Sunday, 29 December 2013

In defence of Fanny Price

I notice that Fanny Price has been accused of hypocrisy for distrusting and rejecting Henry Crawford due to inconstancy and then later accepting Edmund Bertram's proposal after he ceases to love Mary Crawford. 
The fact that Fanny is not as popular as, say, Elizabeth Bennet, is to me quite understandable, but the view above shows that the people who think so neither understand the 2 men in "Mansfield park" nor know the meaning of inconstancy. Fanny, albeit attracted to Henry in some ways, stays firm in her rejection not because he once expresses admiration for someone else and now wants to marry her, but because she's observant enough to see how Henry flirts with Maria and Julia Bertram, plays with their feelings, without serious feelings for either of them. "I cannot think well of a man who sports with any woman's feelings; and there may often be a great deal more suffered than a stander-by can judge of." Fanny can also see that he likes fun, easily grows bored, has no principle and has hardly any regard for how others feel, and she's insightful and wise enough not to have the illusion that he may change after marriage. 
Edmund is different. He doesn't play games with women. One cannot accuse him of inconstancy in the end simply because he leaves Mary for Fanny. For most of the novel he cares about both, in different ways, and sees clearly in his mind that the one he loves is Mary, who is fun and charming, who is not as mean as, and more likable than, Lucy Steele and Isabella Thorpe (Fanny is thus friendzoned, or cousinzoned). The reason he changes at the end of the book is the realisation that, because of his love, or infatuation, he has been blind to her faults and has never truly understood her character. It happens in real life, very often we are mistaken about somebody, especially when in love with them, until 1 incident exposes who they actually are. And, as Mary and he are not for each other, Edmund realises, at the same time, that there's 1 person for him, who has always cared about him and understood him, and vice versa. 
2 things that appear similar are not necessarily the same.  

Update on 30/12: 
Going around a bit more, I notice that there are even people who wish Fanny to end up with Henry and Edmund with Mary. They obviously don't get the book.
Besides, to add to what's been written above, I think many people are mistaken in calling Fanny priggish (and prudish) for her strict moral principle and for saying no to Henry, I don't look at it that way- it's not because of some abstract morality that she rejects him, it is made clear that she"cannot think well of a man who sports with any woman's feelings; and there may often be a great deal more suffered than a stander-by can judge of." 
Amusing. Perhaps that's why "Mansfield park" is not very popular among Jane Austen's fans. It's my favourite among her novels so far though. 

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