Reading Challenge

January 2018

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Kindness: the Little Thing that Matters Most, Jaime Thurston The Yes Minister Miscellany, Antony Jay, Jonathan Lynn The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty, Simon Baron-Cohen The Lover’s Dictionary: A Love Story in 185 Definitions, David Levithan
Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, Paul Bloom
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Law’s Strangest Cases, Peter Seddon
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
The Delphi Complete Works of Gustav Klimt International Law: A Very Short Introduction, Vaughan Lowe Simple Giving: Easy Ways to Give Every Day, Jennifer Iacovelli
The Toy Maker, J.A. Campbell
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores, Jen Campbell Dunbar, Edward St Aubyn The Peanuts Guide to Love: Peanuts Guide to Life, Charles M. Schulz The Name of God is Mercy, Pope Francis
29 30 31
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, James Shapiro
Reading Challenge

December 2017

1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
The Hong Kong Legal System, Stefan H C Lo, Wing Hong Chui The Broken List to Mend a Broken Heart, Anna Bell
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Legal Ethics: A Comparative Study, Geoffrey Hazard, Angelo Dondi
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis
25 26 27 28 29 30 31
How to Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers, Karen Salmansohn
This is Me Letting You Go, Heidi Priebe Wonder, R. J. Palacio
Reading Challenge

November 2017

1 2 3 4 5
Lili: a Portrait of the First Sex Change, Lili Elbe, Niels Hoyer Recipe for Joy: A Stepmom’s story of finding faith, following love, and feeding a family, Robin Davies
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future, Richard Susskind Lawyers in the Dock, Richard L. Abel Travels in China, Roland Barthes Dialogues with Silence, Thomas Merton
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine The Welfare State: A Very Short Introduction, David Garland Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, Jenn Granneman The Matisse Stories, A. S. Byatt
The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
Justice: What’s The Right Thing to Do?, Michael Sandel
27 28 29 30
Modern Mindfulness, Rohan Gunatillake
Reading Challenge

October 2017

2 3 4 5 6 7 8
The Sociopath Next Door, Martha Stout The Choice, Valerie Mendes
The Library of Babel and Other Stories, Jorge Luis Borges
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
The Sun and Her Flowers, Rupi Kaur How to Stop Time, Matt Haig This Modern Love, Will Darbyshire
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
Character and Conflict in Jane Austen’s Novels: A Psychological Approach, Bernard J. Paris
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
Legal Ethics and Human Dignity, David Luban
30 31
Would You Kill The Fat Man? David Edmonds
'Words, words, words': Text and Applications to Life, Operation Return, Personal

WWFPD – What Would Fanny Price Do?

Fanny Price obviously does not come across as one who would be looked up to. At least not immediately. Even critics who try to leap to Fanny’s rescue ends up diverting the topic to issues relating to social class.

However, Fanny, in her quiet way, attracted me ever since I laid my eyes on her. At that point, I assumed that it was due to the shared experience of liking somebody who would not be able to reciprocate. It took me more than a decade to realise that Fanny tries to reach out to me in more ways than one.

Fanny’s worth lies in what she really is, instead of what she might seem to be. Due to her silence, she is constantly reinvented into something that echoes her, as reflected from Henry Crawford’s comment:

You have qualities which I had not before supposed to exist in such a degree in any human creature. You have some touches of the angel in you… not merely beyond what one sees… but beyond what one fancies might be. (ch. 34)

However, as Bernard J. Paris points out, there is a reason why Fanny appears to be rather priggish, ‘When we understand Fanny psychologically, it is difficult to regard her as the angelic being she is supposed to be and to accept the powerful rhetoric which aims at her glorification.’ [1] Her faithfulness to her own principles stemmed from an insecurity since childhood:

Fanny’s insecurities are exacerbated by the treatment she receives at Mansfield Park. Almost everything conspires to make her feel like a nothing. She is criticized frequently, is constantly put in her place, and is made to feel like a person with no rights, no gifts, and no claims to consideration. She feels totally dependent and strives desperately to do whatever will gain her acceptance and enhance her security. She has little confidence in her capacities, perceptions, and judgments and in her ability to gain approval or to cope with new situations… [2]

Out of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Fanny has only received the most basic one: physiological needs. Arguably, her safety needs are not met since she does not feel secure in her surroundings, being bullied by her relatives, and constantly reminded (especially by Aunt Norris) that she does not belong. As Alice Miller points out, the insecurity one feels as a child does not automatically evaporate if it is not properly dealt with. [3] It is evident that Fanny has stopped opening herself up to people except for a selected few, whereas she had actually tried once to show her honest self to her cousins, but was rejected:

They could not but hold her cheap on finding that she had but two sashes, and had never learned French; and when they perceived her to be little struck with the duet they were so good as to play, they could do no more than make her a generous present of some of their least valued toys, and leave her to herself, while they adjourned to whatever might be the favourite holiday sport of the moment, making artificial flowers or wasting gold paper. (ch. 2)

For a timid child, to expose own weaknesses is actually an act of bravery, and to be rejected would have rubbed salt on Fanny’s wound. As a result, Fanny would arm herself with knowledge, as instructed through Edmund, and had since learnt to devote her trust to people who would be able to appreciate who she really would be, namely Edmund and William. Unlike Henry, neither of these two would describe Fanny as an angel – they would appreciate and respect yet they would not idolise her.

