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.

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.

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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