Friday, May 4, 2012

Random Characters: Fanny Price

{Introducing the Random Characters Series. It's about random literary characters, by moi, posted whenever, and it has no rhyme and no reason except for the fact that I like people in books--and movie adaptations of said books--and I like writing about them.  I've also discovered that I like defending characters that are sometimes misunderstood--so you may see a lot of that.  Like today, when I tackle Fanny Price, a sadly overlooked Austen heroine.  The end.}


"I am sorry for Miss Crawford; but I am more sorry to see you drawn in to do what you had resolved against." ~Fanny Price, Mansfield Park

Fanny Price makes me think of Amy Dorrit. Sweet, quiet, and sensible, she cares deeply about her family and friends, and she has high ideals and principles. The best word to describe her would probably be "retiring". Or maybe "timid". Or perhaps even "painfully shy". (Yes, I know that's two words, but sometimes I need a modifying adverb.)

Fanny has been harshly criticized by many Austen readers, and that's a real shame. She's timid and mouselike, and at first glance she doesn't appear to have much backbone. She lets her pretentious relations walk all over her. The Bertram family was kind to take her in and lighten the load on her mother--and yes, she should be grateful--but that doesn't give them any reason to treat her like a servant and constantly remind her that she is not of the same station as they. And Fanny puts up with it without a complaint. Her meekness is admirable, but at the same time I can see why some people think she's a doormat.


However, Fanny is most certainly not a doormat. A doormat would be someone who has no opinions, no spine, no convictions or beliefs, and no ability to speak up. Fanny lacks none of those things: she's just shy about showing them. She has strength of character, and that's what keeps her from being "insipid", as one cynical critic called her.

When the Tom Bertram and his sisters, along with the Crawfords and Mr. Rushworth, decide to put on a play and invite the neighbors to watch, Fanny steadfastly refuses to take part, because she knows that Sir Thomas Bertram wouldn't approve. (In those days, playacting was frowned upon, as many plays were bawdy and inappropriate, especially for high-class society.) They tease and pester her, but she sticks to her guns. Edmund Bertram at first protests too, but then he finally gives in and plays the part of Anhalt; if he didn't, his sisters would invite other friends to join in and he couldn't bear to have the whole neighborhood drawn into the brouhaha. Fanny is disappointed that Edmund didn't remain firm, yet she is understanding and forgiving.


Fanny also displays strength when she refuses Henry Crawford's proposal. Most girls of her station in life would have been thrilled by a proposal from a young man of large fortune (I wonder if he has FIVE THOUSAND a year?), but Fanny didn't let that sweep her off her feet. She knew that Henry Crawford wasn't her ideal husband--in fact, that he wasn't anybody's ideal husband. He didn't measure up to her standards of morality and character, and therefore she took a deep breath and refused him. And she held her ground when Sir Thomas tried to convince her of the folly of her decision. She knew that Henry wasn't to be trusted... and she was right. Plus, she was already in love with Edmund (even if he didn't know it) so why would she want to marry Henry?

This brings me to something which I do not admire in Fanny. She fell in love with her cousin Edmund. Um, hello? Yes, yes, I know that the Anglican Church permitted marriage between cousins in those days (look at the match planned between Mr. Darcy and Anne de Bourgh) but still. I mean, they grew up together. He was practically like an older brother--he even paid for her stamps! And they were closely blood related. Nope, sorry, Fanny, I can't endorse that. Edmund may be nice and kind and stupid enough to fall for Mary Crawford eager to see the best in everyone, but he's still her COUSIN.

And... he doesn't realize that he's in love with Fanny until the second-to-last page in the book. Although that was Jane Austen's fault. (Don't kill me, Miss Laurie and Melody."... And not a week later, Edmund did cease to care about Mary Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny, as Fanny herself could desire." Talk about hastily tying up loose ends! That sentence was quite a let-down for me. I wasn't expecting a mushy-gushy proposal (this is Jane Austen, after all) but I was at least expecting something along the lines of, "Fanny, will you marry me?"  You know, simple question, no frills about it, but actually getting the point across.

However, there is a redeeming quality in the whole Fanny-and-Edmund thing: they are, in short, Fanny and Edmund. Just like another couple "of which I know of".. except, of course, that these two are not at all like the illustrious Mr. and Mrs. Sparkler (who have no nonsense about them).  [I'll take this opportunity to point out that Anne-girl and I read/saw Little Dorrit before we discovered Mansfield Park, and were most excessively diverted by the coincidence of names.]

In conclusion, I like Fanny Price because I respect her. She's not quite perfect, but, then again, if she were, I probably wouldn't like her anyway.  Perfect people are... well, boring.  (Apologies to any and all perfect people out there.)

11 comments:

The Editrix said...

Thank you for defending Fanny. :-) I agree, she is a truly strong and admirable character, and is often sadly misunderstood.

ROFL!! How is it possible that I have never noticed the Fanny/Edmund coincidence before?

~Elise

Abby said...

When I first read Mansfield Park a few years ago I confess I did find Fanny rather insipid, and I didn't find her relationship with Edmund particularly interesting - I think their close relation may have put me off slightly! But I am starting to see that she does actually have great strength of character, than can be overlooked just because she isn't quite like some of Jane Austen's other heroines such as Lizzy Bennet, for example!
I'm planning a re-read this summer, so hopefully then I can fully appreciate her character :)

~Abby

Alexandra said...

I accept your apology.


Heheheeee. :-P

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

I'm one of the few readers who actually really likes Mansfield Park. It's not my favorite of Austen's novels, but I do think it's the one with the most substance.

I do try not to dwell on the cousinship between Fanny and Edmund overmuch because I do get ever so slightly squicked. But I agree with you that Miss Price is a very well-drawn character who just happens to have much more going on underneath the surface than most of Austen's heroeins.

