A “Doing” Love and Mansfield Park

A friend gave a beautiful book this year for Advent. It included a reading for each day leading up to Christmas. And no matter what holiday you celebrate – I hope you might find this resonates…

So one morning the reading was on “doing love.” It discussed that love is not only a feeling, an emotion, but it’s infinitely more – it is action, an action, dynamic and doing. I found that intriguing – the idea that by doing for others you not only express love, but you grow love.

Now simultaneously I am also editing my next novel, The Austen Escape. My stories never follow any Austen plot line or character but allude to them as a common language and a wellspring of story. Because, bottom-line, I find her to be spot-on, to reveal the realities of human nature and our interactions. And after this reading, I realized again her brilliance…

In Mansfield Park, Fanny Price is not a character who says much. She does not go around saying “I love you. I love you.” – and considering her difficult family, perhaps she doesn’t feel it often. She is subordinate to her cousins; subordinate to everyone – and they, especially Aunt Norris, remind her of it constantly. And yet she shows love in powerful ways, Fanny does things. She takes care of her indolent Aunt Bertram, sits with her, takes care of her pug, and works needlework with her. She later steps into the play, which she is against, so that it can continue, because that is what her cousins wish. Over and over again, Fanny serves her family. She shows love through doing.

Austen doesn’t show us many characters in the novel who do this. Fanny is almost unique, which I think is Austen’s point. But Fanny is not alone – one other character does the same. When Fanny is scared and alone during her early days at Mansfield Park, Edmund is the one who simply sits with her and asks her to tell her about her family, every story and every person. His doing is listening – which is exactly what Fanny needed.

As we look to 2017 – and I’d like to practice more doing love in my life.

Any New Year’s Resolutions on your end?

 

 

13 Responses to A “Doing” Love and Mansfield Park

  1. Great post. Mansfield Park is one of my favourite novels. Fanny can get a bit tiresome at times and I usually want to slap Edmund at some stage. Lots of people wanted Fanny to end up with Crawford, (including my own daughter), but no matter what anyone thought Fanny loved Edmund from the word go and I think this was the theme of the book. It would have made her appear fickle if she had accepted Henry instead. Hope this can be understood. Know what I want to say but not great at phrasing it.

  2. Resolutions, not yet. But, having just had a Christmas holiday with some difficult family members involved, your post reminded me of the importance of showing them that I love them in spite of it all, not just saying the empty words, which, in the end, serve for nothing. Thanks for that!

    • The reading and the book were such a reminder to me. I went through Mansfield Park a little more closely, paying attention — and yes, it served as a beautiful reminder. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I don’t often tell people how much I like Fanny Price. Of Austen’s heroines, she’s the least flashy, but she’s also the only one whose circumstances in life are so bad that she’s sent away from her home due to extreme poverty. And although she’s treated as a second-class citizen at best by her relations, she maintains a quiet dignity and grace that I have always admired. She did not succumb to the derision and servitude, she withstood it, and loved them in spite of it. I think most would have deeply resented the situation and treatment. Of Austen’s heroines, she is the most resilient and self-aware, and proved herself to own a backbone when pressed to act against that self-knowledge. Lovely post!

    • Thank you. So often people quip that Fanny is our penance for having such a lovely bright and sparkly heroine in Elizabeth Bennet — but they are missing her beauty. I think Austen, by taking the “flash” away and giving it to Mary Crawford in this case, is showing us the preferred gifts Fanny embodies — grace and wisdom. Thanks for sharing your insights here.

  4. Thanks for this post and reminder that as Jane Austen says in Sense and Sensibility, “It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.” Our actions need to match those words and thoughts. And I think there are many places that Austen shows this in her work both in good examples and in poor ones. How can you say you love someone and then because you are angry with them, run off with another person? The words do not match the actions, and it is actions that reveal the true character. Mansfield Park is one of my favourite Austen novels 🙂 I love both Fanny and Edmund — not that either are perfect. They are very real in their faults, but both have strong honorable characters, they know their places as second son and poor (and thankful) relation, and they don’t just love in word but in deed. One of the scenes that I love and think shows Edmund’s caring is when he insists on Fanny having a horse.

    • I love that scene too and think you are spot on with your thoughts. Though flawed, Edmund and Fanny have an active care for each other and those around them, putting themselves second as required to take care of others. Good examples for us all. 🙂

  5. Hi Katherine,

    What a nice post, and a nice idea. I’m a big fan of love as a form of doing. That’s because I’m not a fan of expressing emotions 🙂 I likely take it too far in the doing direction and not far enough in the saying one. I will say, though, that Fanny is not my favorite. I always feel she’s crossed over the line of being loving through behavior into being overly subservient. I’m much more a fan of Elizabeth. Though, if I had to choose who strikes the best balance, I think I would go with Elinor in Sense and Sensibility.

    Have a Happy New Year,

    Summer

    • I think you’ve got some strong points here. I adore Elinor too! 🙂 In many ways, Elizabeth is a “perfect heroine” — all the sparkle and all the wisdom, in the. Fanny got the wisdom, in the end, and Mary Crawford got Mansfield Park’s sparkle. I think Austen was showing us something different — and I too feel Fanny to be more subservient than I’d wish. Reading this time, I wondered if I don’t truly understand the pressure of her circumstances and the constant pressing of her family. They were relentless, weren’t they? Yikes! 🙂 Have a great day.

Your thoughts are precious!