Fanny Price: The Heroine of Mansfield Park
Jane Austin's Mansfield Park is not widely accepted by critics. The novel's criticism is due to the heroine, Fanny Price. Since Fanny does not encompass the conventional characteristics of a heroine (charm, wit, and beauty), critics hold the opinion that she is passive, week, and boring. Ironically, Austin's goal was to demonstrate that superficial charm and wit are nice, but there are more important characteristics such as discipline, morality, and depth of character (Moore 139). For example, many critics claim that the Crawfords should be the heroes based on their charm, but it becomes evident as the novel unfolds that they lack principals and care for none but themselves. Fanny's superiority as a heroine is observed in Mary and Henry Crawford's undisciplined, unprincipled, improper actions throughout the novel.
The reader is introduced to Henry Crawford's true nature early in the novel. Though Henry's appearance is charming and witty, he lacks depth of character. Henry reveals his character through flirtations with Julia and Maria Bertram. For example, during the drive to Sotherton Estate, he pays his attentions to Julia; but after they arrive he remains at Maria's side. Henry does not hesitate to assure Maria that she is the favorite (after reassuring Julia of the same). The scene takes place while Henry and Maria wait in the Sotherton Woods for her fiancee', Mr. Rushworth, to fetch the key to the ha-ha so they can pass through the gate.
" `...You and Julia were laughing the whole way,'
`Were we? ... I believe I was relating to her some ridiculous stories of an old Irish uncle of mine. Your sister loves to laugh.'
`You think her more light hearted than I am.'
`More easily amused,' he replied, `consequently you are better company...'" (Austin 81).
Henry's flirtation with Julia and Maria indicate his lack of regard for people's feelings and his selfish nature. (De Rose 268).
Henry appears to have mended his ways during his pursuit of Fanny. His love for Fanny seems genuine. He is persistant, and even declares his love multiple times. Henry has all the appearance of a changed man. Fanny is not fooled by his persistence, she is aware of his weaknesses. Her suspicions are proved correct when he runs away with her married cousin, Maria Bertram Rushworth. Henry finally decides Fanny is not going to accept his offer, so he chooses the most immediate form of gratification instead of waiting for a wonderful and moral young woman. Henry's action reveals him to be a man that commits himself to nothing but immediate and hollow gratification and low morality (Moore 140).
Henry Crawford is clearly not the hero of Mansfield Park. He is charming and witty, but Fanny, though lacking in charm and wit, has discipline, morality, and depth of character. For example, she does not resent the years of terrible conduct she received. She demonstrates...