“Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions.”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a good majority of Jane Austen fans name Pride and Prejudice as their favorite of her novels. The sassiness and independent spirit of the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennett, has long since appealed to a great many people. Elizabeth Bennett has reigned as the undisputed Queen among fans for quite some time. And while I also love Pride and Prejudice and adore Elizabeth Bennett for all of her fine qualities, she is not and never has been, my favorite Austen heroine. That title is reserved for Fanny Price, from Mansfield Park.
Mansfield Park begins with the young Fanny being sent from her penniliess family in Portsmouth to live with her rich Aunt and Uncle Bertram at the lush and opulent Mansfield Park. Although they are all related, her aunts, uncle, and cousins treat her as the poor relation, never to be on equal footing with them. With the exception of her one cousin Edmund, she is for the most part treated with discourtesy and a good helping of disrespect. When the charming Mr. Crawford and his sister move to town, the whole family is taken in by their good looks and smarmy personalities. Everyone that is, except Fanny. She is the only one who sees right through their money and status loving hearts and refuses to be swayed, even when Mr. Crawford proposes to her, a prospect which would give her wealth and position that she otherwise wouldn't have.
“You have qualities which I had not before supposed to exist in such a degree in any human creature. You have some touches of the angel in you.”
When comparing Fanny with a character such as Elizabeth Bennett, one could see how Fanny would seem weak, or at least not nearly as exciting. She doesn't talk back to anyone, she lets pretty much everyone walk all over her in many instances, and she barely stands up for herself. On the surface, she may not seem like a very sympatehhtic heroine. Or someone we may like to look up to. In fact, Mansfield Park is consistently ranked as the least popular Austen novel among fans. But when I first read this book, and each subsequent time I have read it since, I have been impressed over and over again with the deep and abiding strength of Fanny's spirit. When her family pressures her terribly to marry Mr. Crawford she stands her ground and refuses to do so. She know her own heart and will not be swayed. Instead of rushing headfirst into situations, she watches, listens, and makes keen observations. She is quiet and pliant but through her runs a river of fortihute that outshines that of any other character in the novel. So no, she is nor one of the most 'fun' or 'amusing' characters to be found in Austen's works. She isn't known to be 'wily', 'sassy', or 'sarcastic'. But she is loyal and steadfast and honest. She has a true heart. And those, in my opinion, are far more endearing attributes.
“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”