From Austen’s Time to Ours: An Introduction to Mansfield Park

Well, this blog post is late. We’ve been scrambling around getting ready for a trip to Ohio this weekend and between getting some last minute tasks at work finished and packing, it has been a little crazy. As I sit here at my in-laws’ house outside of Dayton, it strikes me how different our society is from the one Jane Austen describes in her novels like this month’s book club selection, Mansfield Park.

The pace of life in the late 1700s society that Austen describes always seems so slow compared to what we experience today. People sit around in drawing rooms and talk, play cards and embroider after dinner. They never seem to go to work. When they visit friends and relatives, they stay at their houses for months— a visit of several weeks would be short. In contrast, We’re making a whirlwind trip and staying with family for a few days, then we will be back to our fast paced life and the frantic day-to-day activities associated with work, taking care of our little boy and the house, and working with the youth of our church.

Mansfield Park gives us a glimpse of that society gone by as Fanny, one of Austen’s most sweet and demure characters, goes to live with her aunt and uncle Bertram and to be raised alongside her cousins. After growing up together, their lives have hit a very predictable rhythm, until brother and sister Henry and Mary Crawford come to the area and start to shake things up at Mansfield Park.

As you read the book, I wonder if you will be struck like I was by how even though the times we live in are so different from the 1700s, the characters of people are very much the same. You could transplant Fanny, her cousins, her aunts and uncles and the Crawfords into our time and Austen’s warnings against the consequences of selfishness and the impulsiveness of youth and her views of love and relationships would still ring true to us today.

I hope you enjoy Mansfield Park as I have, and we also hope you will join us for September’s discussion and “fancy” dinner party. We’ll have more details for you soon. If you missed the Evite, leave a comment, and we’ll make sure to send one to you so we know you’re coming and we can get you information.

Happy reading!

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