Mansfield Park - Jane Austen

Fanny Price is a surprisingly controversial character. She arrives at Mansfield Park as a friendless child, sent by her struggling parents on the whim of her evil Aunt Norris, to live in the shadow of her pampered and privileged cousins. She becomes a valued companion to her clueless Aunt Bertram and is befriended by her cousin Edmund with whom she falls hopelessly in love. Presiding over all of this is her autocratic Uncle Thomas, who pretty much ignores Fanny until his own daughters leave home, in part to escape his authority. He arranges a ball for Fanny's coming out, an event that leads to a battle of wills between him and his niece after she attracts the attention of a suitor abhorrent to her despite his wealth and social standing. Watching her evolution from waif to paragon is one of the many satisfactions of Mansfield Park. By the end, Fanny's disreputable kin will get their comeuppance, others will become enlightened by her example and order will be restored to Mansfield Park. 

Many readers are not enchanted by Fanny. Reportedly, Jane Austen's mother found her insipid. While she lacks the sparkle and wit of Elizabeth Bennet and the spirited self-confidence of Emma Woodhouse, Fanny Price is the prototype for other nineteenth century heroines who are rewarded because of their discipline and virtue. Without her, we may not have had Jane Eyre, and what a tragedy that would be. 

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