After writing about Tom Parker, it’s time to look at Mary Parker. Below are the clips from Jane Austen’s novel, Sanditon, and the peek given into Mary’s personality.
And Mrs. Parker was as evidently a gentle, amiable, sweet-tempered woman, the properest wife in the world for a man of strong understanding but not of a capacity to supply the cooler reflection which her own husband sometimes needed; and so entirely waiting to be guided on every occasion that whether he was risking his fortune or spraining his ankle, she remained equally useless.A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook
There is very little else about Mary’s personality in Sanditon, except for various scenes and comments. In Chapter 4 of Sanditon, Jane pens that Mrs. Parker looked back with fondness and regret at their former home before Trafalgar house. It’s also mentioned that she “entered into all her husband’s joy on the occasion and exalted in the credit which Sidney’s arrival would give to the place.”
In Andrew Davies’ continuation of Sanditon, we see her personality much clearer. If you are anything like me, you feel a bit sorry for Mary. Even though she’s a sweetheart as evidenced in Jane’s description, she deserves accolades for loving Tom in spite of his flaws.
We see that Mary is no fool when it comes to Tom. He can say boldface lies to her that all is well when she knows very well that all is not well. Her concerned expressions and crinkled brow are enough evidence that she knows Tom is hiding something, but she has no idea the depth of his troubles. On the other hand, she expresses her concerns to Tom to stop worrying.
Charlotte’s presence in Sanditon gave to Mary a confidant and someone to talk to about Tom. There’s no other indication that she was able to express her marital woes to anyone else.
My husband has two wives, Charlotte. Myself and Sanditon. I’d hesitate to say which of us he cares for the most. Marriage is… very much about making allowances for the other person. As I’m sure you’ll find out for yourself. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for when I fell in love with Tom. There’s something thrilling about that. Thrilling, but exhausting.
Tom used to have all the time in the world for the children. I’m sure he will again, once things have settled down a bit, says Charlotte. And when will that be, I wonder? Once the terrace is finished? Once every last house is let? Sometimes I fear he’ll just keep adding and obsessing until one day he drops down dead, with the plans still clutched in his hand. I’m afraid my husband, like most men, is reluctant to accept help from anyone. At the least, you must never let him catch you in the act.https://tvshowtranscripts.ourboard.org
Poor Mary reaches her breaking point with Tom when she learns at the cricket match that he cannot pay his employees. I cannot imagine the embarrassment she must have felt in front of everyone, when Stringer declared the situation in anger. When she returns and confronts Tom, she calls him out for lying to her and rightly so. She’s tired of his promises that he continually breaks.
Of course, women in that time period had little recourse but to make the best of marriage since divorce wasn’t an option. It’s not like Mary could pack her bags and leave him. Instead, she watches Tom’s ultimate take-down to bankruptcy after the fire, and his emotional confession of what an ass he’s been. Mary could have agreed, but instead she consoles him saying he shouldn’t punish himself, that they will come through it, and that she believes in him. Her approach with Tom is this situation is extremely forgiving. Had her personality been more assertive, a tough love approach might have worked more effectively where Tom is concerned. Nevertheless, we will see how their relationship continues in Seasons 2 and 3.
As I delve into Mary’s personality, there is so much that the viewing audience does not know but can only speculate. Although Mary never says anything to Charlotte or Sidney about the obvious growing affections between the two, it’s clear to me that she realizes what is happening. At the last ball when Mary tells Charlotte about Tom’s proposal, she must be thinking Charlotte is wondering what to do if Sidney asks for her hand in marriage.
To add to the unknown when Sidney announces he will wed Mrs. Campion to save Tom, Mary is obviously relieved at the news. Yet in her parting goodbye to Charlotte, you can tell between the lines that she is concerned about Charlotte leaving with a broken heart. “Despite everything, I do hope you don’t regret coming to Sanditon.” Obviously, the “everything” must refer to Sidney.
What can we conclude about Mary? Does she have those qualities in the television version that Jane penned? “Gentle, amiable, sweet-tempered woman, the properest wife in the world for a man of strong understanding but not of a capacity to supply the cooler reflection which her own husband sometimes needed; and so entirely waiting to be guided on every occasion that whether he was risking his fortune or spraining his ankle, she remained equally useless.” Perhaps in retrospect, she was useless in supplying the “cooler reflection which her husband sometimes needed.”
When the new seasons arrive it will be interesting to see if Mary gives counsel to Charlotte about love again, and whether she is able to reign in Tom or not.
What is your take on Mary’s personality? Feel free to comment and expression opinions. You are more than welcome here at the Sanditon Seaside.