Books: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (Chapters 9–16)

In which amateur theatrics are occluded by personal dramas.

I have to say, reading this bit felt very familiar, and now I'm wondering if I haven't read this book before after all, or at least part of it.

Anyway, Fanny continues to be a wallflower, the sympathetic and moral entrĂ© for readers to use as a spyglass into the doings of Mansfield Park, its inhabitants and environs. I can't like Edmund as much now due to suspect motives. Either he is being blatantly untruthful about his reasons for finally joining the play or he lacks self-awareness, and neither of those is appealing in a person's character. Though he is kind to Fanny . . . He is no kinder to her than he would be to anyone, I don't think? At first I was going to say he wouldn't go out of his way for her, but he has done . . . And yet, I think he would have done for anyone. Edmund acts on his convictions in that way. If Fanny were a family pet (and she is kind of like one), he'd do the same.

It is not surprising that Fanny is so fond of Edmund anyway. I had a cousin who was nice to me, too, and felt very attached to him throughout childhood. Idolized him, really. As an only child, my cousins were the closest I had to siblings, and this cousin was a definite favorite. Because like Fanny I was bookish and quiet and shy, and this cousin—though like Edmund he never went too far out of his way—was always really nice to me. Made sure when his parents bought him a teddy bear that I got one too. That kind of thing.

But, that said, I could almost prefer someone like Tom who, even if his character is not especially savory, he is never anyone other than he asserts himself to be. There is something to be said for honest dealings. Tom is, I suppose, all surface, which would make for bad company in the long term (that is, he'd be useless for intellectual conversation), but if you just want to go out and have fun and not have to think too hard, Tom is your man.

Then there are types like Mr Crawford who toys with the people around him (particularly the women), tiptoeing along the borders of propriety. Hmm. And his sister is the antithesis of Fanny.

In any case, it's a vivid mixture of personalities. I find, the more I read, I can't entirely like anyone. But that's life. We have friends, people we like, and yet there are always things we don't like, even about the people we like . . . If that makes any sense. I suppose good friends are the ones with the least to dislike and it goes out from there. It's all relative. If, for example, Fanny had her brother William with her, would Edmund pale in comparison? Fanny is only attached to Edmund because, relatively speaking, he is the kindest to her and the one nearest in temperament. If there had been anyone else kinder or quieter, she'd have gravitated in that direction. Ha! Maybe people are planets, pulling one another in and turning in orbits around one another.

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