Category Archives: Mansfield Park

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.

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Mansfield Park Character Review: Thomas 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.

In a world in which primogeniture is king, being the eldest son is not what it seems to be. The upside is the potential inheritance of the estate, the title, the family fortune, etc. The downside is the pressure that comes with this status. In Mansfield Park, Thomas Bertram is the eldest son and heir of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram. With three younger siblings, he has certain responsibilities that his younger brother and sisters do not have. That does mean, however, that he is doing what he is supposed to be doing.

Instead of being the son his parents want him to be, Thomas initially prefers to drink, waste money, and schmooze with his friends. His inability to understand how his actions affect everyone around him would push anyone to the breaking point. He gets so far into debt that Sir Thomas is forced to sell the living or the benefice, putting his younger brother Edmund‘s future in doubt.

Taken by his father on a year-long business trip to Antigua, the hope is that this time away will set Thomas on the right path. Though it appears that he has changed, it is just that. His real transformation is represented by both a literal and figurative fall. Left at death’s door by his friends, Thomas returns home in a vegetative state. While he lies in a coma, Mary Crawford is already planning for her future as Lady Bertram with Edmund as the heir. It is a statement that does not go over well.

Like Marianne Dashwood, he only learns his lesson after hitting rock bottom. We are told by Austen that he is no longer the drunken wastrel that he was. He is the son that his parents need him to be.

To sum it up: Sometimes, the only way to understand where we have gone wrong is to go to depths that we never expected to go. Though the climb back up can be painful in multiple ways, it is the only way to understand where we went wrong. It is not easy, by any stretch of the imagination. But it is necessary if we want to grow beyond our past mistakes.

Which is why Thomas Bertram is a memorable character.

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Mansfield Park Character Review: Mrs. Norris

*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.

Every story needs a good antagonist. Without that character, the protagonist is not challenged and basically, the reader or viewer has no reason to pay attention to the narrative. In Mansfield Park, Mrs. Norris is the eldest of the three Ward sisters. While her younger sister, Lady Bertram, married into the aristocracy, her youngest sister, Mrs. Price (mother of the book’s heroine, Fanny) disobliged her family by marrying a penniless sailor. Saying “I do” to a clergyman, she took advantage of the proximity to her sister and brother-in-law. Incensed that the baby of the family, Frances, chose a man that was far beneath her, the result of this choice was an angry letter followed by radio silence.

More than a decade later, Frances reaches out to her elder sisters, needing help. With many mouths to feed and a small income to support them, she has no choice but to contact them. As a result, Fanny is brought to Mansfield Park. The original plan was for Fanny to reside with Mr. and Mrs. Norris. But Mrs. Norris, who lacks any maternal instincts, except for those that will raise her social standing, forces Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram to take on the responsibility of caring for their niece.

Five years later, Mrs. Norris is now and widow and has moved into the big house. Giving Fanny the Cinderella treatment, she openly favors her elder nieces, Maria and Julia Bertram. Another of Fanny cousin’s, Edmund tries to interject, but his arguments cannot sway his aunt. She is the first one to bring up the idea of a marriage between Maria and Mr. Rushworth, knowing that the union is tentative until Sir Thomas gives his approval.

By the end of the story, she is still the social climber who clings tenuously to familial connections. Living with the now divorced and scandalized Maria, she remains as she ever was. But she cannot keep Fanny down. Fanny still marries Edmund and has her own version of happily ever after.

To sum it up: If there was one character who was the Austen villain, Mrs. Norris is it. She exemplifies the worst characteristics of the Regency era and the emphasis on money, class, and status. In being unable to see past these qualities, there is nothing redeemable or even likable about her.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Mansfield Park Character Review: Mr. Rushworth

*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.

When we fall in love, we want to believe that the person we love feels the same way. But as much as we may wish it, that is not always the case. In Mansfield Park, the reader is not given a lot of information about Mr. Rushworth. On paper, his appeal to Maria Bertram is easy to see. He comes from a wealthy and respectable family. He would give her the name and status that marriage within that world can bestow. Mr. Rushworth can also feed his male ego, thinking that he has won the heart of one of the local beauties of the season.

Oh, how wrong he is. The kindest way to describe him is that he is not the brightest bulb in the box. Almost blind to the flirtation between his fiance and Henry Crawford, there is one moment while he is playing host at Southerton (his family estate) when he seems to sense that something is up. But instead of listening to his instinct, he ignores it. Like an audience member who is fooled by the magician on stage, he is led to trust that nothing is wrong when Henry intentionally sits with his soon-to-be sister-in-law, Julia. During the preparation for the family theatrical, Mr. Rushworth is too caught up in learning his lines to see that his marriage will not be a happy one.

