My niece just invited me to take the "Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You?" quiz on Facebook. My niece—a lively, gregarious, athletic, and imaginative twenty-year old who loves to read—is Catherine Morland, the heroine of Northanger Abbey. I'm Fanny Price, the self-effacing heroine of Mansfield Park.
You are smart and shy, a quiet beauty with brains that intimidate everyone around you. You often feel out of place, homeless and alone. As an intellectual idealist, you long to be heard and understood, but rarely waste your time trying to defend yourself to those who could not possibly understand. Time and experience is making you bolder. Despite your clever genius, you long for simplicity, and the love of your soul mate, who is a socially surprising and unlikely match.
Fanny Price is generally the least popular of Jane Austen's heroines. For most of the novel, she stays off to the side of the main action, a quiet observer who uncomplainingly attends upon her indolent Aunt Bertram and receives the undeserved abuse of her appalling Aunt Norris. She is, many readers complain, a doormat. Even Jane Austen's own mother found Fanny dull. But I have always loved Fanny Price. Because she observes and appraises without interfering with the action, she acts as a kind of surrogate for the reader within the text. The other characters come and go around her almost as if she were invisible, but she becomes our eyes, through which we see the moral colorings of the things going on around us. For me, as a male reader, Fanny is the easiest character to become as I read, because I'm not distracted by falling in love with her, as I am with a more overtly appealing character like Lizzy Bennet. So, it's entirely appropriate that I am Fanny Price.
My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .
The frontispiece from Countee Cullen's The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929). Illustration by Charles Cullen. Click to enlarge. On...
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