Posted by Ann on May 03, 1997 at 00:06:33:
In reply to Identity and Principles - Alternative Realities Again posted by Kali on April 29, 1997 at 23:45:38
I have been finding it hard to come up with a response to Kali's post in large part because I don't understand the points she was making in a great deal of it. So, I must ask for some clarification, while rebutting what I can.
And later. "However, she is so limited by family circumstance, as Ann has said, and by living in a contained world with only one real friend (Edmund), that she has allowed herself to neglect to forge her own set of guiding principles, and even her own identity apart from Edmund."
First of all, if Fanny were simply an Edmund clone, then she would not have disagreed with him, as she did through much of the book--jealousy was partially her motivation, but not entirely.
Secondly, are we not all a product of the influences of those around us and our experiences? No one can synthesize principles out of thin air. Fanny's principles come from Edmund, yes, but also from Sir Thomas, what she experiences at Mansfield Park, the other people there, and the books she read (perhaps she memorized Fordyce's Sermons). She became what Mary Bennet wanted to be--a perfectly behaved and right-thinking young lady. She did this for much of the same reasons as Mary Bennet, as both were neglected.
I believe that in the end Fanny's principles are her own, gleaned from all of the influences around her, not just Edmund. Watching Maria and Julia for the years she lived with them, would have added fuel to her own principles--she saw in them an alternative to her own beliefs, and this helped to forge her own. Mrs. Norris and Lady Bertram also would have given her examples of what not to do, believe, or be. Her deference to Sir Thomas' wishes and beliefs shows in her objections to the play, when not even Edmund objected. She grew, as we all do, in consequence of all of her environment, not one aspect of it.
I don't see this. What about them is not logically correct? Where is there an example of her not being logically correct in the context of the early Nineteenth Century?
I am lost here. I don't understand what you are trying to say. Aren't instincts a form of inherent judgment. If I meet someone, whom I don't trust from the very start--is it instinct or judgment or both? What should she have done? When?
I don't see that Mary is not a credible character, I think she is very realistic. This might be one of those arguments that is not resolvable--we simply see the characters differently and nothing can convince us otherwise, but I choose to accept the characters that Austen created, as she created them. I'll also restate what I said last time:
People who like the Crawfords, are therefore dissatisfied with what Austen did to them at the end. The ending seems false to them, and is rejected--the Crawfords [particularly Mary] are frozen in what is perceived to be their early incarnation, what they were shown to be in the end is ignored. That Fanny was right about them, must then be rejected in order to preserve the illusion that the Crawfords were good people--when the Crawfords that Jane Austen created were certainly not.
Why do you say that Fanny is "dysfunctional"? That seems to me to be one of those psycho-babble catch-phrases that gets over used to the point of losing its definition, and to the point of applying to everyone in one form or another. How are you using it? What makes Fanny dysfunctional?
I'm not even sure that she is that "stunted". She is still very young in the book , and I will agree that she is still immature, but I do not see her as stunted.
Where is Fanny selfish? I admit to jealousy, but this never crosses the line (that I can remember after one reading) into selfishness. She is instead entirely giving in practice, though not always in her heart.
As for prejudice, "prejudice" suggests that there is no rational reason for one's feelings towards another, but with Fanny and the Crawfords there were reasons. Where is the prejudice? I do not see how Fanny should have accepted the Crawfords. How should she have responded to them, when they acted, from the start, contrary to her principles? She treated them with respect, she was not insulting or unkind. She just didn't like them.
Where is the luck? I don't see it. It seems to me that the only way Fanny is "lucky", is if you do not accept the character of Mary as Austen wrote her--which you have stated that you do not. If you accept that Mary is consistent throughout--which I do, then where is the luck in Fanny's perception of this? She sees Mary for what she is from the start, that is not luck, it is perception. It is only if you feel that Austen's character is not consistent, that Fanny's idea of her could be lucky.
This also goes back to the last point. If you see Fanny's perception of Mary to not be based in fact, but to be, rather, a lucky guess, than I can agree that she was prejudiced against Mary. But if it was not a lucky guess, but based on her true perception, then it is not prejudice, but reasoned dislike.
I completely disagree with there being no skill in her insight or that she has no basis on which to form her judgment. She has grown up in an environment where everyone around her is seriously flawed: Maria, Julia, Lady Bertram, Mrs. Norris to the max, Sir Thomas, Thomas, and even Edmund. That is a good quantity of experience of different characters on which to build a foundation for her insight. She is an observant girl, this was shown in the book when she watches the others debate the play, the staging of it, and the machinations of Maria and Julia and Henry. She does have experience to draw on, and she does so throughout the book.
"Fanny lacks an understanding of the unfairness of reality and the sometimes bewildering truth that your "enemies" are not always the diametric "wrong" to your own "right.""
