There are several points that set Mansfield Park apart from the rest of Austen’s work. Chief among them is Austen’s depiction of her heroine, Fanny Price, a frail, quiet young woman who has none of the high spirits or wit of Elizabeth Bennet or Marianne Dashwood. Reared from the age of ten among wealthy relatives, Fanny is an unobtrusive presence in the household at Mansfield Park, useful and agreeable to everyone and steadfast in her secret affection for her cousin, Edmund Bertram.
Fanny’s manner contrasts sharply with the livelier, sometimes careless behavior of her cousins and their friends. Only Edmund spends time with the gentle Fanny, although his own affections have been captivated by the sophisticated Mary Crawford. With Fanny’s uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, away on an extended stay in the West Indies, the cousins and their friends decide to put on an amateur theatrical production of a scandalous French play. Only Fanny refuses to participate, out of natural modesty and a certainty that her absent uncle would not approve. Sir Thomas returns unexpectedly and does not approve, much to his children’s chagrin, but Fanny quickly falls from his favor when she refuses the proposal of Mary Crawford’s brother, Henry, who had begun an unwelcome flirtation with her after Fanny’s cousin Maria married another man.
Distressed by her uncle’s disapproval, Fanny visits her parents and her eight brothers and sisters, only to...
(The entire section is 584 words.)