<%BANNER%>
HIDE
 Half Title
 Title Page
 Copyright and Cataloging in Publication...
 Dedication
 Table of Contents
 Quote from E. M. Forster, Aspects...
 Preface
 Form, theme, and mimesis
 Mansfield Park
 Emma
 Pride and Prejudice
 Persuasion
 Jane Austen: the authorial...
 Notes
 Index
 Back Matter


IPSA



DARK ITEM
Character and conflict in Jane Austen's novels
CITATION SEARCH
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00001616/00001
 Material Information
Title: Character and conflict in Jane Austen's novels a psychological approach
Physical Description: 208 p. : ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Paris, Bernard J
Publisher: Wayne State University Press
Place of Publication: Detroit
Publication Date: 1978
 Subjects
Subjects / Keywords: Characters and characteristics in literature   ( lcsh )
Psychology in literature   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Funding: Psychological study of the arts.
General Note: Item removed from public access on July 31, 2012 per request by the author, Bernard Paris. The book is being reissued by the publisher and so will be available through the publisher.
Statement of Responsibility: Bernard J. Paris.
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: Author retains all rights.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 000062776
oclc - 04194078
notis - AAG7972
lccn - 78013281
isbn - 0814316166
Classification:
System ID: UF00001616:00001

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:

PDF ( PDF )


Table of Contents
    Half Title
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Title Page
        Page 3
    Copyright and Cataloging in Publication Data
        Page 4
    Dedication
        Page 5
        Page 6
    Table of Contents
        Page 7
    Quote from E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
        Page 8
    Preface
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
    Form, theme, and mimesis
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
    Mansfield Park
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
    Emma
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
    Pride and Prejudice
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
    Persuasion
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
    Jane Austen: the authorial personality
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
    Notes
        Page 202
        Page 203
        Page 204
    Index
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
    Back Matter
        Page 209
Full Text





Character
and Conflict
in Jane Austen's
Novels

f











Character
and Conflict
in Jane Austen's
Novels
A PSYCHOLOGICAL APPROACH


Bernard J. Paris
Michigan State University


Wayne State University Press


Detroit, 1978














































Copyright 1978 by Wayne State University Press,
Detroit, Michigan 48202. All rights are reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced without formal permission.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Paris, Bernard J
Character and conflict in Jane Austen's novels.
Includes biliographical references and index. 1. Austen, Jane, 1775-1817-
Characters. 2. Characters and characteristics in literature. 3. Psychology in liter-
ature. I. Title.
PR4038.C47P3 823'.7 78-13281
ISBN 0-8143-1616-6




























For Susan













Contents



Preface 9
J Form, Theme, and Mimesis 13
2 Mansfield Park 22
3 Emma 64
4 Pride and Prejudice 96
5 Persuasion 140
6 Jane Austen: The Authorial
Personality 168
Notes 202
Index 205























The novelist, we are beginning to
see, has a very mixed lot of ingredients to handle. There
is the story, with its time-sequence of 'and then and
then ... there are ninepins about whom he might tell
the story, and tell a rattling good one, but no, he prefers
to tell his story about human beings; he takes over the
life by values as well as the life in time. The characters
arrive when evoked, but full of the spirit of mutiny. For
they have these numerous parallels with people like
ourselves, they try to live their own lives and are con-
sequently often engaged in treason against the main scheme
of the book. They 'run away,' they 'get out of hand': they
are creations inside a creation, and often inharmonious
towards it; if they are given complete freedom they
kick the book to pieces, and if they are kept too sternly
in check, they revenge themselves by dying, and destroy
it by intestinal decay.


E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel

















Preface


The central thesis of this study
is that Jane Austen's mature novels are not the models of
organic unity which most critics hold them to be, but that they
are beset by tensions between form, theme, and mimesis. As the
first chapter will show, these tensions have several sources, the
most important of which is the fact that Austen's protagonists
are at once aesthetic, illustrative, and mimetic characters. They
are "creations inside a creation" and, as such, are "often en-
gaged in treason against the main scheme of the book." Since
they have "numerous parallels with people like ourselves," they
must be understood not only in formal and thematic, but also in
motivational terms, in the same way that we understand real
human beings.
After my opening discussion of the sources of tension in
Jane Austen's fiction, I shall offer formal, thematic, and psy-
chological analyses of her four greatest novels. I shall use the
theories of Northrop Frye to analyze the comic structures of
Jane Austen's novels and those of Karen Homey and other
Third Force psychologists to analyze her characters and her
authorial personality. Frye makes only a few references to Jane
Austen, but his discussion of the mythos of Spring fits her
novels extremely well. The use of psychological theory will
enable me to do justice to Jane Austen's mimetic achievement.





