I’ve just read Mansfield Park, my 4th Jane Austen novel, and for the life of me I can’t get over its atypical heroine, Ms. Fanny Price.
The patient and mature Anne Elliot did not have the same effect, nor did Jane’s favorite, Elizabeth Bennet. The only acceptable explanation is that Ms.Austen might have triggered a memory of a young girl, similar to Fanny Price, that I used to know: myself.
I think every little girl at one point was shy and wanting little attention, like Fanny, that she had to be coaxed and pulled into the light if only to see her smile or hear her voice. When I was growing up, I possessed no grand thoughts nor talents (except playing the piano) that I was bold enough to share. I was a fairly content teenager and had no higher ambitions than to get education.
Jane Austen reminding me of this younger, feminine, developing self, the image of which is made sharper by its contrast to the present, is a fine work of art. The study of women and their journeys to their ideal self and the exactness or degree of exactness with which she painted them with words have made Jane Austen what she is today.
And so with this new sense and appreciation of the author’s works, I must confess that I wish I could write just as beautifully and realistically of a woman’s experiences, education, and relations.
If I could do it in such a way that when another reads it she will smile at the recognition and forget, if only for a few pages, her present troubles and worries, then I hope that I will have done Jane Austen a great honor.