In the end, his status as a married man does not last long. Maria runs off with Henry, leaving her husband and her family in disgrace. Mr. Rushworth becomes a single man once again, searching for a spouse and a mother of his future children.

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Mr. Rushworth is one of those characters who you want to shake and hope that he wakes up from the dream world he lives in. But as much we would want him to see the truth, we can’t make him until he learns the hard way.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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Kicking Ass in a Corset: Jane Austen’s 6 Principles for Living and Leading from the Inside Out Book Review

By nature, the corset is a garment meant to constrict the body of the person who is wearing it. It can also be a metaphor for the lack of opportunity and the second-class treatment that has been the norm for women for generations.

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Andrea Kayne‘s 2021 book, Kicking Ass in a Corset: Jane Austen’s 6 Principles for Living and Leading from the Inside Out, is half self-help book and half wisdom via Jane Austen. Using six of Austen’s beloved leading ladies (Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, Anne Elliot, Elinor Dashwood, Fanny Price, and Catherine Moreland) as an example, Kayne explains how readers and women readers, in particular, can learn from these beloved characters. Combining real-world advice with exercises and examples from the novels, she inspires us to go for what we want while learning from the women whose stories we adore.

I loved this book. Kayne brings both worlds together in a way that increases my love of Austen while lighting the proverbial fire under the behind. It makes me want to re-read all six books and be open to the lessons that can be gleaned from the genius that is Jane Austen.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Emma, Feminism, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility

Mansfield Park Character Review: Julia 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.

It’s tough to be the younger sibling. There are often comparisons to the older brother or sister, forcing that person to fight for the attention and energy of their parents and other adults. In Mansfield Park, Julia Bertram is the youngest of the four Bertram children. Forever in the shadow of her elder sister, Maria, she is fighting for the spotlight. This feeling becomes even more complicated with the entrance of Mary and Henry Crawford.

Henry captures the curiosity of the sisters and flirts with both women, even though Maria is engaged. Julia does everything she can to become the sole benefactor of his time, but she is unable to convince him to see her as she would wish him to. This loss becomes even more apparent when her role in the family theatrical is downgraded when compared to the roles that her sister and Mary play.

Heartbroken when Henry leaves without proposing, she joins Maria and her new husband, Mr. Rushworth, on their honeymoon. Unlike her sister, Julia spends less time dwelling on what might have happened with him. When Maria runs away with Henry, the scandal leaves no one in the Bertram family and social circle untouched. Without an emotionally safe home to return to, she does what many women did back then. She marries the first man who pays attention to her, Tom Yates. When we last see her, she is a newlywed, running away from an unhappy home life and her potential fate as a spinster.

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To sum it up: Fighting for the limelight in a large family is never easy. Julia Bertram is an example of someone who does everything they can to be seen, but ultimately fails to. Which leads her down a path of a possibly unhappy future, due to the feeling of being ignored in favor of her sister and brothers.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Mansfield Park Character Review: Maria 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.

For most of human history, a woman’s choice has been marriage, and uh, marriage. If she was lucky, she received a basic education or was taught in the style that was “appropriate” for a lady. This idea was especially persistent among the upper classes. From an early age, girls were prepared for the day when they would no longer be a Miss and become a Mrs. On the surface, this life seems relatively simple. But upon deeper reading, it is easy to see how frustrating these constraints could be.

In Mansfield Park, Maria Bertram is fully aware of what her future holds. The eldest daughter and third child of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, she enjoys the perks of status, wealth, and beauty. Behind closed doors is another story. Both of her parents are emotionally distant from their children. Her father is all about business. Her mother prefers to spend more time with her dog than her offspring. The only adult in the room is her aunt, Mrs. Norris. But Mrs. Norris is not there to pick up the pieces left behind by her sister and brother-in-law. Selfish and self-gratifying, she indulges her sister’s kids in hopes of getting a piece of the pie.

Of all of the young men in the area, Maria’s choice of future husband is Mr. Rushworth. His appeal is his fortune and the escape she will have from an unhappy household. Willing to overlook the fact that he is both stupid and physically unattractive, it is the out she is looking for. Shortly after accepting Mr. Rushworth’s proposal, the brother and sister duo of Mary and Henry Crawford joins the Bertram’s social circle. Both are charming, intelligent, and the life of the party. Knowing full well that her marriage is one of convenience, Maria has no problem flirting with Henry. She also ignores that he is also flirting with her younger sister, Julia.

Expecting a proposal from Henry, she is disappointed that he does not act on their flirtation. This leads her to marry her fiance and take Julia with them on her honeymoon. Upon starting her new life as Mrs. Rushworth in London, Henry comes back and picks up right where they left off. This leads to an affair, a failed elopement, and being excised from polite society due to her status as a divorcee who left her husband for another man.