Preface


It will result in a completely new understanding of her heroines,
in a greater appreciation of her genius in characterization, and
in a fresh interpretation of her authorial personality. I shall
conduct my thematic analyses with the conventional tools of
such criticism, though my findings, I think, will often be
original.
The reader will notice that I do not discuss the novels in the
order of their composition. Although Elizabeth Bennet is Aus-
ten's first great mimetic character, she is one of the most diffi-
cult to understand from a psychological perspective. I have
chosen to begin with Fanny Price, whose problems are more
obvious. I discuss Emma next because it and Mansfield Park so
beautifully complement each other. After the analyses of Fanny
and Emma have been completed, it will be easier to understand
the more elusive characterizations of Elizabeth and Anne.
In the final chapter, 1 shall reconstruct the personality
which can be inferred from all of Jane Austen's writings. I shall
consider her works chronologically and attempt to explain the
psychodynamic process which leads her from novel to novel.
There are three competing versions of Jane Austen which have
emerged from the criticism. Some critics emphasize the aggres-
sive, satirical component of her art; some stress her gentleness
and conservatism; and some focus upon the detached, ironic
quality of her vision. I believe that each group of critics is
overemphasizing something which is there. When I analyze
Jane Austen's authorial personality, I shall try to show how
these diverse components of her nature are related to each other
in a structure of inner conflicts.
Those who know Jane Austen criticism will be familiar
with the proponents of each of the positions described above. I
have chosen, for the most part, to summarize critical contro-
versies rather than to document my agreements and disagree-
ments with individual critics. This book has most in common
with the psychological studies of Marvin Mudrick (Jane Aus-
ten: Irony as Defense and Discovery) and D. W. Harding
("Regulated Hatred: An Aspect of the Work of Jane Austen,"
Scrutiny, VIII [1940], 346-62), but its approach and its findings
differ considerably from theirs. I am indebted to these and
other critics primarily for the stimulus of their ideas, rather





Preface


than for specific insights. The freshness of my interpretations
will, I think, be evident. My analysis of the tensions in Jane
Austen's novels and of the conflicts in her personality will at
once challenge most of the existing criticism and help to make
sense of the disagreements within it.
Readers who are familiar with my previous work will
recognize that this book is a further application of the method-
ology which I developed in A Psychological Approach to Fic-
tion (1974). It breaks new ground in its extended analysis of an
authorial personality and in its systematic exploration of the
tensions between the mythic and the mimetic poles of literature.
Because of its approach, this book should interest feminist
critics and students of human behavior as well as students of
fiction and readers of Jane Austen. The approach can be quite
helpful also to biographers who are trying to discover the
author through his works and to psychohistorians (and others)
who are trying to understand the relationship between the
personality of an individual and the evolution of his beliefs.
The bringing together of literature and psychology can be
as valuable to the student of psychology as it is to the student of
literature. While discussing an aspect of vindictiveness in Neu-
rosis and Human Growth, Karen Homey observed that "great
writers have intuitively grasped [this phenomenon] and have
presented it in more impressive forms than a psychiatrist can
hope to do" (p. 198). This is true of a large number of the
phenomena which psychologists have described. Psychological
theory is quite reductive compared to the concrete portrayals of
experience in literature. There is a reciprocal relationship, I
propose, between psychological theory and the literary presen-
tation of the phenomena which it describes. The theory pro-
vides categories of understanding which help us to recover the
intuitions of the great writers about the workings of the human
psyche. These intuitions, once recovered, become part of our
conscious understanding of life. They amplify the theories
which have helped us to perceive them and give us a phenom-
enological grasp of experience which cannot be gained from
theory alone. The student of human behavior will be able to
understand psychological phenomena in a much fuller way if he
avails himself of the richness of artistic presentation.





Preface


I wish to thank Michigan State University for a sabbatical
leave and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation
for a Fellowship which greatly facilitated the completion of this
book. Typing, photocopying, and other clerical assistance have
been paid for by All-University Research Grants from Michi-
gan State University. My analysis of Emma first appeared in
the Psychocultural Review and is included here, in much ex-
panded form, with the kind permission of the editor. Portions
of this study have been presented in papers given at the Confer-
ence in Modern Literature (Michigan State University, 1977)
and at the Modern Language Association Convention (Chicago,
1977).
I am grateful to Howard Anderson for his encouraging
response to this book as it was being written and to the grad-
uate students who have studied Jane Austen with me for their
resistance, stimulation, and consensual validation. I have been
particularly stimulated by the work of George Graeber and
Maggie Haselswerdt.
I am grateful to my wife, as always, for her emotional
support, her astute observations, and her participation in my
mental universe.













