Fanny Price is one of the least-liked Jane Austen heroines. Elizabeth Bennet, on the other hand, is one of the most of these heroines. Perhaps almost every reader of Austens’ novels would wish to be Elizabeth Bennet but not Fanny Price. Their personalities are almost completely opposite. While Elizabeth Bennet is witty, vivacious, and opinionated, Fanny Price is timid, silent and reserved. Still, many readers see parallels in the stories of both these characters especially, in terms of the developing relationships:
Henry Crawford pursues Fanny Price in the same way that Mr.Darcy pursues Elizabeth Bennet. Given those, the purpose of this paper is to argue that Elizabeth Bennet and Fanny Price are equally likable, the other triumphing where the other does not. It is often thought by many that Elizabeth Bennet is Jane Austen’s cleverest heroine. She appeals to modern readers because of her individuality. She rebels against her age’s notion of an “accomplished woman” who, as Ms. Bingley lists, must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions […] (29).
She remains independent although she does not cross the limits of propriety unlike her three silly sisters. She shows good sense. Her father respects her for it and acknowledges this in the occasion of Lydia’s elopement: “Lizzy, I bear you no ill-will for being justified in your advice to me last May, which considering the event, shews some greatness of mind” (227).
She thrives in spite of the adversity of having no fortune or connections. But even with all these accomplishments, she is not without fault. She immediately becomes prejudiced against Mr. Darcy when she overhears him saying to Mr. Bingley: “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men” (7-8). That is because she is proud of her beauty and accomplishments. Through that statement, he has hurt her vanity.
As a result, she easily believes Wickham’s story because “there was truth in his looks” (65). Mr. Darcy notices this early on at the Netherfield Ball when she comments: “[…] I have always seen a similarity in the turn of our minds. —We each of an unsocial taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to the posterity with all the eclat of a proverb. ” “This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure […] How near may it be to mine, I cannot pretend to say.
You think it a faithful portrait undoubtedly” (69-70). But after she reads Darcy’s letter, she realizes her error: How despicably have I acted! […] I, who have prided myself on my discernment! —I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity, in useless or blameable distrust. —How humiliating is this discovery! […]But vanity, not love, has been my folly. […]Till this moment, I never knew myself” (159).
Her change after this is noticeable, which can be contrasted to Henry Crawford and Fanny Price’s relationship where no change happens. Mr. Darcy claims that he loved her “for liveliness of mind” (291). It is true enough since most readers also love her because of it. It is through her liveliness of mind that she observes and critiques others “for she had a lively, playful disposition which delighted in anything ridiculous” (8). She has the ability to verbally spar with Mr. Darcy examining issues such as pride which is one of the novel’s central themes:
“Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride—where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation. ” Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile. [.. ] “I am perfectly convinced by it that Mr. Darcy has no defect. He owns it himself without disguise. ” “No […] I have made no such pretension. I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I dare not vouch for, […] I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offences against myself.
My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. —My good opinion once lost is lost for ever. ” “That is a failing indeed! “—cried Elizabeth. “Implacable resentment is a shade in a character. But you have chosen your fault well. —I really cannot laugh at it; you are safe from me. ” “There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome. ” “And your defect is a propensity to hate every body. “
“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is wilfully to misunderstand them” (43). Her criticism hit truly him at the heart, as at times, he does her. Sometimes though, she is too severe in her criticism especially of Mr. Darcy: From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, […] I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry (148).