07/12/2009

EVERYTHING AUSTEN CHALLENGE - MANSFIELD PARK

THE BOOK AND ITS HEROINE


Mansfield Park has the negative reputation of being disliked by more of Jane Austen's fans than any of her other novels. I've read somewhere that  "Fanny Wars" have broken out in internet discussion forums. This novel  themes are very different from those of Jane Asuten's  other books, which can be easily summed up into one sentence: Sense and Sensibility is about balancing emotions and thought, Pride and Prejudice is about judging others too quickly, Emma is about growing into adulthood, and Persuasion is about second chances. The theme of Mansfield Park, on the other hand, cannot be so easily described. Is it about ordination? Is it an allegory on Regency England? Is it about slavery? Is it about the education of children? Is it about the difference between appearances and reality? Is it about the results of breaking with society's conventions and good manners? Any, or all of those themes can, and have been recognized in  Mansfield Park.



The main problem for most of the novel's detractors is the heroine, Fanny Price. She is shy, timid, lacking in self-confidence, physically weak, and seemingly—to some, annoyingly—always right. Austen's own mother called her "insipid", and many have used the word "priggish". She is certainly not like the lively and witty Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. But Mansfield Park also has many supporters, whose admiration and loyalty can be attributed to the depth and complexity of the themes in the book and to the main character—a young woman who is unlike most heroines found in literature.



One thing is certain, this novel is not like Jane Austen's others. The girl-gets-boy plot of her other work is mostly absent here, and the heroine's success in finding love is treated briefly, quickly, and for many readers unsatisfactorily. Only in the final chapter  Fanny gets the love she deserves.
Jane Austen 's Mansfield Park  was published on May 4, 1814 and it was Austen's third published novel; though, as with all of her novels, her name was not attached to it until after her death.




RE - WATCHING MANSFIELD PARK 1999 & 2007

Before wrapping - up  my beloved EVERYTHING AUSTEN CHALLENGE ( taking part in it was great fun!) ,  I've re-read  Austen's Mansfield Park and especially re-watched comparatively its 1999 film adaptation , starring  Frances O'Connor  ( as Fanny Price) and Jonny Lee Miller (as Edmund Bertram) and its 2007 ITV adaptation with Billie Piper (Fanny) and Blake Ritson (Edmund).
I must confess ,  my mind was caught  into a dizzy confusion seeing both EMMA 2009 's Mr Knightley and Mr Elton propose and kiss Fanny Price!  In fact, Jonny Lee Miller played Edmund Bertram in 1999 and Mr Knightley in 2009, while Blake Ritson was Edmund in 2007 and Mr Elton in 2009. But I want to be immediately clear: my favourite Edmund Bertram is my favourite Mr Knightley , Jonny Lee Miller.
Now, while I loved re-watching the 1999 film version - though not always accurate if compared to the original text - I realized I didn't like 2007 ITV adaptation  so much ( I thought I liked it when I got the DVD from Amazon last year!) once I had compared it to the oldest version. And that  for several reasons, among which:
- its fast pace, which makes many parts of the novel disappear abruptedly
- no irony nor wit
- Billie Piper is not convincingly shy or insecure, her look is too modern ,  her characterization too free and     easy to convey  the  real Fanny Price
- Hayley Atwell 's Mary Crawford loses the match if compared to wonderful Embeth Davidtz in 1999 version
- Blake Ritson's Edmund reminded me 2009 Mr Elton's  stare from time to time and I tended to ... laugh!

SCREENCAPS FROM THE 1999 FILM VERSION











SCREENCAPS FROM ITV 2007 ADAPTATION












THE GAME OF THE PROPOSALS

Yes, I know. This is not the first time I propose this game to you, but, you see, these are the best moments in these movies and I love watching, re-watching and  comparing the emotions they convey. I'm an incurable romantic, you are right. Be patient with me and take part in the game only if you really feel like or if you are as romantic as I am.
CLIP 1 . MANSFIELD PARK 1999 - Final scene





CLIP 2 . ITV MANSFIELD PARK 2007 - Final scene

 
No doubt the more recent version gives us a very lively finale. While,  have you noticed how much Jonny/ Edmund's final revelation of his feelings resembles Jonny/Mr Knightley's declaration to Emma? Try to compare the two ones. Do you agree with me? So, what's your favourite adaptation? Do you also think MANSFIELD PARK is the least enjoyable among Jane Austen's novels? What about Fanny Price? Do you like her?
Now before leaving you to your reflections, I wanted to thank STEPHANIE for hosting such a wonderful challenge!

