Mansfield Park Character Review: Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram

*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.

One of the things I have wrestled with as I have gotten older is that my parents are not perfect. When we are young, we may be led to believe otherwise. The truth is that they are just as human as any of us. In Mansfield Park, Fanny Price‘s surrogate parents are her aunt and uncle, Lady Bertram and Sir Thomas Bertram. Neither of them has a healthy relationship with their children.

Though Sir Thomas has provided for children and his niece in the material and financial sense, there is no emotional connection with the younger generation. Often away on business, he is displeased that his eldest son, Thomas, is more interested in spending time with his friends than focusing on his responsibilities. Though there are moments of warmth (i.e. giving his eldest daughter, Maria an out on what would be a loveless marriage), he is not the cuddly paternal type. When Fanny turns down Henry Crawford‘s marriage proposal, Sir Thomas is quick to remind her about her place in his home and the society that they live in.

His wife prefers the companionship of her dog to her offspring. Though she depends on Fanny as one would rely on an assistant or an aide, she is equally lacking in expected maternal nature. While most mothers would busy themselves in their brood’s daily activities, Lady Bertram is content to let her husband and eldest sister, Mrs. Norris take the lead. Preferring the comforts of home, she has become a homebody, forcing Fanny to stay home as well.

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To sum it up: At a certain point in our lives, we can no longer blame our actions on what did or did not happen when we were young. That does not mean, however, that the experiences of our childhood remain separate from who we become as adults. In their own unique ways, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram are emotionally distant from their kids, opening the door to decisions that are partially due to a difficult home life.

Which is why they are memorable characters.

This will be my last Mansfield Park character review post. Come back next week to discover which characters will be writing about next.

The Ukrainian Invasion is a Both a Premonition and a Warning

It’s easy to take democracy for granted. It is only when it is on the brink of destruction that we remember how fragile and important it is.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday morning. The estimated number of casualties as of Thursday night was 137. While the rest of the world sanctions, condemns, and protests the actions of the Russian military, Putin acts as if he has every right to take over a sovereign nation.

In a previous post about this topic, I compared the invasion to when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. A more appropriate comparison is the German takeover of Poland in 1939. This event, as we all know, was the opening salvo of the European theater of World War II.

As both a Jew and an American whose family left Eastern Europe more than a century ago, I am scared and horrified on two points. The first is that Putin claims that he needs to “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Putting aside (momentarily) the continued misuse of the Holocaust-related language and imagery, he ignores the known fact that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is also a member of the Jewish faith. Anyone with half a brain can easily see through what is nothing more than a flimsy excuse.

Among the many pieces of video that have been released, the one I find most heartbreaking is the man saying goodbye to his wife and daughter as he prepares to fight for his country. I don’t know about anyone else, but seeing this exchange was nothing short of gutwrenching.

I am equally horrified that several prominent members of the American right (i.e. Republicans) are loudly and proudly flying their pro-Putin flag. What was that about America First? More like Russia First.

I believe that this is a turning point in world history that cannot be ignored. We have two choices. We can pull a Neville Chamberlain and let Putin steamroll over Europe. Or, we can fight back and ensure that our children live in a world in which democracy is respected and protected.

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