It’s another round of Jane Austen for me. After finishing “P&P”, “Persuasion”, I am proceeding to “Mansfield Park” and “Emma”. I don’t think I would go so far to “S & S” and “Northanger Abbey” and “Lady Susan”. I draw a line here.
I can’t help comparing “Mansfield Park” to “Dreams of Red Chamber” since Fanny and Edmund are in certain aspects similar to Daiyu and Baoyu–in both cases cousins, one rich and one poor; in both cases growing up together, in both cases the love is in between a poor woman and a guy who is careful, caring, handsome, and admirable. The similarities seem to end here. In “Mansfield Park”, the social etiquette is revered and any variance from the correct manner is criticized. In “Dreams of Red Chamber”, the social order is put on trial and the rebellious behaviors are praised. Fanny’s strength and independence is expressed in her invariably correct and sociable way. On the other hand, Daiyu’s strength and intelligence is often expressed in her little burst of ill temper, her jealous remarks towards more beautiful and more fortunate Baochai.
One of the 200th anniversary review claims that the book is about class differences, which I agree and disagree. It certainly touches on the life style of the rich and the poor, but it is nowhere near what Karl Marx would do. It’s not even near what Charles Dickens would describe. It is not even in the same league with George Orwell. By the way, judging from the today’s income inequality, it is hard to see the world has made any progress at all in the last two thousand years, as far as income inequality is concerned, despite the various revolutions the world has gone through.