In Mansfield Park, analyze the relationship between Fanny and Edmund. Do these characters have a didactic purpose for Austen's readers, or are they just for entertainment?

In Mansfield Park, Fanny and Edmund have a complex relationship that grows from friendship to love over the course of the novel. It serves a didactic purpose, showing a woman of quiet moral is worth winning over a woman of sparkle without a moral center.

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Fanny and Edmund strike up a friendship based on the older Edmund's awareness of Fanny's neediness as a poor relation living in the Bertram household with no adult capable of looking after her properly. He gets her stamps when she wants to write letters home early on, and from that...

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Fanny and Edmund strike up a friendship based on the older Edmund's awareness of Fanny's neediness as a poor relation living in the Bertram household with no adult capable of looking after her properly. He gets her stamps when she wants to write letters home early on, and from that point on, he is her steadfast friend.

At first, and for many years, the relationship is one-sided: Edmund, older, male, and a Bertram, has far more power than Fanny, and she looks to him for guidance and protection. As an older brother figure, he helps form her tastes and guides her moral outlook. She falls in love with him as she enters her teen years.

Edmund, however, views Fanny entirely as a friend. He falls in love with the witty and beautiful Mary Crawford. She is worldly and socially polished but not morally good. She loves Edmund but doesn't want to marry a clergyman, his chosen career, as she wishes to be wed to someone with a grander future.

Even as Fanny grows into a beautiful young woman, Edmund is unable to perceive her as a love interest. She suffers a good deal as she watches him with Mary. When Mary's brother, the wealthy but morally empty Henry Crawford, wants to marry Fanny, Edmund cannot understand why she would refuse this remarkably eligible match for a penniless young woman.

It is only at the end of the novel, when Mary finally shows her true colors, that Edmund turns to Fanny and realizes he loves her. He marries her, a didactic ending that illustrates the triumph of a modest young woman with a firm moral center over a brilliant but morally vacuous society woman.

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