I do not know where you draw the conclusion that she does not understand the reality that the world is not always fair. She seems to know this in her bones. She gets trampled by her adoptive family, and the unworthy Mary wins the heart of her beloved Edmund. Surely this shows that she has a strong first hand knowledge that the world isn't fair. When Edmund falls for Mary, Fanny does not go into denial or get angry. She is not mean to Mary, nor does she snub Edmund. She might be jealous, but she does accept the situation, in part because she knows that life isn't always fair.
I also do not think that she sees the world as polarized as you say. Austen states that Fanny would have eventually accepted Henry, if he had not run off with Maria. In Portsmouth we see her attitude toward him soften to the point where the story could turn to bring the two of them together (if Edmund is no longer free). This does not show the rigidity of thought or feeling that you suppose. In addition, though she does not wish to be in the play itself, she does help out with putting it together, and gets talked into helping them with the rehearsals. If she felt it was so wrong, she would have had nothing to do with it (apart from what Aunt Norris forced on her).
I disagree that her conclusions are falsely based. They are very accurate and astute. Her observations of his small indiscretions, improperly giving her a valuable gift, improperly writing to her, and toying with Maria and Julia, add up to show he is not a very nice or good person. What she doesn't see also confirms this. He heartlessly tries to make her fall in love with him with every intention of jilting her. The small indiscretions here are signs of deeper faults. She does not respect him any more than Lizzy respected the early Darcy. Fanny is as kind to him as she can be while trying to discourage him. It is not only her love for Edmund that keeps her from accepting Henry, but his own behavior.
She does not "violently" reject the seemingly-reformed Henry, either. ("That expression...is so hackneyed, so doubtful, so indefinite, that it gives me very little idea.") When he does start to show some true reforms--in Portsmouth--we can see her begin to soften towards him. She knows that Edmund is to marry Mary, and is accepting of the idea that once this happens, she might accept Henry.
She is not as obsessed over Edmund as you say either, if she were, she would not behave so kindly towards Mary or found Mary's correspondence so comforting while in Portsmouth. Her jealousy would not have allowed her to do anything but hate Mary. She knows that Edmund is lost, and once he is truly and finally Mary's she will move on. I do not see that constancy in love is such a fault (though I do agree that Edmund is not the perfect object of such a love). We admire Darcy's constancy or Knightley's. Why is Fanny's so immature?
Should Elizabeth have been polite to Mr. Collins when he continued to press her for her hand? Fanny does not welcome Henry's continued pressing any more than Lizzy did Mr. Collins'. Any incivility is to try to send Henry the message, which he doesn't take any more than Mr. Collins does, that she is not interested in him.
Is that so hard to understand? The only person other than her brother who has ever been kind to her, and the only person she has ever loved, is in love with someone else; it would have been unnatural not to have been jealous. But Fanny, while she might not want to be friends with Mary, never the less is kind to her--to the extent that Mary takes Fanny as a confidant--there is no rejection of Mary, there is just no intimacy. I do not see that Fanny's jealousy of Mary is any less mature than Darcy's of Wickham or Knightley's of Churchill. In what way is it less mature?
I do not see that she has given up on herself. If she had, she would have given into the pressures around her and accepted Henry. She does not accept Henry, in part because while Edmund is still unmarried, there is the small sliver of a chance that she might win him in the end--this is not the thinking of someone who has given up.
As I have said before, I don't believe that she is only what Edmund has made her.
But are not the events around her filled with "human variables" which do screw everything up. She may be right, but that doesn't mean that she will find happiness--this is due to the human variables not theory. She accepts this, and does the best she can.
I agree that Fanny is an introvert, in that she doesn't relate well to others--neither do I. I do not believe being an introvert is inherently bad. She would go on with her life finding happiness, as she did in Portsmouth, by being of use to those around her. She is not someone who needs to have validation from other people, with the exception of the man she loves. She would be content to go through life never interacting deeply with any one. That is due to her introverted nature. I also disagree that her identity is flawed. She knows who she is and what she wants.
Why does that nullify her being a whole person? Can not introverts be whole? Do you have to be good at interpersonal relationships to be "whole"? Can you not define yourself differently?
Where has Fanny had a chance to express her creativity? She might be extremely creative, I see no evidence to the contrary.
I agree she is not group-adaptable, but I don't see why that detracts from who she is. Not everyone gets along well with other people. I do not consider that a fault.
As for grudges, if she held grudges she could not have been a friend to Mary, or softened towards Henry, or thought so well of Maria and Julia.
I have no idea what is meant by the term "approach-avoidance"? (Again, I'm not up on my psycho-babble.)
I disagree that she is either stubborn or closed-minded. She is in love, that makes her not want to sit with Mary and listen to her talk on and on about Edmund. It is not stubbornness that keeps her away from Mary, she does not like her. As for stubborn about Henry, he is not a nice person and she knows it. Hey, I'm stubborn about not wanting to be around people I don't like either.
You still haven't answered WHY Fanny should have been more accepting of the Crawfords, when they did not behave well from the start. What they brought to Mansfield Park was not respectable, why should she have respected them for it?
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