Feature: Love, Romance, and Mansfield Park

I am an avid Jane Austen fan. I love the tales of romance, love gone awry, unrequited affections, and the like. I have realized and dare to say that I too am a hopeless, or better yet, a hopeful romantic.

Mansfield Park, like Pride and Prejudice, and unarguably the majority of novels by the famed Jane Austen, focuses on the same story line. A woman of standards and intelligence, enters into high society and is courted by a gentleman of wealth and mundane appearance, and half her status in intellect. However, she inevitably falls in love with an eligible bachelor who is cultured and comparable to her in education yet, ironically still superior in social status. Austen never fails to ensure that the gentleman that her heroine chooses is slightly off-putting in appearance, yet made handsomer and more charming by his love and pursuit of the heroine. In the end, they often fall in love, marry, and live happily ever after.

Mansfield Park is a royal mess in so many words, yet I adore it. The British accents, the exceptional grammar and immensely challenging vocabulary, and the drama, the fabulous drama! One sister marries for wealth, yet leaves her "unagreeable" husband for a charming playboy, another sister rivals for the affections of one such eligible bachelor, the heroine is in love with a childhood sweetheart who happens to fall in love with another woman of high society and the whole thing is a never-ending labyrinth of royal mess.
"I cannot know if he loves me, says Eliza. Well I ask, did he ever gaze on you with admiration, tenderly press your hand, drop an involuntary tear and leave the room abruptly? Never replied she, he's always left the room indeed when his visit has been ended."
I love this line, the complexity of a woman's mind, intertwined with the overwhelming feelings in her heart, forces her to read into things and look for a deeper meaning than most men intend to send off. I too am guilty of this. He loves me, he loves me not and so on and so forth, when in actuality the man in question isn't even thinking of you. How often do we love one who loves another. Its a travesty of genuine human emotion, to say the least. Every woman longs to be romanced, to be courted, to be loved, to be desired, to be fought for, to be chosen by the object of her affections, yet the one who actually follows through is rarely the one that she herself has chosen. Why? C'est la vie, I presume, but why is life so cruel to the heart?
Sir Crawford says, "There is only one happiness in life, to love and to be loved. You're killing me." To which Ms. Price replies, "No man dies of love, but on the stage."
I believe this to be true, on both ends. Love is the only happiness in life. But what you chose to love and give your whole heart to is what defines that happiness. Be it God, the object of your affections, knowledge, wealth, or well-being. Over time, many things fade, but true love is the only thing worth having.

On the other hand, no one dies of love but on the stage. However, when all the world's a stage, an individual will anguish and suffer from disappointment. When this happens, eventually the pain of heartache, can drive them to the point of death--or at least what feels like death.

I, for one, have learned an incredible lesson from Mansfield Park...do not awaken love until it so desires, a theme common to the biblical book of Songs of Songs, and echoed within the pages of Jane Austen's novels. Love, such complexity. But such is life.


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