Fanny Price

Austen is supposed to have said that in Emma Woodhouse she created a heroine whom nobody but herself would like much. She was wrong, at least as far as the 21st century is concerned – Emma is quite popular. But the one whom this statement would fit far more accurately is Fanny Price.

People today get Emma – bossy, outgoing, self-confident, and with only those faults which these (somewhat laudable) character traits predispose her to. But Fanny? Shy, quiet, “creepmouse” Fanny? Oh dear. Social Anxiety Disorder, definitely Generalized Anxiety Disorder; Chronic Low Self-Esteem; Strongly Perfectionistic Tendencies; probably Major Depression or at least Dysthymia. Possibly Codependence. Of course, with her history of childhood emotional abuse, it’s not a big surprise that her genetic tendency to neuroses burst into full bloom. It’s sad, but some people are just born with this warped personality which has them chronically and cripplingly hypersensitive and shy. Fortunately, that can be treated; an SSRI should take care of it. If only they had known that in Austen’s day, we wouldn’t have had to have a Fanny Price.

But we do have a Fanny Price. And Austen approves of her. You can put away your prescription for Prozac; Fanny doesn’t need fixing – she’s great the way she is. Even though nobody’s understood her well enough yet to make a decent movie of Mansfield Park – but that’s a topic for another post.

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4 thoughts on “Fanny Price

  1. I’ve always been fond of Mansfield Park, and of Fanny. My first introduction to Austen was not, as with many, P&P. Mom had borrowed the 1999 movie version of Mansfield from the library, and ranted her way through its many flaws so passionately that finally I decided I HAD to read the book to see if this adaptation was truly as bad as she said it was (spoiler: it was). Partway through the book, though, I fell in love with it all for itself, and promptly read my way through the rest of Austen’s books once I finished with it. I still admire and respect Fanny immensely, and I sometimes think she deserved better than Edmund, in the end.

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    • NO!! Edmund is a great guy!! LOL. Actually, one of the reasons I disliked the book for so long (yes, it was the first Austen for me, too) is that I thought like you did, that he’s so dense; how can he not get it that Fanny loves him and is the best possible wife for him, yadda yadda – but think about it, the guy’s only 25, and has never been around women much (Eton & Oxford, all-male establishments). Fanny is like a sister to him. And so he falls head over heels for the first pretty vivacious brunette he meets. It’s almost a bit of Marianne-Willoughby all over… And then when he smartens up, there’s Fanny, waiting in the wings just like Colonel Brandon. He really is a good guy, and – well, *Fanny* thinks he’s perfect, so we can’t very well argue with her, can we? πŸ™‚ Actually, his making a fool of himself over Mary probably gives Fanny an advantage. Now she knows he’s not flawless, so at least she doesn’t approach their marriage with him way up on a pedestal (that would be bad indeed).
      I didn’t need your spoiler to know that the 1999 movie was lousy; I watched it back then. But actually now I want to re-watch it to see if it really was as bad as I remember (and I know there’s scenes I’ll want to fast-forward over. You know the ones. Blrrgh.). Once I’m done watching it, I’ll have to let loose with another rant on the movie adaptations, I think! πŸ™‚

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      • Actually, my biggest complaint with Edmund is his “yes I am better than all of you” attitude even when he’s being a complete idiot, the fact that he only uses Fanny to back up his own opinions, and, mostly, that people complain about Fanny being a drip and never once mention that Edmund is way more sanctimonious and revoltingly “pi”.

        Basically, Edmund talks a good talk, but as soon as his emotions get involved, whoops, there go principles out the window – and even worse, he manages to convince himself that he’s still remaining true to those principles. Whereas Fanny, supposedly the weaker character, remains steadfast in her convictions even when her emotions and everyone around her try to persuade her differently.

        And I know Edmund learns from his errors, and improves by the end of the book, but we don’t get to see enough of the new-and-improved Edmund for me to ever really like him. Unlike, say, Captain Wentworth who we get to see gradually improve throughout the course of the entire book.

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      • Yes, well – I used to think so, too. But I changed my mind. Now I’m in love with him. πŸ™‚ It’s his vulnerability that made me think differently of him. He’s so very unheroic; he gets hurt by his infatuation, has his heart trampled on by Mary’s callousness – and we get to watch it happen, just like with Marianne. The scene where he picks up Fanny from Portsmouth, and she runs into his arms and he clings to her because he’s got nobody else any more – it just turns my heart over. I guess I’m just a sucker for vulnerability. And I think he won’t ever do the “more righteous than thou” after this; that Portsmouth scene is too powerful for it. He really *needs* Fanny now, and he knows it.
        You know, one of the things I love about Austen (and I’m really coming to appreciate with these readings) is the tremendous variety of characters she presents. They’re all so different, every one…

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