Tuesday, 26 August 2014

In Defense of Fanny Price

Fanny Price have always been one of my favourite heroines, so big was my surprise when I via the internet learned that many Janeites see her as a timid, weak-willed pushover and consider her their least favourite heroine.

I don't think her character is like that at all, so ever since I have always wanted to do a defense post for her, and show why she is in fact a heroine we could learn a lot from.

Firstly many think that Fanny is way too obliging to her relatives, and while that may be true to a certain extent you have to look into her background to understand why she is that way.

Brought up in a poor family and then suddenly sent to live with wealthy relatives, gratitude has been strongly impressed on her - both by her own family and then for 8 years by her aunt Norris, who always sees her as worth less than her cousins.

It is always made clear to Fanny that she is not her relatives' equal, both verbally and in their behaviour towards her.

And so several years of people treating her as less important eventually leads her to thinking it is true:
"Though Fanny was often mortified by [Maria and Julia's] treatment of her, she thought too lowly of her own claims to feel injured by it" - Chapter 2
Can you imagine a young women of 18, in all those years that should build her character led to believe she is worth less than her companions, and at the same time told how grateful she should be for them taking her in?

Of course her self esteem is low, and of course she will be eager to help and please her companions to make sure they don't find her lacking in gratitude. That is quite a normal reaction, but it does not mean that she is a weak character.

For one thing she is smart and perceptive - she was the only one in the family who figured out the connection between Mr. Crawford and Maria, and saw Mr. and Miss Crawford's characters for what they really were.

She also has good moral principles and a strong sense of right and wrong.

When Tom and Mr Yates decided to perform a play and chose "Lover's wows" Fanny was strongly opposed to the idea, not just because of the acting in general as Edmund was, but because she was appalled at the content of the play:
"She ran through [the play] with an eagerness which was suspended only by intervals of astonishment, that it could be chosen in the present instance. Agatha and Amelia appeared to her in their different ways so totally improper for home representation - the situation of one, and the language of the other, so unfit to be expressed by any woman of modesty, that she could hardly suppose her cousins could be aware of what they were engaging in."  - Chapter 14

And most important of all her traits - she has the courage to stand up for her convictions - even when under a lot of pressure.

Let me show 2 examples of that.

The first one is the case with the play. As shown above Fanny found the play highly improper and therefore when her cousins wanted her to be a part of it she immediately declined. Even when they kept on pressuring her, and her aunt Norris even called it an act of ingratitude - something she has always worked very hard to avoid - it couldn't change her mind.

That requires quite a bit of strength to have to oppose her entire social circle, and stay firm - something even Edmund didn't manage to do.

The other example is when she turns down Mr Crawford's proposal.

Now, when people analyse Pride & Prejudice they always point out how much strength it must have taken for Elizabeth to turn down Mr. Collins - the man that could save her family.

With that in mind, think of how much more strength and resolve it must have taken Fanny to turn down Mr. Crawford. I mean, not only was her and her family's situation much worse, but he was also much richer and considered a most eligible match by all amongst her.

On top of that, when she had made her decision everyone turned against her - Sir Thomas censured her heavily, but even after that when she was crying and thinking herself the most ungrateful creature in the universe, not once did she consider changing her decision.

She shows the firmness of her resolve most clearly when Edmund is trying to make her reconsider:
"'Oh never, never, never; he never will succeed with me.' And she spoke with a warmth which quite astonished Edmund, and which she blushed at the recollection of herself, when she saw his look, and heard him reply, 'Never, Fanny, so very determined and positive! This is not like yourself, your rational self.'" - Chapter 35   
I think that passage really shows her inner strength - something that only shows when she is challenged on her values and beliefs.

Even Edmund, her closest fiend, is surprised at how firm she is underneath, and that is something I think illustrates her entire character - on the outside she is sweet and obliging and people think she will put up with anything, but inside she has a core of morals she won't change and when attacked on that front she surprises everyone with how strong she actually can be.

That is what I admire about her most and one of the best reasons why I think she is anything but weak.

I might have been a bit carried away by this - it is hard to stop when you get started on a subject as this.

But what do you think about Fanny Price as a character?
Do you agree/disagree with my arguments?
Let me know in a comment.   



  1. Spot on! Fanny is awesome. My least favourite character is Emma. She is sooo annoying.

  2. Well done, Rose!! I most heartily concur with everything you said! Fanny Price gets far too little credit. I think that's almost part of Austen's point, though. That it's far too easy to overlook real virtue and fortitude. Sometimes it isn't at all glamorous to act by what we know is right (and even if other people notice, they may not be pleased)--but it's always worth it.

  3. littlemissberlin: I'm glad you liked it. I agree with you that Emma definitely has her faults.

    Heidi: That's an interesting point. I haven't thought about it from that angle.

  4. Yes! FINALLY. Another Fanny Price fan. I don't get why she gets so much hate. Just because she wasn't as outspoken as Elizabeth, or as meek as Elinor, does not make her any less gallant of a heroine. Like you described, I think she was stronger than some of the other gals because she kept her mouth shut. I mean, come on; how hard is it to do that when her entire family (minus Edmund and maybe Mr. Bertram) were oblivious idiots?

  5. Bravo!! Such a great post! I only recently read Mansfield Park, and I liked Fanny very very much! I never thought she was weak in any way. Rather, as you said, I think she is strong and brave for standing firm in her morals when everyone else thinks she is wrong. I can't imagine how hard it would be to keep your stance when your whole family is against it!


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