 

13 comments:

Katherine said...

I like Fanny Price's character. Even though she is timid and shy she is kind and has a sweet temper. I admire Austen more for choosing her as the heroine, it's something unexpected from her; not really her canon.

I also like how, as you mentioned, the theme is more ambiguous. The theme of slavery in MP, I believe, was one of the many things they added to the 1999 version. I did a search of the novel and there only seems to be one spot where it is mentioned in Ch. 21: http://www.pemberley.com/etext/MP/chapter21.htm

I suppose it could be argued that oppression and how people deal with it/or don't deal with it may also be a theme. Mrs. Norris' oppression of Fanny, Maria's feeling of oppression in her marriage, Edmund's oppression as the younger son, the way that Mary Crawford's character will always be oppressed by her own selfishness, Mrs. Bertram's oppression of boredom (albiet she could easily remedy it if she had a mind too, but she seems rather simple and doesn't realize this), not directly mentioned but still true, the oppression of the slaves in Antigua etc.

The 1999 movies is very well made but I don't like the changes to Fanny Price or the story-line. I agree with you that Johnny Lee Miller does a great job as Edmund, he's my favorite Mr. Knightley too!

The 2007 was far too rushed and I just couldn't see Billie Piper as Fanny (this was the first role I saw her in too) she was simply just too much of a modern girl for the role as you mentioned.

My favorite is the 1972 Mansfield Park, which is on my list to review and I will go into some detail soon.

Stephanie said...

I read Mansfield Park a couple years ago, and it's not my favorite of the Austen novels I've read so far. I liked it, but at the same time I had a hard time getting into it. I'll probably read it again soon, though.

As for adaptations, the only one I've watched is the 1999 one. I've yet to see the 2007, but I'm probably going to watch it now so I can compare them!

Mulubinba said...

Maria, I haven't seen Mansfield Park yet but I watched the two excerpts in this post. My favourite is the 1999 version. I need to broaden my education and find more Jane Austen adaptations to watch however.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Katherine
Thanks for your interesting contribution to this post. That of oppression is a very good point. I just saw Billie Piper in one or two episodes of Secret Diary of a Call Girl (not my cup of tea, indeed) and , maybe, this is why I couldn't see her as Fanny. Anyhow, I don't think Jane Austen herself liked Fanny so much. There is a certain irony directed to her "perfection" and very often the narrator let us know how Fanny acts according to rules and conventions, not always to her will. So, is she actually that good, modest, humble and generous or does she only act the good one to be accepted in a higher-rank environment? I've read some essays about this interpretation of Fanny, or supporting the idea that Jane Austen deeply admired Mary Crawford's freedom and independence.
I simply don't like Fanny very much. My favourite characters in Austen's novels are Emma, Marianne Dashwood and Elizabeth Bennet. Their liveliness or their fawls make them dear to me. Though I am more like Anne Elliot or Elinore Dashwood, in my real life.
Looking forward to your review of 1972 adaptation.
BTW, did I tell you I love your blog?
@Stephanie
Both adaptations take their liberties from the original text, but, of course, you have to compare them to decide. If you are patient enough to see them cut into pieces, you'll find three different adaptations at http://dimsysperioddramas.blogspot.com/2009/10/mansfield-park.html
Thanks for dropping by and commenting!
@Mulubinba
If you've got time there are so many Austen adaptions, and many of them are very good. First, though, you should read the novel they are based on, if you haven 't done it. Thanks for commenting!

Katherine said...

I didn't know about the bits of irony towards Fanny in the book. It certainly would make sense since 'picture of perfection made her sick and wicked.' I've yet to read Mansfield Park and Emma but they're on my list!

I like almost all of Jane Austen's main characters but if I had to choose my very favorites they would be Anne Elliot and Elizabeth Bennet.

Thank you, Maria! I'm glad you like it!

Alexa Adams said...

