Adventures in Reading

The “Real” Fanny Price
October 9, 2007, 4:56 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

12074b.jpgWhile looking for Mansfield Park images to include in my blog posts I stumbled across The Places You Will Go‘s post about the film adaptations of Mansfield Park. I was particularly interested as I had seen the 1999 film adaptation and it is amusing to see exactly how Fanny changes from paper to screen. The first obvious difference is that in the book Fanny has a favorite brother while in the film Fanny has a favorite sister. Perhaps not the most impure difference but the Fanny’s character alters to such a degree that she really is not the Fanny of the novels. That is, Fanny is almost spiritless in the novel and the characters surrounding her point this out while the Fanny of the 1999 film certainly gives her a bit more gusto.

The Places You Will Go mentions another Mansfield Park film adaptation (1983 I believe) . Here the blogger poses the question whether Fanny is more like the 1999 film (“Beautiful, vivacious, headstrong”) or the 1983 film (“Slow, dull, spineless”)? Halfway through the novel and without having seen the 1983 version I must side with the older adaptation.

Austen very much likes to use characters lacking or exceeding in certain characteristics. Seldom does she establish a character in a central role (at least in the three novels I have read) that one could say is well-rounded in spirit, head, heart, and manner. First, Fanny Price is a young woman who at least through Volume I and the beginning of Volume II is not yet out. Referring back to a prior conversation in the book between Ms. Crawford and Mr. Bertram, young ladies are figuratively cloistered until they have come out into society. Thus in part Fanny’s spirits seem to reflect this ideal as well as simply reflecting her own position in life. In Mansfield Park Mary is the spirited character while Fanny cries if she is teased.

While describing Fanny as “Slow, dull, spineless” is rather too harsh, she certainly embodies the positive traits describing manner and heart. Fanny appreciates and even desires etiquette and decorum, and is a “pretty behaved” character. This can certainly make Fanny a bit more difficult to appreciate if you desire a sparkling heroine, but it develops an interest contrast with any of Austen’s prior heroines (excepting perhaps Jane of Pride & Prejudice). Fanny has been raised to know her place in life and one could even argue any natural spirit was nurtured out of her during her stay with the Bertram family. An interesting discussion no matter your opinion, though!

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