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Mansfield Park - Jane Austen

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Michelle Muller

on 23 April 2014

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Transcript of Mansfield Park - Jane Austen

Mansfield Park was written by Jane Austen from 1811 to 1813. It was published in 1814.
Britain was in a potential economic crisis despite its deep roots and prosperity.
In 1812, even before the close of the Napoleonic Wars, agricultural prices began to fall; by 1816 the condition approximated an economic depression.
Mansfield Park is set, then, at a turning point in the gentry's fortunes. Austen is trying to discover readjustments in the ongoing life of her own class (Fleishman 16-18).
Time Frame

Character Analysis
The Leading Women:
Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments:
“Two different models, two different pictures, are held out to us, according to which we may fashion our own character and behaviour; the one more gaudy and glittering in its colouring; the other more correct and more exquisitely beautiful in its outline: the one forcing itself upon the notice of every wandering eye; the other, attracting the attention of scarce any body but the most studious and careful observer.”
Historical Context
"At the time the novel was written, the domestic crisis of the gentry was matched by a depression in the British West Indies. As early as 1805, the islands' local governments had declared themselves bankrupt, and by 1807 plantation failures had become widespread. The difficulties were rendered almost paralyzing by the imposition of the Napoleonic Continental System, which closed most European markets to West Indian agricultural exports (mainly sugar)" (Fleishman 16).

The year 1807 was the year of the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and nowhere could the act have had a greater impact than in the British West Indies. The Act forbade slave shipments, but not slavery itself. The prime requisite was to improve conditions for the slaves, and humanitarianism took root among the colonists on these sound economic grounds (Fleishman 16-17).

Colonial slavery was central to British culture in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Owning slaves – if not trading in them was acceptable at the time. Slave owners were praised as humane reformers. The notion that an absentee planter could be seen as praiseworthy for going to his West Indian holdings to improve them both morally and economically, is bewildering in our time, given our revulsion from the idea of slavery (E. Boulukos 376-377).
by Jane Austen
Mansfield Park
Fanny Price
The protagonist, and daughter of a drunk sailor and the sister of Lady Bertram; she is taken in by Sir Thomas and his family. Fanny comes to Mansfield Park at the age of nine. Although she is initially kept in her place as a poor relation, over time her good sense and modesty allow her to become an accepted member of the family. Throughout the novel, we understand that Fanny has feelings for her cousin Edmund, who is in turn attracted to Mary Crawford. At the end of the novel, Fanny marries Edmund and moves with him to the Mansfield Park parsonage.
Fanny has an innate moral sense that dictates her actions and judgments. .
According to Everett Zimmerman's article
"Jane Austen and "Mansfield Park": A Discrimination of Ironies
" , Fanny is more observant and perceptive then her female counterparts; she understands and appreciates decorum and manners. "She wants a society in which the usual decorum is a defense against the deepest hurts” (Zimmerman 4).
Her looks are plain, ““with no glow of complexion nor any other striking beauty” but she is pleasant to listen to and her manners are pleasant. “Her voice was sweet and her countenance was pretty…her air, though awkward, was not vulgar”. (p. ) She fits in without standing out.

As the contents of Fanny's room suggest, she has, in addition to her instinctive rightness of moral judgment, other qualities of heroines of the novels of sensibility. She loves to dance, she is deeply moved by nature, and she exhibits a strong interest in literature, especially romantic literature. (Zimmerman 5,8)
However, she isn’t interested in learning music or drawing (Do you know, Fanny says she does not want to learn either music or drawing (p.14). According to Anna Despotopoulo’s essay “
Fanny’s gaze and the construction of feminine space in Mansfield Park”
she is not interested in those qualities, not out of stupidity or lack of interest as her cousins presume, but rather because she retreats from qualifications that will make her more desirable to men, she distances herself from “those marketable qualities that render women marriageable”. (p. 573)
Fanny: Character Analysis
Mary Crawford is Mrs. Grant's younger sister, who hails from London. She comes to live with Dr. Grant and Mrs Grant in the parsonage of Mansfield Park with her brother, Henry Crawford. Her love interest is at first the eldest son, Tom Bertram, but quickly switches to Edmund, his younger brother.
Mary seems like a typical Austen heroine: she is spirited, warm-hearted and witty. However as the novel churns on and her character unfolds we notice she is proud, manipulative and selfish.
Quite the opposite of Fanny, she is a beauty and loves to be noticed and praised.
Mary constructs her outer and inner self according to societal (male) expectations. She believes elegance to be more important then virtue because virtue will not capture a man’s heart. “A young women, pretty, lively, with a harp as elegant as herself…was enough to catch a man’s heart”. (p.47)
She makes snide remarks about her uncle, who had been her guardian.
Mary regards manners as mere superficialities, (Zimmerman p. 6) and is hence morally warped. Because of her moral deficiency, she doesn't comprehend Edmund's choice to become a clergyman.
She judges others based on the frequency with which they are looked at. “I begin now to understand you all except Miss Price … is she out, or is she not?”. Fanny’s importance is based on whether she is marriageable or desired by other men. For the same reason, Mary objects to become the wife of a clergyman, who is never distinguished “Men love to distinguish themselves… but not in church. A clergyman is nothing” (p. 67)
She is cunning- she employs feminine tactics to reach her goal- marrying Edmund. She feigns friendship with Fanny and praises her to Edmund.
Marriage to Mary is a scheme, a game of winners and losers, “I will stake my last like a woman of spirit… I am not born to sit still and do nothing. If I lose the game, it shall not be from not striving for it” (p. 174)

