Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
I have always loved Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, so much that I have read it several times. So why haven’t I read any of her other novels? I am not a prolific reader and since I have seen all the stories numerous times in movie production I didn’t think I needed to. But there are times when you just need a little fix of Austen writing and instead of rereading P&P I decided to delve into Mansfield Park.
Mansfield Park is the story of Fanny Price, the poor niece of the Baronet wife of Sir Thomas Bertram. Mansfield Park is the home and setting of the family adventures and misadventures. Fanny is brought to live with the Bertrams when she is 10 years old. The Bertrams have two sons and two daughters. The girls and their Aunt Norris never cease to remind Fanny that she is not of their class. Fanny manages to endure the ongoing mental abuse and it doesn’t canker her. Lady Bertram is not well, whether in body or spirit we are not quite sure why. Fanny forms an alliance with Edward Bertram, the younger son of the Family. He treats her kindly and with compassion. The hopeless unrequited love that Fanny has for Edmund dominates the story. The family dynamics form the contrasts that are usually part of Austin’s stories; the rich and the poor, the nice and the mean, the powerful and the weak, the righteous and the depraved. Fanny’s sweet nature keeps her balanced. She is mostly content to be near Edmund and makes herself an asset to the weak and needy Mrs. Bertram. She blossoms in the eyes of many as her good nature becomes a leveling force.
There are lots of interesting characters and twists and turns in the story. Fanny sees it all play out almost from the sidelines. She forms negative opinions from her perceptions that keep her from accepting a happy situation. She has strength of character, even as those around her judge her as weak and vulnerable. I admired her ability to stand firm on her values. I saw her as a Christian ideal; one who is a friend even to those who abuse her, one who is firm in her convictions even under pressure, one who finds contentment in solitude, one who has a sense of peace in the turmoil of those around her.
I enjoyed this book as much as P&P. I definitely plan to read other Austen Novels.
Masterpiece Theatre’s recent production of Mansfield Park (2007) with Billie Piper, was very disappointing. The one from 1999 with Frances O'Connor may have been in movie theaters. It is much better but has a very disturbing element that I can’t figure out why they would put in. The older son spent time in Antigua with his father and in the movie came home with drawings he made of sexual encounters with black women, which Fanny sees (and we do too). It was not in the book. Was it all about getting a PG rating? And there was another little overt sexual encounter that would have made Jane Austen very sad. Austen could insinuate immorality without it being in your face. Why can’t we stick with the story? Mostly this stuff ruined a lovely movie.