1





Form, Theme, and Mimesis


1



Jane Austen is a great comic
artist, a serious interpreter of life, and a creator of brilliant
mimetic characterizations. Some critics feel that she achieves,
better perhaps than any other novelist, a balance between these
various components of her art. But I believe that there are
powerful unrecognized tensions between form, theme, and
mimesis in most of Austen's novels.
These tensions are not the result of a particular weakness
on her part, for they exist in almost all realistic novels and are a
characteristic of the genre. As Northrop Frye observes, there
are "two poles of literature," the mimetic, with its "tendency to
verisimilitude and accuracy of description," and the mythic,
with its "tendency to tell a story about characters who can
do anything."' Western literature has moved steadily from the
mythic to the mimetic pole, generating in the process five liter-





Character and Conflict


ary modes: the mythic, the romantic, the high mimetic, the low
mimetic, and the ironic. In each successive mode the power of
the hero diminishes, while that of the environment increases,
and wish gives way more to reality. Jane Austen's fiction be-
longs to the low mimetic mode in which "the hero is one of us"
and we demand from the author "the same canons of probabil-
ity that we find in our own experience" (AC, pp. 33-34). The
movement toward mimesis affects only content, however. Even
in the most realistic works, "we see the same structural prin-
ciples" that we find in their pure form in myth (AC, p. 136).
There is a built-in conflict between myth and mimesis: "the
realistic writer soon finds that the requirements of literary form
and plausible content always fight against each other."2 When
judged by the canons of probability, "every inherited conven-
tion of plot in literature is more or less mad."
The devices which a realistic writer uses to make his plots
seem plausible and morally acceptable Frye calls "displace-
ment." It is displacement also which accounts for the movement
from mode to mode. This concept is taken from Freud, and
Frye's reliance on it indicates that his system is not derived
purely from an inductive survey of literature, as he claims. The
conflict between the mythic and the mimetic impulses corre-
sponds to the struggle between the pleasure principle and the
reality principle, and the evolution of Western literature repre-
sents a series of stages in the development of the sense of reality.
The pleasure principle is never abandoned, however, but seeks
to realize itself in ways which are acceptable to the ego, which
demands adaptation to reality, and to the superego, which
demands conformity to a moral code. This process is especially
vivid in Jane Austen, who is trying to combine comic actions
with realistic characterization and serious moral concerns.
Structurally, her novels are a series of variations upon the
basic "comic movement from threatening complications to a
happy ending" (AC, p. 162). The happy ending consists in the
heroine's gaining the love of a good man, the security and
prestige of a desirable marriage, and the recognition of personal
worth which she deserves. "The obstacles to the [heroine's]
desire ... form the action of the comedy, and the overcoming of
them the comic resolution" (AC, p. 164). The blocking forces in





Form, Theme, and Mimesis


Austen's actions may be primarily internal, primarily external,
or some combination of both. Elinor Dashwood, Fanny Price,
and Anne Elliot have little to learn; it is a combination of
unfavorable circumstances, irrational or misguided elders, and
faulty social institutions or values which stands in the way of
their rational desires. The main thing which they must do is to
remain true to themselves, to hold onto their principles and
their personal integrity in the face of external threats and dis-
appointments. In the cases of Marianne Dashwood, Elizabeth
Bennet, and Emma Woodhouse there are, to be sure, external
blocking forces; but the chief obstacles to their happiness lie in
themselves; and they must undergo an internal change if they
are to gain their reward.
As is usual in comedy, there is a certain amount of manipu-
lation, both in the creation and removal of blocking forces and
in the final resolution of the action. "Happy endings do not
impress us as true," says Frye, "but as desirable, and they are
brought about by manipulation .... The manipulation of plot
does not always involve metamorphosis of character, but there
is no violation of comic decorum when it does. Unlikely conver-
sions, miraculous transformations, and providential assistance
are inseparable from comedy" (A C, p. 170). Since she is writing
in a low mimetic mode, Austen takes some trouble to disguise
the irrationalities of her plots by various devices of displace-
ment; but she also lets us know early that we are moving in a
world which is governed by the conventions of comedy; and we
should not be surprised by the arbitrariness of some of her
resolutions.
The fact that she is writing comedy does not interfere with
Jane Austen's thematic concerns. She harmonizes form and
theme by moralizing the comic action. Her satire is directed at
those traits of personality, at those failures of education and
judgment, and at those distortions of social customs and insti-
tutions which make daily life painful and ultimate fulfillment
uncertain for good and sensitive people. The existing society at
its best provides her moral norms; no happiness is possible
outside of its institutions and no deviation from its values is
ultimately successful. She places (in some novels, at least) a
high value on individual fulfillment; but before he can be happy,





