Mansfiled Park is one of my favourite books ever, and definitely a favourite of Jane Austen's works. Why? One simple answer, I love the character of Fanny Price.
If you haven't read the book before click on this link to visit a book review on one of my favourite blogs. The review is completely trustworthy. I will warn you that this post has a few 'spoilers' in it.
Before I state my reasons for loving the character of Fanny, I will start with a few facts about the life of Jane Austen's favourite character.
- She is from a lower-class family in the early 1800's.
- She is sent to live with her Uncle and Aunt at the age of nine to be higher educated and to help Mrs Price out by having one less child to take care of (Mrs. Price lives with an alcoholic husband and has (soon-to-be) nine children.
- She is constantly reminded of her lower status by her cousins and Aunt, and isn't treated with much respect.
- Her only kind cousin is Edmund, who reminds her a little of her older brother William, whom she writes to regularly.
So basically even in a better environment, she doesn't fit in and isn't really happy. As her Aunt Norris tells her...
[page 464] Mrs. Norris fetched breath, and went on again."The nonsense and folly of people's stepping out of their rank and trying to appear above themselves, makes me think it right to give you a hint, Fanny, now that you are going into company without any of us; and I do beseech and entreat you not to be putting yourself forward, and talking and giving your opinion as if you were one of your cousins, as if you were dear Mrs. Rushworth or Julia. That will never do, believe me. Remember, wherever you are, you must be the lowest and last; and though Miss Crawford is in a manner at home at the Parsonage, you are not to be taking place of her. And as to coming away at night, you are to stay just as long as Edmund chooses. Leave him to settle that."
- Fanny is respectful
Later in the book Fanny visits her family again and instead of feeling at home, she is reminded of her neglectful mother and her alcoholic father, both who would be easy to disrespect especially since Fanny has gained higher status in society than them, but instead she gives them kindness and respect.
- Fanny is Selfless
Fanny can often be found thinking of others before herself, whether it be giving up her pony for Miss Crawford to ride (alone with Edmund no less) or sitting on a stool by herself in a garden, missing out on Edmund's company for Miss Crawford or looking after Mrs Norris instead of resting on a couch to get over a headache. Fanny is constantly selfless.
- Fanny is Wise
Fanny is very discerning and could soon pick up on the Crawfords' bad influence on her cousins. Fanny also realised that the play (early in the book) was a bad decision, and consequently produces affections that were not meant to be, and ends up leading to her female cousin's destruction. She could tell that Henry Crawford was nothing but a selfish flirt, which saved her from what could have caused heart-break.
- Fanny Stands Firm in her Opinions
Despite being respectful and meek, Fanny has strong convictions of what she believes right and wrong. She stands firm in those options regardless of what people around her say. This shows in smaller decisions like the play. Fanny believes the play that her cousins, the Crawfords and Mr Yates scheme, is improper (immodest) and her Uncle would not approve of it (who is away). Even when she is pressured into to a small part of it, she refuses, saying it was against her better judgement. Her oldest cousin Tom Bertum even (lightly) abuses her.
In larger decisions Fanny makes, like the proposal from Mr Crawford, she again lets her conscience guide her (and her heart). Fanny decided that he is not a man worthy of giving her heart to. His true character is revealed near the end of the book. This is a decision in the book that shows Fanny's firm opinions, that she doesn't give in to.
“Am I to understand,” said Sir Thomas, after a few moments’ silence, “that you mean to refuse Mr. Crawford?”
“Refuse Mr. Crawford! Upon what plea? For what reason?”
“I—I cannot like him, sir, well enough to marry him.”
“This is very strange!” said Sir Thomas, in a voice of calm displeasure. “There is something in this which my comprehension does not reach. Here is a young man wishing to pay his addresses to you, with everything to recommend him: not merely situation in life, fortune, and character, but with more than common agreeableness, with address and conversation pleasing to everybody. And he is not an acquaintance of to-day; you have now known him some time. His sister, moreover, is your intimate friend, and he has been doing that for your brother, which I should suppose would have been almost sufficient recommendation to you, had there been no other. It is very uncertain when my interest might have got William on. He has done it already.”
“Yes,” said Fanny, in a faint voice, and looking down with fresh shame; and she did feel almost ashamed of herself, after such a picture as her uncle had drawn, for not liking Mr. Crawford. (Ch. XXXII)
“We are so totally unlike,” said Fanny, avoiding a direct answer [to a question of Edmund’s], “we are so very, very different in all our inclinations and ways, that I consider it as quite impossible we should ever be tolerably happy together, even if I could like him. There never were two people more dissimilar. We have not one taste in common. We should be miserable.” (Ch. XXXV)
She longed to add, “But of his principles I have”; but her heart sunk under the appalling prospect of discussion, explanation, and probably non-conviction. Her ill opinion of him was founded chiefly on observations, which, for her cousins’ sake, she could scarcely dare mention to their father. Maria and Julia, and especially Maria, were so closely implicated in Mr. Crawford’s misconduct, that she could not give his character, such as she believed it, without betraying them. (Ch. XXXII)
- Fanny is Pure
“We have all been more or less to blame,” said he, “every one of us, excepting Fanny. Fanny is the only one who has judged rightly throughout; who has been consistent.
Quoted by Edmund in chapter 20
So there's the reasons I love Fanny Price. She is a role model, and someone worth copying.
I read, write and ride horses. I am the eldest of three home schooled children. I love my pets to bits and I love Jesus Christ, and try to follow in his footsteps. Thankfully he catches me when I fall, and loves me just the same.
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