Room 2: A Controversial Heroine

Is Fanny Price the most divisive of all of Jane Austen’s heroines? To some readers, Fanny is a shy outsider who is easy to relate to. To others, she is moralistic, judgmental and positively unlikeable. Many readers – including some of Jane Austen’s own family – prefer the character of the flirtatious rival Mary Crawford to Fanny.

Jane Austen paid careful attention to how her friends and family reacted to Fanny. Her brother Edward thought her a ‘delightful’ character, but her mother found her ‘insipid’ and her niece Anna ‘could not bear’ her! In her next novel Emma, Jane created a heroine with all the opposite qualities to Fanny. Instead of being shy, Emma is bold and confident; instead of being an outsider, Emma is popular and admired throughout her village.

Browse through the different illustrations of Fanny in the various editions of Mansfield Park below. Note how differently she is pictured in each – which one is closest to how you think of her?