January 20th, 2007

reading, activism, writing

Mansfield Park

I just saw the 1999 adaptation of the Jane Austin novel Mansfield Park. The film was loosely based on the book, Austins notes and some of her other writing.

Most interesting was the emphasis placed on the issue of slavery. While many have complained about the heroine of this book, Fanny Price, finding her too judgmental, shy, and priggish, Austin put a hint of abolitionism in her nature.

The film illuminated some of the deeply entrenched economic roots of slavery in gentile British society. The story is set a few years before the British outlawed the trans-Atlantic slave trade, a business they had been involved with for more than 160 years. The trade was outlawed in 1807, the book is mostly set in 1805-6.

The debate about slavery was raging at the time of story and that discussion is reflected in the film. The patriarch of the family that poor Fanny lives with visits his holdings in the Caribbean. His plantation there is run with slave labor and every ones living depends on the earnings.

I read the book in March 2006 and found the liberties taken by the director initially disturbing, however I enjoyed the view back through 200 years of social consciousness.