Fanny Price and the Contemplative Life

  • Sarah Emsley


Poor Fanny Price—much of the criticism of Mansfield Park criticizes her for being prim, proper, and priggish. From one of Austen’s most lovable heroines, Elizabeth Bennet, I turn, then, to one of her least, Fanny Price. Fanny has been called “a caricature of goodness,” or “a weak woman with self-defensive and self-aggrandizing impulses.” Some have suggested that “with purity that seems prudish and reserve bordering on hypocrisy, Fanny is far less likeable than Austen’s other heroines,” or that “Fanny’s is a negation of what is commonly meant by character,” or that “fiction holds no heroine more repulsive in her cast-iron self-righteousness and steely rigidity of prejudice” than Fanny Price.1 Few critics defend Fanny as likeable, and even fewer argue that she’s interesting. Those who argue that she’s dramatically interesting often feel that they need to find in her some kind of deviousness, deformity, or hypocrisy.2


Independent Judgment Good Habit Canterbury Tale Unrequited Love Philosophical Contemplation 
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© Sarah Emsley 2005

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  • Sarah Emsley

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