In my upcoming story for Holidays With Jane: Spring Fever, I tackle retelling Mansfield Park. Here’s the blurb:
Fanny Price runs Mansfield Motel, the family business in sunny South Florida, mostly on her own. But she dreams of following in her Uncle Thomas’s footsteps and becoming a marine biologist. She plans to talk to her cousin Eddie about her dreams when he comes home for Spring Break. But when he brings along Henry and Mary Crawford, trouble starts to brew. Fanny watches her precious future begin to slip away.
With everything on the line, will Fanny finally speak up for herself? Or will she be stuck running Mansfield Motel for the rest of her life?
Mansfield Park is perhaps the least beloved of Jane Austen’s novels for one reason alone: it’s not really a romance.
Before you get het up, let me explain what I mean.
Mansfield Park looks kind of like a romance. There are more love plots than Austen’s other novels–Fanny and Edmund, Edmund and Mary, Henry and Fanny, Maria and everyone–but there’s not actually much “on screen” wooing to be had. In Austen’s other novels, we get to see scenes of the love interests interacting with each other. Indeed, their love trials drive the plot. What would Pride and Prejudice be without Elizabeth so roundly rejecting Darcy during that first proposal? Or Emma being shocked and appalled at Elton’s proposal?
But in Mansfield Park something else entirely drives the plot: Fanny Price’s struggle between herself and the world around her. And yes, some of this has to do with her being in love with Edmund, but a lot of her conflict comes from knowing that what’s happening around her isn’t right and not knowing what to do about it. For the first part of the novel, the love plots driven forward by the play are secondary to Fanny wrestling with herself about participating.
So, the way I have chosen to interpret Mansfield Park actually fits in perfectly with a modern retelling. It might be the most modern story of all: a person learning who they are and how to speak up for themselves. In the end of Austen’s tale, Fanny is vindicated for sticking to her guns even when it’s been hard to do so. That seemed like the perfect place to start to tell a modern version.
So my Fanny Price looks a lot like Austen’s: a girl trying to figure out where she fits into her family and finally deciding that she deserves respect.
I can’t wait for you all to read my update and let me know what you think. In the meantime, leave a comment and tell me why you love/don’t love Mansfield Park…
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