Mary: Character Analysis
Thomas Bertram is the husband of Fanny's aunt, and the owner of the Mansfield Park estate.
From the beginning of the novel we find that he is a strong male figure.
When he agrees to adopt young Fanny, he doesn’t do it from affection and family-love, but from duty and honor.

He sees Fanny as unfortunate child and wants to give her education in order to learn the rules of the Bertram's world, yet he doesn’t want his children to be attached to her too much since he sees her as beneath them.
We learn that Mr. Bertram isn't really loved by his family- Fanny fears him, his wife is passive and won't miss him when he will be off regarding work and his children dismiss him- his daughters hate him, and his son, Tom, spent all their money.

Sir Thomas represents the values of the patriarchal family. He is a figure who won't stand anything less than high manners and morality, yet he lacks to understand his own follies.
The production of Lover's Vow is a major scene and point in the novel. According to Everett Zimmerman's article "Jane Austen and "Mansfield Park": A Discrimination of Ironies" the production, "showing the assumed impersonality and order of role-playing being used for personal, unprincipled purposes (that is, the order of art disappearing), is an apt metaphor to reveal the formal surface of a society in the process of disintegrating into contradictory, selfish impulses" (Zimmerman, 351).
Meaning although it seems as if all the characters are only playing a part in the play, they are actually revealing their own distorted morality and reality.
Evidently, Thomas's arrival to Mansfield Park depicts the return of morality and traditional family- something that the characters, except Fanny and Edmund- don’t really want to be a part in: "Sir Thomas's return made a striking change in the ways of the family, independent of Lovers' Vows. Under his government, Mansfield was an altered place" (Ch. 21).

Sir Thomas Bertram
Sir Bertram's Relationship with Fanny
His relationship with Fanny is interesting-
from the beginning we can sense that he treats her as his property, and when she refuses to marry Henry he is furious with her and preaches that she knows nothing and he knows what is best for her; he wants to control her.
Yet in the end there is a glimpse of salvation when he realizes and appreciates Fanny's morality and principles and wishes his own daughters will be like her.

Edmund Bertram

Edmund is the younger son of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram.
Since he is not the heir of the family estate, he needs to find for himself an occupation and chooses to become clergyman.
He is described as a handsome man who is the only one to treat Fanny with kindness.
He becomes Fanny's friend and protector from her selfish and unkind family- especially the cruel Mrs. Norris.

The character of Edmund is complex- from the one hand he holds a high code of morality; he believes in tradition, family, virtue and kindness.
On the other hand- the arrival of the Crawfords shake his reality: Mary Crawford holds everything that Edmund doesn't believe in, yet he is physically attracted to her. She has a certain charm over him, and he follows her, sometimes blindly, while abandoning Fanny.
The arrival of Mary into Edmund's life is interesting since the readers see the struggle between the virtue and morality and the selfishness and manipulations.

Edward's Relationship with the Leading Ladies

Relationship with Fanny:
Edmund sees Fanny as his closest friend. He loves her and takes care of her, and in the end he understands that they are holding the same moral code and values, therefore he marries her: "Their own inclinations ascertained, there were no difficulties behind, no drawback of poverty or parent" (Ch. 35).

Relationship with Mary:
For Example- Edmund cannot defend himself from participating in the play, even though he knows that it isn't right and apt.
"he had reasoned, she had ridiculed" (Ch. 28).
Henry Crawford
The character of Henry introduced as an opposition to the character of Edmund:
Henry is not handsome, but very attractive, charismatic, compelling and witty man.
His sister, Mary, defines him as "the most horrible flirt that can be imagined. If your Miss Bertrams do not like to have their hearts broke, let them avoid Henry." (Ch. 4)

Henry is also a good actor and knows how to play both in the production of Love's Vow and between people.
He makes Julia and Maria fall in love with him, yet his immoral behavior makes him chase after Maria. In a conversation with his sister he reveals his twisted manners and reality: "An engaged woman is always more agreeable than a disengaged. She is satisfied with herself. Her cares are over, and she feels that she may exert all her powers of pleasing without suspicion. All is safe with a lady engaged: no harm can be done" (Ch. 5).

