In the new film of Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park, the writer and director Patricia Rozema includes an early scene that is not in the book. As Fanny Price departs from her family in Portsmouth to live in the grand household of her aunt and uncle, she hears someone wailing on a ship off the coast. “Black cargo, Miss,” explains the coachman. The ship is a slave transport and it is meant to remind the audience that around 1800, when this scene takes place, England was still a slave-trading nation. It is also a portent of what the heroine will eventually discover is the dark side of her new home. Many among Jane Austen’s legions of readers will be upset at the film taking such license with the novel because it imposes a controversial political issue onto the quintessentially domestic concerns of their favorite author. Those with a little historical and geographical knowledge will also find the scene outlandishly incongruent....

 

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