Mansfield Park: Changes to the female protagonist in film

Essay by germanicusUniversity, Bachelor's June 2005

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Patricia Rozema's film Mansfield Park is vastly different to its 19th Century literary counterpart, societal values expressed through the behaviour, speech and moral judgement of characters change over time and Rozema's film takes character's and re-invents them to be applicable to contemporary societal values and be engaging for a modern audience. The most obvious example is the changes made to the female protagonist of shy, frail, well mannered Fanny Price in Austen's novel to boisterous, intelligent, attractive Fanny Price in Rozema's film version.

Jane Austen was writing in the Romantic movement of early nineteenth century which was obsessed with the emotional, the imaginative and the world was characterised by tight, formal social rituals, high status of marriage, stigma attached to sexual relations and a world of social and physical immobility, especially for women. Of all of Austen's novels Mansfield Park is the most sober and serious, Fanny Price reflects these ideals.

Fanny Price is virtuous, obligating; 'I am sure you have a grateful heart, that could never receive any kindness without wishing to return it'# passive, remote from wit or irony, timid; ' abashed her by noticing her shyness'# unassuming; ' Miss Lee wondered at her ignorance'# verbally unadventurous, self pitying; 'She was alone and insignificant'# and even her mother describes her as being insipid. Austen paints Fanny with unparalleled consistency which is highly valued within the novel and Fanny Price is unwavering in all respects and stays true to herself and the high moral standards she possesses.

Austen deliberately makes her Fanny Price, unlike her previous heroine of Elizabeth Bennett, lacking in lustre to draw attention to the conflict between liveliness and moral propriety. Mary and Henry Crawford are the rich, witty, socially adept and lively pair while Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram claim none of these...