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Book review

Mansfield Park

Jane Austen (1775-1817) is considered by many scholars to be the first great woman novelist. Her novels revolve around people, not events or coincidences. Miss Austen sets her novels in the upper middle class English country which was her own environment. Her novels have increased in stature over time. Her skills of writing, including a dry humor and a witty elegance of expression have attracted generations to her work. Miss Austen completed six novels and part of a seventh, "Sense and Sensibility", "Pride and Prejudice", "Mansfield Park", "Emma", "Northanger Abbey", "Persuasion" and the incomplete "Lady Susan" before her untimely death.

In Austen's ordered world, marriage was, first and foremost, a contract, the bedrock of polite society. Certain rules applied to who was eligible and who was not, how one courted and married and what one expected afterwards. To flout these rules was to tear at the basic fabric of society, and the consequences could be terrible. Each of the six novels she completed in her lifetime are, in effect, comic cautionary tales that end happily for those characters who play by the rules and badly for those who don't. In Mansfield Park, Austen gives us Fanny Price, a poor young woman who has grown up in her wealthy relatives' household without ever being accepted as an equal. The only one who has truly been kind to Fanny is Edmund Bertram, the younger of the family's two sons. The book starts off slowly but picks up its pace after the marriage of its main character. Fanny is bland and boring in the beginning but becomes increasingly interesting as the book moves along.

Into this Cinderella existence comes Henry Crawford and his sister, Mary, who are visiting relatives in the neighborhood. Soon Mansfield Park is given over to all kinds of gaiety, including a daring interlude spent dabbling in theatricals. Young Edmund is smitten with Mary, and Henry Crawford woos Fanny. Yet these two charming, gifted, and attractive siblings gradually reveal themselves to be lacking in one essential quality: principle. Just when it seems that Jane Austen would transform Henry from an arrogant gentleman into a thoughtful and sensitive suitor for Fanny and Mary from a money-hungry woman to someone succumbing to the power of love, she drops the bomb on all of us with a scandal.

In other words, Mansfield Park is rife with adultery, betrayal, social ruin, and ruptured friendships. But this is a comedy, after all, so there is also a requisite happy ending and plenty of Austen's patented gentle satire along the way.

Reading Mansfield Park would inspire one to check out the movie, considering that most Jane Austen movie adaptations have been really good. However, to those who really enjoyed the book, the movie might come as a sore disappointment. Fanny Price might not be as dynamic or bubbly or as engaging as other Austen heroines, but one canít really dismiss her as weak or uninteresting. She has a quiet inner strength and sensibility that plays off well to her vain acquaintances. All of her years at Mansfield Park only one person, Edmund, valued her for her true personality and qualities. Day after day she was made to feel inferior, unworthy and ungrateful by her relations, yet she was none of these things.

The other character developments in this novel are wonderful, and I especially like the parts where Henry Crawford is changing and professing his love to Fanny. Although he is vain and has his faults, I agree with Edmund that it improves Crawford's character by the mere fact that he fell in love with Fanny of all people. For people who like steady books in which the plot slowly unfolds and evolves, I would not recommend this book, because it is full of surprises, and abrupt changes in characters, ideas and the story.

If you are a fan of this book, Iíd not recommend you to watch the movie adaptation! Of course there is not enough time for all the great details in the book and it is terrible and completely distorts the story of Mansfield Park. Fanny is a completely different person in the movie, and it has made me appreciate the real Fanny in the novel even more. Don't bother with it because if you are a fan of the book the movie will make you angry with the liberties it took.

By Rohini Alamgir

Campus news

Little Jewels Nursery Infant and Junior School Celebrating fifty years

It was a nostalgic Sunday morning for me; I was planning to attend the 49th foundation day ceremony of my first school Little Jewels Nursery Infant and Junior School. All morning, animated glimpses from the past kept coming back to me, nudging me into a sort of forlorn mood.

The first thing I recalled was my father trying to get me inside the school gate and I was reluctant to go in. I was cooking up excuses, which to him sounded logical enough, and he took me back. However at home, my futile attempts to bunk school stood no chance against my mother who refused to even listen to what I had to say and I was back to school - late but in class. That was maybe my first month of school life. Later on, I came to simply enjoy my classes. Especially during the rainy days when the huge playground was carpeted with fallen red krishnochura petals and green mangoes. When the last bell rang I used to dash towards the field and collect those fallen petals and buds and twigs. These were like treasures for me.

I was there for just a few months short of two years. My classes, nursery and class I, were huge hall rooms with lovely windows and bright curtains, the teachers were all very beautiful and our principal was the sweetest of them all. She used to allow us children to sit on her lap and I believe that was one of the reasons why I was never afraid of any other teachers in my life (except maybe my senior school math teacher who still haunts me in my nightmares).