Eventually, he tries to win Fanny's affection - not because he falls in love with her, but because he sees her as a challenge. His own sister tells him that he finds her attractive only because the Bertram's sister are not there.
In addition, he is very self-confident- he's sure that Fanny will accept his marriage proposal (Ch. 30).

Henry's character represents the immoral perspective in the play, as opposed to Edmund's character who is the ambassador of value and manners. Whereas for Edmund there should be no ironic discrepancy between manners and morals, between one's conduct and ethical principles,… for Henry both manners and morals are only a social performance (Zimmerman, 351-352).
Finally, the climax of the novel- where we understand that he and Maria escaped together- is a point where we understand that his character is beyond any redemption.

Film Adaptations
The Book “Mansfield Park” by Jane Austen was adapted in to three film versions.

Film Adaptation 1
• First screen adaption was made in the year 1983 by the director David Giles.
- BBC mini-series of six episodes.
- Faithful to the novel.
- The characters are played in a very good and convincing matter.
- Less Hollywood Glamour more true Austen appeal.
- This movie is more appropriate for true Austen fans and not for people who are looking to watch a movie just to pass the time.

Film Adaptation 2
• Second screen adaption was made in the year 1999 by Patricia Rozema.

- British romantic comedy loosely based on the original plot written by Jane Austen.

- The moral message of Austen’s novel is changed in the film in to a critique of slavery rather than a conservative critique on statues in society.

- The film is different than the original plot of the novel in three central ways.

3 Differences in 1999 Screen Adaption

# Slavery- In the novel slavery is mentioned but not as a main topic. The film has slavery as a central topic. From the start of the film there is an emphasis on the role and influence of slavery.

# The Character of Fanny Price- Fanny character is portrayed in a different way in the film and in the novel.
Novel: Shy, scared, not used to giving her opinion and in a fragile physical condition that makes her weak and tired easily.
Film: Extroverted, self-confident, outspoken and in a better physical condition.
In the film there is a hint of Jane Austen’s trait in the character of Fanny.

# Plot Changes- Several changes in the film from the original plot of the book.
^ The reason why Fanny comes to Portsmouth.
Novel: Due to the respite from stress following Henry Crawford’s unwelcoming attentions.
Film: Fanny is banished to Portsmouth by a vengeful Sir Thomas.

^ Fanny accepting Henry Crawford’s proposal of marriage.
Novel: Fanny is never tempted to accept Henry Crawford’s marriage proposal.
Film: Fanny accepts Crawford’s proposal and then changes her mind and rejects it with her family knowing about it.
Here is a trait of Jane Austen in Fanny because Jane Austen went through the same situation in her life when she was asked to marry and agreed but then changed her mind and canceled the morning after.

^The return of Fanny to Mansfield Park.
Novel: Fanny remains in Portsmouth for several months.
Film: Fanny returns to Mansfield Park much earlier to nurse Tom Bertram to health.

^Maria’s Adulterous affair with Mr. Crawford.
Novel: The affair is reveled through letters between Maria and Mary and Mary and Fanny.
Film: The affair is carried on in Mansfield Park with the knowledge of the whole family.

^ Julia Bertram and Mr. Yates.
Novel: The Mansfield family is shocked about Julia Bertram’s elopement with Mr. Yates.
Film: Julia remains at home and receives a love letter from Mr. Yates instead of eloping with him.

Film Adaptation 3
Made in the year 2007 by Ian B. MacDonald.
-British television film.
- A part of the Jane Austen Season.
*The Jane Austen season is a series of BBC British television films based on Jane Austen’s novels. “Mansfield Park” was the film that opened the season in March 2007 and a week after that the film “Northanger Abbey” was aired and the film “Persuasion” ended the series in April 2007.

Other Adaptations
There were two other “Mansfield Park” adaptations that were not done by film.

• In 2011 it was adapted in to an Opera show of two acts by Jonathan Dove.
• In 2012 it was stage adapted by Tim Luscombe and produced by the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds. The show was toured in the UK in 2012 and 2013.
Critics of Fanny’s character usually find her exasperatingly miserable as she usually withdraws when society fails her and is perpetually in tears.

Her morals are in question at the end of the novel when we understand that “Would he (Henry Crawford) have persevered, and uprightly, Fanny must have been his reward and a reward very voluntarily bestowed within a reasonable period from Edmund's marrying Mary" (467). This comment implies that some of Fanny's more rigid moral positions are a function of her feelings for Edmund; Edmund has taught her and she wishes to please him, but she lacks the strength to oppose her society when she receives no external support. (Zimmerman)

She makes for a problematic heroine as her story doesn’t lead to complete satisfaction nor resounding defeat. She compromises “She sees the deficiencies of Mansfield, she sees her hero, Edmund, morally compromised, but in a manner most uncharacteristic of a heroine of sensibility, she eventually accepts both cheerfully.” (Zimmerman 8).
Critics on Fanny's Character
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