To sum it up: The choices we make define how we live our lives. Even when those choices are limited, the actions we take have an impact. Maria could have ended her engagement to Mr. Rushworth, which might have opened the door to a respectable life and a happy marriage. But she chose another path, leading to disgrace and humiliation.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Mansfield Park Character Review: Mary Crawford

*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.

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Mansfield Park Character Review: Henry Crawford

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*I apologize for not posting last week. There is only so much writing I can do in a day.

*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. Charm is a wonderful thing, it can open the door when being honest or dor cannot. However, when it comes to our potential or current significant other, authenticity goes a long way.

In Mansfield Park, Henry Crawford is introduced to the Bertrams when he and his sister Mary move into the neighborhood. On paper, he is everything a gentleman should be. Handsome, charming, wealthy, cultured, educated, etc. But he is also disingenuous and unable to be real when it counts. He immediately catches the eye of both Bertram daughters, Maria and Julia. While Julia is single, Maria is not. Knowing that Maria is engaged, he intentionally flirts with her.

This flirtation continues after Mariah’s wedding. The consummate actor, he feels no shame in leading her on, despite the fact that she is off the market. While this is happening, he decides to turn his attention to Fanny Price, the Bertram’s niece. Unlike her cousin, Fanny believes Henry to be the consummate actor, forever changing based on his surroundings. Though she is grateful that he has helped her brother, William, climb up to the next rung in his career, she is not falling into his arms, ready to accept his marriage proposal.

When that marriage proposal does come, Henry is rejected, an outcome that surprises him. What is even more surprising is that he is genuinely starting to fall in love with Fanny, not knowing that she loves her cousin, Edmund. After Fanny has been sent back to her family home in Portsmith as a punishment for turning him down, Henry follows her, eventually getting the yes that he has been hoping for.

His future with her ends when he returns to Maria, a decision that makes the local gossip rags. They end up running away together, creating a scandal that ruins them both. When we last see Henry Crawford, he has refused to marry Maria, and they part ways, forever tainted.

To sum it up: True change occurs when we want to change. It’s easy to say that we want to be a better person, but unless we put our money where our mouths are, it will never happen. Henry Crawford may appear to be the man who is willing to do what he has to do be with Fanny, but in the end, he chooses not to.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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Mansfield Park Character Review: Edmund 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. Idealism is a wonderful thing. It allows us to see the world as we would like it to be. But, as great as it is, it must be tempered with realism. In Mansfield Park, Edmund Bertram is an idealistic young man who must learn to take the rose-colored glasses in order to see the truth.

His initial appearance occurs when he is a young man. His cousin, Fanny Price, has just been taken in by his parents. While the rest of his family mocks and looks down upon Fanny, he is the only one to show her kindness. His initial treatment of her is that of an older sibling. He encourages her to use her natural-born intellect and provides the confidence she needs to stay sane.

As a younger son, Edmund knows that he must find employment. Primogeniture was both the custom and the law of the land. His older brother Thomas, by virtue of being born first, will inherit the whole kit and caboodle. The most common professions for men in his situation are either the military, the law, or the Church. His choice is to become a man of the cloth.

When his father and brother leave England for Antigua, Edmund is the unofficial man of the house. He tries to take his role seriously. But his intentions don’t exactly come to fruition due to the engagement of his sister Maria and the entry of Mary and Henry Crawford into their lives. When Thomas returns home without their father, he decides to put together a family theatrical, much to his brother’s dismay. But Edmund eventually agrees, trying to keep some semblance of propriety. The early arrival of Sir Thomas ends the play before it has the chance to begin.

Edmund begins to fall for the vivacious and outgoing Mary, in spite of her numerous attempts to convince him to choose another line of work. During the ball for Fanny, he drops the idea of proposing to Mary, finally realizing that she will never accept him for who he is. He also does not recognize that Fanny is in love with him.

After Fanny rejects Henry’s marriage proposal, he tries to get her to see reason. On paper, Fanny could do a lot worse in terms of a husband. But she still refuses to change her mind and is sent back to her parent’s house. During this time, Thomas gets dangerously sick and Maria elopes with Henry. Mary attempts to comfort the Betrams by assuming that Tom will die and Edmund will be the heir.

Whatever visions of his future with Mary disappear. They are incompatible and will not live happily ever after. The book ends when he sees that the person he is meant for, Fanny, has been there all along.

To sum it up: Learning to see the truth vs. what we want to see is not easy. It requires knowledge and courage, specifically when the experience may be painful. But Edmund is able to get through all that, marry the woman he loves, and have a satisfying career.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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