Mansfield Park – Jane Austen’s First Writing About Adultery

Mansfield Park

I knew from the start that the movie wouldn’t be great. I haven’t read the book but it’s almost a fat; books are better than movie, and Mansfield Park is not an exception. 

The heroine of the book if Fanny Price; a girl relatively poor family, sent to raised by her rich uncle and aunt at the age of 10 , Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, at Mansfield Park. Price is clever, studious, and a writer with an ironic imagination and fine moral compass, she becomes particularly close to Edmund, Thomas’s younger son of Sir Thomas.

Price beauty and mind catch the attention of her neighbor Henry Crawford. Sir Thomas promotes this match, but Price is not sure of the young man, who has flirted with Maria Thmoas, Edmond Sister, who is already engaged to the dull, but very rich, Mr. Rushworth. Maria is made to believe by Henry he is really in love with her, and treats Mr. Rushworth coldly, invoking his jealousy.

On the other hand Edmond courts Henry’s sister, who is more interested in his money, than in his blind love. With New World slavery as a background and the imminent Thomas’s fortune, Fanny must assess Henry’s character and assert her heart as well as her wit.

From the beginning of the movie, I had the impression that the scenes were disconnected. They did yes follow a precise timetable of Price growth, but each scene seemed to be telling a different story, than relating to the ones that were just seen.

The actors per se, did a good performance; Price played by Frances O’Connor was credible though I have to admit, that I was more struck by Hannah Taylor-Gordon who played young Price. She was almost perfect in every detail; from her messy hair, to how she read loud stories to her little sister. Price being the heroine she seemed a little bit insipid. Researching the novel, I realized that this is not only a failure in the movie adaptation but probably Jane Austen met her that way. The movie could have, though, gone deeper into her character. When she is doubtful about Henry true intentions, we are not sure why; yes he did flirt with an engaged woman and that was definitely seen bad in their time, but we also saw a rather true change in Henry. He has shown many attempts at being who Price wants him to be but still Price doubts him, and we are not told why. We are not told what she is thinking despite the story is being told by her. Also, in many situations she shows interests in Henry, making views confused on whether she is reconsidering him or she is firm with her decision as she was with Sir Thomas.

In particular after she rejected him, and they meet again at Mansfield Park due to Tom Bertram sickness, Price exchange glances with Henry which seems to be building or trying to renew the feelings he once had for her. This is strange, as she rejected him after they kissed and because she is in love with Edmond.
Doing some other research I realized that Price is significantly different in the film. In the novel, Price is very shy and timid, and not accustomed to giving her own opinion. Her physical condition is frail, making her tire easily. In the film, in contrast, Price is extroverted, self-confident, and outspoken, while also being physically healthier.

Slavery is mentioned several times in the movie. Right from the start of the movie Price sees a slave ship on her initial journey to the family asks her coachman about it and receives an explanation. Also Tom Bertram’s return from Antigua is motivated by his disgust with what he has seen there, and this disgust is reinforced by a journal that Fanny finds at Mansfield Park showing apparently criminal events occurring in Antigua that involve Sir Thomas.

Verdict: The movie is a loose adaptation of the book. Because of the change of main characters, the plot and certain events, it totally changed Jane Austen’s moral message making the story a critique of slavery rather than a Conservative critique of the changing values.

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