Mansfield Park Character Review: Fanny Price

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*I apologize for not posting for the last couple of weeks. Life just got in the way.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the novel Mansfield Park. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or watched any of the adaptations. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. In Mansfield Park, the heroine, Fanny Price may appear to be meek and pliable. But underneath that image of submissiveness is a will of iron and adherence to self, even when it goes against the grain.

When we initially meet Fanny, she is a young girl from a large and impoverished family. Taken from the bosom of her home, she travels to her wealthy aunt and uncle’s estate, where she will be raised. Viewed as the poor relation who should be grateful for being taken in, she is looked down upon. The only person who treats her with respect is her older cousin, Edmund.

This view grows as she transitions from childhood to young adulthood. Frequently sick and unable to stand up for herself, she starts to develop an awareness of the world around her and the people with whom she comes into contact. The only literal sane person in the looney bin, she sees through the masks of the outwardly charming brother and sister duo of Henry and Mary Crawford.

Fanny sees that Henry is purposefully flirting with her cousin Maria, who is engaged. She also sees that Edmund is starting to fall for Mary, completely unaware that she herself has feelings for her cousin.

After Mariah’s wedding, Henry turns his attentions toward Fanny. Even though she is aware that he helps her beloved brother William climb up the career ladder, she also knows that he is a very good actor. When Henry makes the inevitable marriage proposal, she turns him down, knowing who he truly is. On paper, he is everything she could and should want in a spouse. But she knows herself enough to know that a future with Henry Crawford would not be a happy one.

Forced to return to her parent’s still overcrowded house to convince her to accept Henry, she quickly realizes that the fantasy of returning home and the reality are two different things. When Henry unexpectedly drops in, Fanny begins to see another side of him. But she is not entirely sure that she is trustworthy.

Her gut instinct proves correct. After being rejected by Fanny, Henry returns to Maria and runs off with her. With the Betrams engulfed in scandal, a traumatized Edmund brings her back into the fold. When the novel ends Fanny is both appreciated and has married the man she loves.

To sum it up: We want to be liked. We want to be part of the crowd. But at what point do we sacrifice ourselves and our beliefs to not feel like we are on the outside looking in? This is Fanny’s journey. Though some may see her as insipid and unlikable, she has enough clarity to see through the bullshit and speak her truth, even when others are unable or unwilling to do the same.

Which is why she is a memorable character.


Flashback Friday: George Eliot: A Scandalous Life

Drawing outside of the lines requires a backbone and a belief that you can withstand the questions and the judgment coming from those around you.

The writer George Eliot was one of those people. The 2002 television program, George Eliot: A Scandalous Life, is a television biopic of the author. Starring Harriet Walter in the title role, this hour-long drama tells Eliot’s story. The daughter of a clergyman, she was a rebel at a young age. Knowing that her looks would not secure her a husband, the future writer then known as Mary Ann Evans decided to blaze her own path. That included writing books that would scandalize Victorian England and living in sin with her married boyfriend, George Henry Lewes (John Sessions).

I personally enjoyed this program. But I am a fan of Eliot. Overall I would say that it is worth watching, but only if the viewer is curious about this period or has read George Eliot’s books.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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