I just found your blog! Great post -I see our heads have been similarly engaged as of late. I really like the juxtaposition between the two proposal scenes, never having watched them side by side before. Despite having seen Emma 09 and rationally acknowledging that our two Edmunds were present, I hadn't considered the irony of both Miller and Ritson sharing the honor of proposing to their second Austen heroine. Thanks for the laugh - those gentlemen sure do get around.

I totally agree with Katherine in preferring the '72 version. Have you seen it? Fanny isn't my favorite character either, though I have great sympathy for her, but then again neither is Edmund. In fact, while Mansfield Park is close to being my favorite Austen novel (precisely because of the complexity of the story), the only characters I really love in it are Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram. Kind of strange I guess but it has a lot to do with why I like the '72 version and come close to loathing the '99 film.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Alexa Adams
Thanks for commenting and becoming a follower! I like your blog too. As for the '72 version of Mansfield Park, I didn't see it. I find costume drama from the 70s so terribly ... different. I saw EMMA 1972 and it was really hard not to skip... from time to time!

Luciana said...

I'm always astonished how people don't like this book. From all of Austen novels it was the last one I read and it is my second favourite, only P&P comes first! I've loved the fact that, as I'd read the other 5 ones already, she wrote something very different from her other novels. At the begging I didn't like Fanny, but in the end I really loved the character. For me this book deals with so many things that it cannot be thus regarded by people... As for the proposals: I haven't seen neither of the adaptations yet, but Billie Piper freaks me out! And to make things worse Frances O'Connor looks a lot like the Fanny I had imagined. Billie Piper is not an Austen heroine at all! And the end of her version is very strange too, I didn't like it. So, you see, I prefer the 1999 proposal. Although, I'm watching Emma 2009 right now, only 2 episodes to end, and it's kind of weird to see Jonny Lee Miller as Edmund, 'cause he IS Mr Knightley to me. The other Mr Knightleys didn't convince me as Jonny Lee Miller does. Anyway... I just wanted people would like mor MP as I like!

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Luciana
I can understand why so many people doesn't like MP so much (it is not very high in my list of the 6 either)! Too much perfection can be boring.
Fanny is not easy to symoathize with ... I also love JLM as Mr Knightley! Have a nice evening! At least it is evening HERE, now.

nishitak said...

You have a lovely blog, and I love your discussion on Mansfield Park.

I must admit that yes, I disliked both the book and the character of Fanny Price.

I though JA's handling of her and some of the themes were just a little heavy-handed, and at some places it almost felt as though she was writing as per someone else's (an editor's?) suggestions. In any way, it does not seem her style at all.

I also felt the love situations were rather hurried and rushed and just seemed to come out of nowhere (Fanny and Crawford, Fanny and Edmund).

I guess too much goodness and kindness without a sense of humor or sarcasm is difficult to read about

Anonymous said...

I adore the character of fanny! she's my favourite from the heroines of austen and iam sure that Jane herself loved fanny. I agree deeply with katherine , it's about oppression and about the subject that you mabe have the perfect soulmate in front of you and you don't see at all.
I dislike the character of mary, very fake person , she likes to manipulate people. She didn't care if fanny could be hurted by the flirt of his brother. She only cared about herself and nothing else from herself and her pleasure of course. I think that she is more fake even from izabella in northanger abbey.

I saw only the version with bibber and i liked it very much. The other version is from 1983 not from 1972

Anonymous said...

This also from 2014 - how have I missed this site!

I have just re-read Mansfield Park, after reading Jon Spence's literary biography of Miss Austen, so a bit influenced by his views.

I don't think Fanny is the Austen "heroine" at all. The great pleasure of the book lies in all the other characters. Fanny seems a bystander, almost relegated to a minor character. Yet, I have to read it again to tease out her intended role in the dramas that surround her. It is not the expected "comedy of manners" from Miss Austen. It is more serious; yet it has its "Elizabethan" comedic reliefs. Tragi-comedy, almost.

I found myself engrossed in the plot and development, and in the characters, and uncertain what the author meant in her portrayal of Fanny Price.

Judith (fitzg)

seezooeyrun said...

I totally agree--I love Jonny Lee MIller! Have you seen him in Elementary? Like a totally different person from the one who played in Mansfield Park. So versatile. I love all the detail you have included here. Gail