that "Pride and prejudice" was the last novel by Jane Austen I read, that I'm not a huge fan of Elizabeth Bennet, that I'm not like the people who expect to find Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen's other heroines, and that I don't need to like the main characters in order to appreciate a novel.
Look at this, for instance:
I have briefly discussed how different Louisa is from Elizabeth, and will not say why Anne Elliott is admirable or why I don't find Benwick insipid. All I'd like to say is that I do not see Elizabeth as ideal, perfect, wonderful- she is in fact prejudiced, judgmental, hasty, proud, sometimes impulsive. So when some haters yell that Fanny Price is judgmental, I have no idea what they mean. Isn't Elizabeth?

Update on 24/1:
"I have a theory that Austen made the heroines of her successive novels studies in contrast. Quiet Fanny follows sparkling Elizabeth, persuadable Anne follows confident Emma. According to Sarah Emsley, Anne is also a foil to Emma in truly possessing the "resources of mind and spirit... that Emma Woodhouse thinks she herself possesses" (Emsley, 145). Emsley also sees Persuasion as the most explicit of the six novels in balancing the virtues." 
This is interesting, but the question remains, how does she go from "Mansfield park" to "Emma"? 

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