Melody said...

Fanny Price always made me think of Amy Dorrit too...

Mouselike... heehee...
Sorry. :P

{"Amen"ing as I go along...}

OOoooooh. My amening must cease. Don't be so cruel! You weren't going on and on about how horrible the match between Ada Clare and Richard Carstone was because they were cousins! (You had other reasons. :P) No, no, I'm afraid I can't find too much fault there, as it was common back then for cousins to marry. You just think it's weird because it IS weird nowadays. I also think that was Edmund's only excuse for not realising Fanny was the perfect match for him--see, she was only 10 when she came to live with them and he was 16, so automatically he began to view her as a younger sister. However, I think it's sweet on Fanny's side... she never had met him before then; if they really did grow up together that probably would be a little weird. But she learned to love him as time went on, and he was so special to her.... I just think it's sweet. And You Can't Stop Me. :D
I'm more likely to kill you about THAT.

Haha... I was disappointed with no proposal too, I'll concede. But I knew to expect it, I think... I'd probably heard somewhere or other that that wasn't in there. MP is infamous for being the Least Romantic of JA's Novels. But it's still a good story and doesn't deserve all the criticism it gets. Sniff.

I feel sad that Jane Austen didn't write a satisfactory ending. She COULD have. Haha. Instead, we're just left to draw our own conclusions where particulars are concerned... and I rarely like doing that.
It Needs A New Movie. The End. With the proposal I wrote for Edmund in it...
Hahaha, kidding... besides I never technically finished it. :P

I like Fanny for more reasons than respect. I find her quite endearing and easy to feel on her side, as it were. Haha, well, I don't think perfect people would be boring per se.... but there aren't any. Near-perfect people, however, aren't exactly my style. ;-) Heehee. I seem to remember talking about something similar to this rawthuh recentatious.

I didn't realize the Fanny-Edmund coincidence until I watched LD last time, I think... haha, I'm a little slow with these things. ;)

Well, a lot of this was good. *snorts* HAHAHA. I'm so mean... Seriously, you talk about yourself being snooty when it comes to JA??? Hahahahahaha.

Payton Wilson said...

Is this the best version of Mansfield Park? I've never seen a movie version, although I would like to.

This version looks good, however... mostly because *cough* it has Nicholas Farrell in it. =)

Hayden said...

So I do like Mansfield Park. I've only read the book, not seen any movie versions, but I did like it, a lot. It's probably my fourth favorite Austen novel, after P&P, Emma, and Northanger Abbey.

Oh, and do you realize that the "cynical critic" who called Fanny insipid was Jane Austen's own mother?

Yes, I am sure that was very encouraging to poor Jane... :)

Anyway, the fact that Fanny and Edmund were cousins (Fanny and Edmund!! Haha! Never noticed that before!! Bertram, be quiet!:)bothered me at first, until I read other classic books and realized that though this is really ick (okay, major ick!) today, it was extremely common back then. I still don't really *think* about the fact that they are cousins, though.

Because it does mildly freak me out.

I do agree that the ending is rushed and disappointing. I'm a wedding person, but I'll settle for at least a proposal (as I often have to do in the case of Jane Austen) but MP doesn't even have THAT. Sigh.

Miss Dashwood said...

Elise,
Heehee, apparently you're not the only one who didn't notice the Fanny-and-Edmund thing... it was the only thing I could think of, sadly, when I read MP. *snicker* But of course that didn't keep me from enjoying the story. It just gave me a healthy dose of the giggles every now and then.

Abby,
I'm planning a re-read of MP too! Have you joined the Classics Club, by any chance?

Ally,
Heeheehee. I was thinking either you or Anne-girl might comment with something along those lines... why do I not have a surprised feeling? :D

Petie,
We-e-e-e-elll... I guess you could say this is the best version of MP out there. No, you could DEFINITELY say that. Because the other two stink. Unfortunately, this one isn't great. Nicholas Farrell is okay, and Sylvestra le Touzel (Fanny) is actually quite good, but the rest of the cast is bleh and the story is SO slow-moving. (Plus Mary and Henry Crawford are completely miscast. Ugh.) It's quite boring at times, which is a shame because the book isn't. This adaptation just doesn't do it justice... but if you really want to see a movie version, I'd definitely recommend this one. The 2007 one is completely inaccurate and the 1999 one is just jaw-droppingly ridiculous (not that I've seen either---I've just read reviews and seen trailers and stuff).

Hayden,
Hahahahahahaha, I had no idea that JA's mother said that! Wow. Way to go, Mom-of-Jane-Austen.
I do find it extremely ick... but you're right, it was common back then. But that still doesn't make the ending of Rose in Bloom any less uncomfortable for me... even though Rose and Mac did seem to belong together... ugh. Complicated.
The wedding's in the movie, though. That's quite nice. As is the proposal. Although the proposal wasn't all I'd hoped for. :(

Rachel Heffington said...

Having never seen Mansfield Park, I was highly amused and interested to seed William Wilberforce's Cousin's wife (from Amazing Grace) portrayed as Fanny! :D What a queer coincidence!

Hayden said...

hahaha! I'm glad to know there's someone out there with the same Rose and Mac feelings....simply put, WHY did LMA make them cousins???

Cuz they *are* too perfect together...sigh. I stormed about that fact for a couple days after I read Rose in Bloom. I'm over it now, though. :) I just sort of ignore the fact that they're cousins...so it doesn't bother me so much anymore :)

Alexandra said...

Actually, that's the fun part...Nicholas Farrell and Sylvestra le Touzel play husband and wife again years later in Amazing Grace, which I thought was quite funny.

And I agree with Payton...I'm quite fond of Nicholas Farrell as well. ;-)