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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Wisdom of Fanny Price | guest post from Beth!

We all like to hate on Mansfield Park from time to time — but shockingly, today is not one of those times. Beth is back to share with us some of the wisdom that can be gleaned from Fanny's words and actions, so grab one of those mincemeat pies you've undoubtedly made since the last time Beth dropped in, take a seat, and lets all give Fanny her moment to shine. . .

Like just about everyone else, the first time I read Mansfield Park, I was bored out of my skull. After the sparkling wit of Elizabeth Bennet, the steadfast drama of Marianne, the meddling of Emma, and the imagination of Catherine Morland, Fanny Price was....well, dull.

At first reading, she comes across as sanctimonious and simply too perfect. And there's no big dramatic moment in the plot where simmering tensions boil over and declarations of love change the course of fate.

But as I've gotten older, and re-read the story from the perspective of a settled, old woman, it occurs to me that Fanny Price is actually one of the best models for real-life behavior.

She's boring because, unlike the torrid passions of the younger-type heroines, she knows herself. She can't NOT know herself; she's basically her only friends since childhood (unless you count Edmund, which I don't).

According to Fanny Price:

1.) It is not your responsibility to inspire another human being to improve themselves. (Henry Crawford be damned)
2.) Knowing your own heart is better than being a mysterious or exciting person. (If only Maria figured that out sooner)

3.) Discretion is the better part of valor. (Oh you may look like a doormouse, but also, nobody can blame you for betraying them, and everyone thinks of you as trustworthy and therefore an upright person)

4.) Be true to yourself, not other people's expectations of you. (Especially if they try to shame you into action)

5.) If you love someone, have the courage to hold your peace. Letting them decide if they feel the same, without pressure from you, is the only way to be sure they truly return your feelings. (Tough, and not dramatically satisfying, but isn't it infinitely better to be able to believe in their love absolutely?)

You can find more of Beth's Austen in August posts here, as well as on her own blog, Printcess (where you can also pick up some awesome lit-nerdy makeup, if that's your thing! And why wouldn't it be?).

Return to the Austen in August Main Page by clicking here for more Janeite goodies!


  1. Thanks for letting me share, Misty! It's so funny how I adored Emma and was bored by Fanny when I was younger, and now it's admiring Fanny and being annoyed by Emma. That's the genius of Jane Austen, I suppose- her characters are complex enough to change with perspective and time. :)

  2. I really never had a problem with Fanny. Other than the fact that she was in love with Edmund and he was just wimpy.

    1. Heeheee...yeah, he is a bit of a wet blanket. :)

  3. I've never read Mansfield Park, but I like how your perception of it changed as you got older. I love it when that happens. :)

    I also like your "life lessons" from Fanny!

    Dena @ Batch of Books

    1. Thanks! No one was more surprised than I (of course, the same thing happened to me, re-reading Jane Eyre as I got older). There's something about self-aware heroines...

  4. Yay! I love seeing Fanny get some recognition. I've always felt that she did the best with what she had and wondered how Austen's other heroines would have fared under the same conditions. Loved your quotes and advice from Fanny, Beth!

    1. You're wise to see that! (took me too long, I think). I think Elinor may have done OK, but I can't imagine any of the other Austen heroines coming out of that entire situation happy and at peace.

    2. Yes, I think Elinor would have done alright and maybe Anne Elliot or Mary Bennet, but probably not the rest.

  5. Personally, I really did not like any of the characters in Mansfield Park. Fanny let herself become a weak, limp dishrag. Even though she is quite insightful, because of this failing her moral authority does not totally come up to snuff.

  6. Pardon. I did like Fanny's brother who went into the Navy.

  7. Pardon. I did like Fanny's brother who went into the Navy.

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