Saturday, April 18, 2009

Austen Men Are Not Always What They Seem

All right, I am fully prepared for the stones that will be thrown at me for this post, but I will write it anyway.

Lately I've been on a really big BBC drama kick. Well, actually I'm generally a sucker for historical dramas of the Jane Austen/ Elizabeth Gaskell variety, but lately that's all I've been watching. There's something about the stories of that era that just restore my faith in men and humanity in general.

However, I have discovered that the heroes of these books/films are not always what they seem, and no, I am not referring to the leading males in the Bronte sisters' novels, though I also dislike those.

I've been absorbing a lot of period drama lately. North and South, Cranford, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and Horatio Hornblower to name a few (yes, that is a lot, but if watching BBC mini series is the worst thing I can think to do while my parents are in Europe, I think I'm good). Anyway, I've been soaking them all up, and loving it. Tonight, I again had nothing to do, and seeing as I'd watched all my first pick movies, I decided to go with one I hadn't seen in years; Mansfield Park.

For those of you who are familiar with this story and Austen in general, you know how the story goes. Good-and-sensible-to-a-fault Fanny Price falls in love with perfect gentleman, Edmund Bertram. Edmund falls in love with Mary Crawford. Henry Crawford falls in love with Fanny. It is made very clear that Fanny and Edmund are the "good" people and the Crawfords, most definitely the "bad." And so it ends with Edmund realizing that he's in love with Fanny, and the "bad" Crawfords get their comeuppance.

Okay, hold the stones one moment while I make my case for Henry Crawford. Yes, Henry starts out as not a very good person by flirting with Maria, who's engaged, and I can see where Fanny's skepticism comes from, but I really think Henry was sincere in his love for her. Austen starts him on this track of reformation, and it could play out so well, cause Henry really is trying to change his life because of Fanny, but then, she ends her engagement and Henry immediately goes back to his former self.

I'm not blaming the characters for this so much as the plot. It's like Jane Austen is saying the line between good and evil is a brick wall, and try as you might, once you're put on one side, there's no hope for you to change. If I were writing Mansfield Park, I would change the ending so Fanny does marry Henry and realizes she can love him. I mean he tries so hard and is so good to her. Plus Edmund is a bit of an idiot.

If I have surprised you with this opinion, I have also surprised myself. Normally I love the blatantly obvious good boys and bad boys found in Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, and C.S. Forester. Although I sometimes find Lieutenant Hornblower to so perfect he's almost annoying. The thing that bothers me about Mansfield Park is that Austen starts reforming Henry Crawford and then she just says, "Nope, sorry. You can't change. Suck it!"

On that note, I will finish my blog with some of my other favourite BBC drama men:

Lt. Archie Kennedy - Horatio Hornblower
Mr. Tilney - Northanger Abbey
Mr. Thornton - North and South
Captain Wentworth - Persuasion
Col. Brandon - Sense and Sensibility
Edward Ferrars - Sense and Sensibility
Mr. Bingely - Pride and Prejudice
Robert Martin - Emma
Roger Osborne - Wives and Daughters
Major Gordon - Cranford
Jem Hearne - Cranford
Major Dobbin - Vanity Fair
Henry Crawford - Mansfield Park (with my ending to the story of course)

My absolute favourites are of course at the top of the list; Lt. Kennedy and Mr. Tilney. What's your favourite?


Katey said...

An avid JAne Austen fan myself (as you well know), I have to agree about Edmund in Mansfiesld Park-he's a boring stick in the mud. But then, so is Fanny, so I guess they go well together. To be honest, I'm not terribly fond of Mansfield Park to begin with, it's the only of her main novels that I haven't reread at all. Give me Edward Ferrars, Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Thornton. Mr. Knightley is great too. Heck, all of the Austen heroes are wonderful, with the exception of Edmund what's-his-name.
Anyways, just don't O.D on those wonderful dramas; you'd better havethe inclination for them come Mother's Day weekend, because I want a big fest with them for Neen's homecoming! Should I bring the good version of "Sense and Sensibility"?

reddy said...

I will never be sick of BBC dramas! In fact I think we need to break Janine into some of our newly discovered favourites. She's never even seen Northanger Abbey!

Katey said...

Or the new Sense and Sensibility either. This is going to be fun! Should we serve tea and crumpets at the movie fest?

Kylie Groft said...

I like the new Edward Ferrars much better than the Hugh Grant version. But I have to say my absolute favorite is... Gah!!! It's so hard to choose! Well, it's a toss up between Mr. Tilney and Mr. Darcy. Have you seen the new Persuasion? Captain Wentworth is pretty fantastic too!

reddy said...

I have seen the new Persuasion but I like the old one better. Captain Wentworth is great in either one though.

reddmummy said...

Yes, you are preaching to the converted! I think we talked about this when we went shopping. Last time I read Mansfield park I through it down in disgust after Henry C's short-lived reformation ended. I was so mad. I thought the story about the redemption of Henry Crawford would have been so much better. Maybe that's why I love Jane Eyre. I don't understand how you don't have Edward Rochester on your list though. My first love . . . sigh.

Janine said...

The best by far is Captain Wentworth- But then again, the old Persuasion is my favourite movie of all time, so that might bias me a little.

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