After all these years, going back to those innocent pleasures was simply a wonderful experience. I realised, listening to other old students, that the day was more or less the same for them as well. Nashed Kamal, a renowned personality of our country was also a student of this school and I didn't know that until I heard her talk on that day.

After all stepping into its fiftieth year isn't an ordinary event. The school has officially launched its alumni association and none other than Professor Fakrul Alam, English Department, Dhaka University was the first one to register. In this regards it has also launched its web-site: www.ljs-school.com, so any of the old students both at home and abroad can check this site out and also register as alumni, go through the details and be part of their grand celebration next year.

Let's take a peep into the school's background.

Little Jewels Nursery Infant and Junior School was set up on August 8, 1955 by the present Principal Mrs. Anwari Kabir.

Mrs. Kabir did her schooling from Lorreto Convent, Calcutta and completed her Masters from the Dhaka University. Inspired and encouraged by her father Late Mr. Jalaluddin Ahmed, she decided to go for higher studies in Montessori Education to London. On completion she returned and introduced montessori method of education in LJS.

The school first started with 56 students and 7 teachers and the medium of instruction was English. After the liberation in 1972 the school had to convert to Bangla Medium.

In 1990, in response to the guardians' persuasion the school once again introduced the English Section under the supervision Mrs Kabir and the guidance of MS. Sonia Imran, also an ex student of this school. The English section started afresh with 155 students and 10 teachers.

At present Little Jewels School has about 1250 students in both sections and around 105 teachers and 20 menials. The school admits children from the age of two and a half-year till eleven years up to class-V.

Besides being an educationist, Ms. Anwari Kabir is a renowned Social Worker. Since her early days she has been associated with APWA (All Pakistan Women Association). She was the charter Secretary of Zonta Club-I, Dhaka and held the posts of President for two terms, and later became the Governor of District 25 Zonta International, Bangladesh. As an active social worker, Mrs. Kabir's Little Jewels School also sponsors a free school, a medical centre and a sewing school for the underprivileged children in Ghorasal.

So here's wishing the Golden Jubilee celebrations a grand success and hoping to meet long lost friends again.

By Raffat Binte Rashid

Time to Clean Up?

Being a pedestrian in Dhaka is not easy. As dwellers of Dhaka City we have to put up with nuisances such as the overflowing garbage disposal sites, the clogged drains, the litter on the ground and so much more. In many places the footpath is either broken or completely missing. The condition of Dhaka's streets is appalling, not to mention dirty and unhygienic.

Just the other day I saw a man trip on a piece of garbage lying on the footpath and he seemed to have hurt himself. Although this may not be a common occurrence the amount of garbage lying on the streets would lead you to think otherwise. Garbage is dumped everywhere except at the allotted garbage disposal sites. It is almost impossible to ignore the "interesting" odors that reach our nostrils the moment we step out of our houses. And I really pity the people living in the apartments. The only view from their windows and balconies is the streets below and the filth that accompanies it. It is really sad how people do not even have the common sense to use garbage cans. They throw garbage on the streets in a way that they would never do in their own homes. I suppose we still haven't realized that the streets belong to us and it is our duty to keep it clean. However garbage is not the only problem. These days almost every square inch of the walls seems to be covered with some kind of poster. The politicians not only stare at us from the pages of the newspaper and television sets, they do it in the streets as well. There are hundreds of different types of posters that can be found on the roadside, with the majority of them trying to convince us to vote for one politician or the other. Then there are posters of upcoming events, concerts and the millions of new schools that are opening in Dhaka. It is almost impossible to find an area of wall that has been left untouched. The authorities should designate specific places for people to hang their posters and should ban people from doing it elsewhere. Construction work poses a different kind of problem for Dhaka's roadsides. Bricks, cement, rods and other building materials are piled high on the footpaths, hardly leaving any space for walking. Not only do they hinder pedestrians, they can also make the roads narrower and cause problems for car. And then there is our "beloved" drainage system. Most of the drains, which run alongside the footpath, are without covers and somehow they always seem to be clogged. This really becomes a problem during the monsoon season when our drainage system fails completely and the water from the drain overflows onto the streets.

The authorities do not seem to be bothered by the condition of Dhaka's footpaths and roads. The worst part, however, is that most people do not really care either. They may think of it as a nuisance but very few people are actually willing to do something about it. We are all content to just to sit back and accept it as a part of our lives. You just need to step into the Cantonment to get an idea of what can be achieved with a little effort. The streets are clean, well kept and have some really nice trees planted alongside them. That is what the entire city should look like, and not just a part of it.

By Ayesha S. Mahmud


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