On top of her persistence, what makes Fanny (and Anne Elliot and Elinor Dashwood really) stand out is her patience. Should Lizzy Bennett be placed in Fanny’s shoes when Henry proposed, she probably would have stood up to him and uncovered the hypocrisy. However, Lizzy would have fallen should this actually have happened, since at this point Henry is portrayed as a devoted lover, and worthy (if not superior) to Fanny in every aspect. Fanny’s rejection of Henry has caused her to be banished back to Portsmouth – Lizzy would probably be exiled to Australia with her much stronger personality. Fanny’s ability to stay silent and calmly wait for the story to unfold to prove herself right is instead, arguably, more apt, since it reflects the true personalities and characters each possesses, especially proving that Henry is not that much of a black horse after all, and that Mary Crawford is not the archetypal woman Edmund desires.

Of course, it is a little silly to compare myself with Fanny, since she is a lot wiser, since she knows when to keep her mouth shut, and would not even trouble William or Edmund, whereas I would talk to my selected few to make sense of the situation – and that sometimes may involve quite a lot of repetition. However, Fanny’s example has comforted me when I am dealing with problems, reinforcing why there are times passively dealing with things (in opposed to not dealing with them at all, I do not mean it that way) would be more effective than simply dealing with them head on. Of course it depends on the situation.

Paris is not satisfied with the ending, thinking that the love story between Edmund and Fanny is too rushed and too forced, ‘Edmund’s love for Fanny is neither depicted nor explained; it is simply a part of the fairy-tale atmosphere which dominates at the end.’ [4] However, that seems to be far from the reality. Fanny and Edmund’s love story has begun when Edmund first saw Fanny for who she is. Their comradeship, hence, would pave way for a good marriage:

Un bon mariage ne doit pas trop appartenir ni ressembler à l’amour, mais plutôt à l’amitié.
– Michel de Montaigne, Pensées diverses [5]

As Paris points out, Edmund is the only person to whom Fanny can fully confide to, ‘to whom she can speak with any degree of openness’, and likewise, they are very much compatible, ‘they are entirely compatible in tastes, inclinations, and life styles’, [6] in opposed to Henry’s idolisation, which would have made Fanny uncomfortable.

The ending of Mansfield Park, indeed, is a fairytale. However, it is not completely unrealistic. Furthermore, it serves to show the strength of Fanny’s character, despite seemingly one of the weaker heroines, and to hold a candle to those struggling in confusion, unsure whether it is worth persevering. And the answer is yes.

[1] Bernard J. Paris, Character and Conflict in Jane Austen’s NovelsA Psychological Approach, (Detroit: Wayne State University, 1978) p. 32

[2] Paris, p. 45

[3] Alice Miller, The Drama of Being a Child: The Search for the True Self, trans. by Ruth Ward (London: Virago, 2008)

[4] Paris, p. 62

[5] Translation: ‘If there is such a thing as a good marriage, it is because it resembles friendship rather than love.’

[6] Paris, p. 56

Reading Challenge

September 2017

1 2 3
Gods Behaving Badly, Marie Phillips A System Apart: Hong Kong’s Political Economy from 1997 Until Now, Simon Cartledge
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Cantonese Love Stories: Twenty-Five Vignettes of a City, Dung Kai-Cheung The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships, Neil Strauss
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Borrowed Spaces: Life Between the Cracks of Modern Hong Kong, Christopher Dewolf Self-compassion, Kristin Neff Mother Teresa of Calcutta: 50 Inspiring Stories Never Before Told, Leo Maasburg
Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction, Henry J Gensler
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Laughing at the Gods, Allan C. Hutchinson Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles
25 26 27 28 29 30
This Close to Happy: My Reckoning with Depression, Daphne Merkin The Drama of Being a Child, Alice Miller The Ice Virgin, Hans Christian Andersen
Reading Challenge

August 2017

1 2 3 4 5 6
The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr
Ibis, Ovid
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Depression and Other Magic Tricks, Sabrina Benaim
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Why You Will Marry The Wrong Person and Other Essays, The School of Life My Lovely Wife: A Memoir of Madness and Hope, Mark Lukach Electricity, Victoria Glendinning Discontent and its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York and London, Moshin Hamid
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Goodbye, Vitamin, Rachel Khong In Praise of Shadows, Junichiro Tanizaki Reflections On Exile: And Other Literary and Cultural Essays, Edward W. Said 那也凌晨,我坐了旺角開往大埔的紅Van,Pizza (下) Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World, Michael Harris
The Incest Diary, Anonymous 那也凌晨,我坐了旺角開往大埔的紅Van,Pizza (上)
28 29 30 31
The ABCs of Socialism, Bhaskar Sunkara
The Village Against the World, Dan Hancox