Gosh, where do you start with this guy? I suppose we can take a look at how Jane Austen created him in the first eleven chapters of Sanditon and then take it from there.
Mr. Parker’s character and history were soon unfolded. All that he understood of himself, he readily told, for he was very open-hearted; and where he might be himself in the dark, his conversation was still giving information, to such of the Heywoods as could observe. By such he was perceived to be an enthusiast on the subject of Sanditon, a complete enthusiast. Sanditon—the success of Sanditon as a small, fashionable bathing place, was the object for which he seemed to live. A very few years ago, it had been a quiet village of no pretensions, but some natural advantages in its position and some accidental circumstances having suggested to himself, and the other principal landholder, the probability of its becoming a profitable speculation, they had engaged in it, and planned and built, and praised and puffed, and raised it to something of young renown; and Mr. Parker could now think of very little besides.
Upon the whole, Mr. Parker was evidently an amiable family man, fond of wife, children, brothers and sisters, and generally kind-hearted; liberal, gentlemanlike, easy to please; of a sanguine turn of mind, with more imagination than judgement.
Sanditon was a second wife and four children to him, hardly less dear, and certainly more engrossing. He could talk of it forever.
Such sights and sounds were highly blissful to Mr. Parker. (Speaking of the village). He longed to be on the sands, the cliffs, at his own house, and everywhere out of his house at once. His spirits rose with the very sight of the sea.All quotes from A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook
When I read the above, I must say that the writers of Sanditon must have picked up on the “more imagination than judgment” statement penned by Jane Austen. I’m sure we can all agree that Tom was filled with imagination for turning Sanditon into a popular seaside resort but didn’t have an ounce of judgment in order to carry it out with much success.
As created, Tom really thought of little besides his ambitions. He confesses at the very end his motives for being so obsessed with his dreams. “Something made me feel that I had to make a name for myself. I had to turn Sanditon into a place of fashion. What a silly… vainglorious fool I have been. And now I’ve bankrupted myself. I have let my investors down. I have let my friends down, my family down, but most of all… I have let you down, Mary.”
Obviously, as a dreamer, he scored high, but as an executor of those dreams, he missed the mark. As far as his business acumen, he lacked in every area. He was unorganized, and Charlotte attempted to help him sort through the mess since he didn’t have an eye for it. He sucked as an employer, making demands, not paying workers, not adequately staffing, or maintaining supplies. His budgeting skills were non-existent. It makes me wonder what he did with Lady Denham’s investment funds and the multiple lines of credit from the bank. It appeared he splurged on himself and Mary, and even Sidney said, “Why not try living within your means? That might help!” Yes, Tom Parker was lousy in business. That fact was painfully confirmed when he failed to purchase fire insurance and being 80,000 pounds in debt.
His other less than glowing personality traits were that he took credit for the ideas of others. Mary complained as well of his neglect at home with herself and the children as he pursued the building of Sanditon, which she coined his first love. He keeps secrets from his wife. No doubt that was the patriarchal thinking of men in those days that women didn’t need to be exposed to manly problems either because they didn’t understand or it was better to keep them in the dark due to their fragile emotions.
Then comes my pet peeve at how blind the man is when he doesn’t pick up on the fact that Sidney and Charlotte have developed feelings for one another. No doubt he was blinded by Mrs. Campion and her wealth and how wonderful it would be to have her part of the family.
Yes, Tom Parker is clueless and reckless. Of course, we are at a disadvantage because we do not know about Tom’s, Arthur’s, or Sidney’s upbringing and what family dynamics contributed to their character. Was Tom under pressure from his father to make something of himself, hence the reason why he feels he must prove something? We can only speculate and give him an ounce of grace for his behavior because of it.
Will Tom find redemption in Season 2? I certainly hope so but that is yet to be seen.
One must give kudos, though, to Kris Marshall who brought us Tom Parker with all his faults. He did well, for we certainly have a variety of emotions brewing inside of fans when it comes to his character and actions that screwed up Sidney and Charlotte’s love story. How can we forget that he took a gamble and didn’t get insurance?
Feel free to comment or express your thoughts on any of these characters as I write these posts. I’m looking forward to hearing from you and adding your insight.