1814 Mansfield Park

12 November 2010

I have to reread at least one Jane Austen in the course of the year.  Although it would be hard to choose just one favorite Austen, Mansfield Park definitely rates highly.  Contrary to popular opinion, I love Fanny Price, and I think she is a very strong person.  She has some interesting little quirks…but who doesn’t?  I also can’t help liking Henry Crawford.  He always drew my sympathy much more than Austen’s other ‘bad boys’.  His effort to become a better person was real, I felt.  I like how all of the main characters (with the debatable exception of Mrs. Norris) have some natural goodness in them, and also some natural vice.  What they choose to act on defines what kind of a person they are.

I love how Fanny Price really takes the time to think things out (though at times she tends to over-think things…but still, better to think too much than too little), and that Austen allows the reader to get inside her head.  Fanny is very patient and very observant.  We get to see what she sees, and through Austen’s masterful writing, we get to feel what she feels, and Austen rarely (if ever) resorts to telling us exactly what to feel.  One of my favorite examples of this is in chapter 7, when Fanny is watching Edmund and Mary riding.  As we stand there with Fanny, observing the riders in the distance, their laughter, their movements, we are not told, but we know exactly what Fanny is feeling.  She is jealous and hurt, and experiencing those emotions through the circumstance is much more powerful when we observe with Fanny, rather than Austen just telling us how she feels.   

Of all the Austen heroes, Edmund Bertram is one of my least favorites, but I find myself doing exactly what I condemn in him.  He saw the goodness in the Crawfords, and despite their inconsistency, wanted to believe they could learn to be better.  I get frustrated with Edmund for being so ‘blind’, but then I find myself affected by Mary’s and especially Henry’s kind and thoughtful behavior.  When they are kind and thoughtful, that is.  And we’re back to Henry Crawford.  ARRGG!  Why can’t I happily resign him to his fate?  Willoughby and Wickam I can class with the losers with relish, but I’m disappointed to have to put Crawford there.  It’s where he ultimately belongs, but…ahh…if only.

And since this is my blog and I can push my opinions on those of you willing to read them, I’ll just add my personal comments on the movie adaptations available.  First of all, I recommend not seeing them before reading the book, because they will ruin plot points in the book.  But for those who have already read the book and want a nice adaptation to curl up to on a Friday night, I’m sorry to say there isn’t one.  The 1986 one is the closest to the book, and isn’t too bad, but you have to be a BIG fan of Austen to enjoy it.  No pretty scenery or nice music.  Just the story on screen.  The book is more exciting, and at 6 hours long, you might as well just read it. 

There are two other adaptations, both of which have serious flaws.  1999 changes Fanny’s personality quite a bit, and adds in some very questionable content to…uh…make the story appeal to the uneducated masses.  (There…that’s the nicest way I can think to say that.)  2008 is a sweet story on it’s own terms, but as an adaptation, it can never be forgiven for completely cutting out my favorite part of the book.  (I’m not referring to the horse riding scene I spoke of earlier, though if I remember right, that was cut as well.)  They also mess with Fanny’s personality, making her run around like a 10-year-old.  Though to be fair, there is a certain comment that Sir Thomas Bertram makes to Fanny early on in the book that could possibly warrant this… (just paraphrasing here…’I had hoped your brother would find his sister at 18 different from his sister at 10, but I fear he will not’).  Though given Fanny’s personality in every other instance, I doubt she ran amok even as a 10-year-old; so I highly doubt that is what Sir Thomas meant.

My rambling is over for the time being.  Needless to say, but I will anyway, I highly recommend any and all of Jane Austen’s books to every person on the planet.