I’m a big fan of most anything Jane Austen, however, recently I realized that I hadn’t ever read Mansfield Park, and therefore over the past few weeks I hammered away at it. It was enjoyable, even though it was a tad predictable. It’s the writing itself that kept me reading and I had to know that Fanny Price was going to end up happily after all. (I knew that she would, all Austen’s heroines do, but I had to be certain 😉 ) However, throughout the novel I found myself alarmed at how submissive, quiet and imposed upon Miss Fanny Price was … I hated it! Compared to the Katniss Evergreens of today, Fanny was often lacking, in my partially feminist opinion. In the end, it’s her humble spirit that allows her to rise above those who appeared to have been given the best. Those who had talents and good breeding fell short in their own father’s eye in comparison to the unassuming cousin.
I thought about Sir Thomas’ feelings at the end of the novel. His own daughters, whom had been given every possible advantage in life: money, education, taught manners etc., failed to have good character in the end. He realized that he spent more time on their edification than on bringing them up to be good people. The result: ruin.
This made me think about the way I’m raising my Lydia Elizabeth (named for other Austen characters. If you’re familiar with Lydia in Pride and Prejudice, then you will understand why I also had to have Elizabeth in her name.) Lydia is another character that Austen created in order to impress upon her readers the importance of having good moral character. I want Lydia to have good moral character and other positive qualities as well.
As important as sports, activities, hair, clothes and all of those other “things” that today’s society spends so much time giving to their children, we need to focus on raising good people as well. Do I want Lydia to be meek or submissive? No. Do I want her to know humility and have self-awareness? Yes. I don’t want to raise a Fanny Price, but I want her to understand the importance of qualities that will make her a good person. I want her to think about how her actions will impact others and the world. I want to impress upon her the importance of making a positive difference.
Times have changed since Jane Austen composed the works that would influence millions for generations, through literature and film. However, the important messages she sent through her characters has not changed. In her books the good, strong, intelligent women are the ladies who get what they want. I hope that this will still be true for my Lydia in today’s world.