Jane Austen’s novels are recognized for their competent heroines. From Elizabeth of Pride and Prejudice to Anne Elliot of Persuasion, Austen’s heroines are independent, indomitable, and intellectual. Mansfield Park’s protagonist Fanny is viewed in the eyes of countless readers as weak, quiet, and even snobbish. Yet when her accomplishments in the Bertram household are taken into account, Fanny reappears as a deeper figure. Fanny Price, though reserved and sullen at times, aptly presents herself as a determined and ethically sound character in a family marked by wanton behavior.
Taking Fanny under his guidance to protect and support her since the day of her arrival, Edmund Bertram sought to lift her from the place the Bertram’s drove her to, a menial position of near servitude. Mrs. Norris made it apparent to Fanny that she was subordinate to her cousins Maria and Julia due to her lack of education and the consequence of their noble birthright. Edmund sustained Fanny at her most vulnerable moments – the times she knew she did not fit in, when she missed her brother William, and when she did not understand why people who were supposed to love her treated her so abrasively. At times Fanny became concerned by Edmund’s behavior, particularly related to Mary Crawford because she knew Mary had immoral intentions in her hopes of marrying Edmund. Regardless of how she felt, Fanny persevered in supporting her beloved cousin and eventually succeeded in becoming his virtuous wife.
Henry Crawford, a charming fellow with an impressive estate, pursued Fanny fervently. His advances were well intentioned in the family’s eyes, but to a discerning creature such as Fanny, those amoral aims were tainted with greed and self-interest. Time after time, Miss Morality rejected generous offers and advances; however, it was not this incident that made Fanny so willfully ethical, but it was her ability to stand against Sir Thomas. Given Fanny’s dependence on Sir Thomas, and his intent on seeing Fanny accept Henry, her most remarkable act of courage was in renouncing Sir Thomas’ authority over her. A prime example of Fanny’s principles, her risk with Sir Thomas, proves her to be the heroine Austen intended. Christian women who let neither wealth nor notoriety come between her and her scruples, Austen’s heroines were marked by a passionate conviction to their principles.
From her arrival in the Bertram home, Fanny fought constant disregard, disrespect, and displeasure for her presence. Though never strikingly vocal about her ideals, her intentions to live an honest existence resonated through Mansfield Park with refreshing clarity and confidence. The extended family of Mansfield had the opportunity to discover a great deal from this unassuming girl. However, if they had the ability to change their behavior based on Fanny’s influence, the novel would surely never exist. Charmingly flawed, Fanny and her narrative were destined for a quiet victory of honor and rectitude.