*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the novel Mansfield Park. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or watched any of the adaptations. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
We all want to be liked. The need to be popular does not stop the minute that we leave school. However, that does not preclude us from being a decent human being. In Mansfield Park, Mary Crawford is charming, intelligent, confident, attractive, and welcomed into the Bertram household with open arms. But she is also selfish and unable to see past her own needs.
“My dear Miss Price,” said Miss Crawford, as soon as she was at all within hearing, “I am come to make my own apologies for keeping you waiting; but I have nothing in the world to say for myself — I knew it was very late, and that I was behaving extremely ill; and therefore, if you please, you must forgive me. Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.” (Ch. 7)
Mary enters the inner circle of Bertram family with her brother, Henry, when she moves into the neighborhood with their older sister and brother-in-law. Compared to the Bertram’s niece, Fanny Price, she is not afraid to share her opinion or insert herself into an existing conversation. As all young women at the time were expected to do, Mary knows that she must marry and marry well. The easy option is Tom Bertram, the oldest son and heir to the family estate and fortune. But she is instead drawn to the younger son, Edmund Bertram.
As time wears on, Mary begins to fall for Edmund and he begins to fall for her. It seems like their relationship is going in the right direction, until Edmund tells her that he will earn his living via the Church. Horrified that she may one day be the wife of a preacher man, Mary does her best to convince him to seek out another way of earning a living. She is also unaware that Fanny is in love with her cousin, creating a very interesting love triangle.
While this is happening, a second love triangle develops between Henry, Edmund’s sister Maria, and Maria’s fiance, Mr. Rushworth. She does nothing to discourage her brother from flirting with Maria. After the wedding, the siblings collude to make Fanny fall in love with Henry. But Fanny is not as easily charmed as her newly married cousin. After Fanny turns down his marriage proposal, Mary does her best to convince Fanny to give him a chance. The chance occurs when Fanny is sent home after refusing to change her mind. Henry follows her and it seems that wedding bells are on the horizon. But they never chime.
This sends Henry back into the arms of Maria, a decision that scandalizes both families. Mary’s attempts to smooth over things with the Bertrams does not go over well, leading to a breakup with Edmund. The last time we see Mary Crawford, she is still single and looking for a husband. Edmund, the man she is still looking for, is living in wedded bliss with Fanny.
To sum it up: It’s easy to like Mary Crawford. Her easygoing and intelligent manner would draw out even the shyest of wallflowers. The problem is that she cannot see beyond the edge of her own nose. It doesn’t take much to put someone else first. Though there are quite a few opportunities to put her needs aside, she never does. It becomes her penance to bear, pining for the one who could have been hers, but instead becomes the one that got away.
Which is why she is a memorable character.