Character and Conflict


a person must first be good, and her notion of goodness is strict
and narrow. She employs the comic apparatus of rewards and
punishments to reinforce her essentially conservative value
system.
Austen's moral conservatism tends to diminish some of her
comic effects. As a rule, comedy is liberal. It is on the side of
desire. It celebrates the triumph of wish over reality, over all
those obstacles in people, in circumstances, and in society
which stand in the way of happiness. A new society crystallizes
at the end; it moves, in most cases, "from a society controlled by
habit, ritual honrl arbitrary law and the older characters to
a society controlled by youth and pragmatifreedom" (AC,
p. 169). In Jane Austen's comedy there is a good deal of dis-
placement not only in the direction of the plausible, but also in
the direction of the moral. The wishes which are fulfilled in her
novels are highly socialized; primitive, irrational, or selfish
wishes are rarely indulged. So much has been given up, indeed,
that the reader sometimes has difficulty feeling much elation at
the outcome; age and sobriety seem often to triumph over
youth and freedom. The heroines get what they want, but we
often have trouble wanting it for them. A new society is estab-
lished at the end in which rational and deserving people can be
happy; but in novels like Emma and Mansfield Park, at least,
not many of us would care to be in their place.
The wish fulfillment aspect of comedy seems to work best
when the protagonist's "character has the neutrality which en-
ables him to represent" desire (AC, p. 167), and when the ideals
of the new society are relatively undefined: "We are simply
given to understand that the newly-married couple will live
happily ever after, or that at any rate they will get along in a
relatively unhumorous and clear-sighted manner. That is one
reason why the character of the successful hero is often left
undeveloped: his real life begins at the end of the play, and we
have to believe him to be potentially a more interesting char-
acter than he appears to be" (AC, p. 169). One reason why it is
difficult to rejoice in Jane Austen's happy endings is that both
her ideals and her protagonists are so fully developed. Our
judgments must correspond closely to hers if the comic resolu-
tion is to produce its desired emotional effect; but we know so






Form. Theme. and Mimesis


much about her values and her characters that we often find
ourselves in conflict with the author, rather than under her
spell. Instead of having the neutrality which allows them to
represent desire, her protagonists are highly individualized
human beings, often quite different from ourselves, with whom
we may not readily identify.

Mimetic characterization is one of Jane Austen's most
brilliant but least recognized achievements. Elizabeth Bennet,
Fanny Price, Emma Woodhouse, and Anne Elliot are realis-
tically portrayed women, each of whom is fascinating in her
own right and comprehensible in terms of her own motivational
system. Readers have always responded to the greatness of
these characters; Austen's fiction owes much of its appeal, 1 am
sure, to their lifelikeness and complexity. But no one seems to
have understood these characters in much detail. Criticism has
been focused upon their formal and thematic functions rather
than upon their character structures and motivations. In order
to appreciate Austen's true genius in characterization, we must
approach her major figures as creations inside a creation and
try to understand them as though they were real people. 1 have
justified this practice at length in A Psychological Approach to
Fiction, to which I must refer the reader for a full discussion,3
but since it is still a controversial procedure. I shall recapitulate,
in brief, the arguments in its fa\or.
There are, at present, two main schools of thought con-
cerning characterization. Martin Mudrick calls them the "pur-
ists" and the "realists." Characters in literature, the purists
argue, are different from real people. They do not belong to the
real world in which people can be understood as the products of
their social and psychological histories: they belong to a fic-
tional world in which everything they are and do is part of the
author's design, part of a teleological structure whose logic is
determined by formal and thematic considerations. From this
point of view, as Mudrick obser\ies. "an\ effort to extract them
from their context and to discuss them as it they were real
human beings is a sentimental misunderstanding of the nature
of literature." The realists insist. how\\eer. "that characters ac-
quire, in the course of an action, a kind of independence from





Character and Conflict


the events in which they live, and that they can be usefully
discussed at some distance from their context."4 They argue
that character creation can be an end in itself, that some char-
acters are so fully realized as to have a life of their own, and that
such characters can-and, indeed, should-be understood as
though they were real people. Purist discussions of such char-
acters are highly reductive. They neglect a vast amount of detail
which has little formal or thematic significance, but which is
there for the sake of the mimetic portrait, because the author
needs it in order to represent a human being.
The purist and realist positions are not irreconcilable. In
The Nature of Narrative, Robert Scholes and Robert Kellogg
distinguish between aesthetic, illustrative, and mimetic charac-
terization.5 Aesthetic types exist mainly to serve technical func-
tions or to create formal patterns and dramatic impact. Illustra-
tive characters are most important in works with a strong
allegorical or thematic interest. They are "concepts in anthro-
poid shape or fragments of the human psyche parading as
whole human beings." We try to understand "the principle they
illustrate through their actions in a narrative framework"
(p. 88). Behind realistic fiction there is a strong "psychological
impulse" that "tends toward the presentation of highly individ-
ualized figures who resist abstraction and generalization"
(p. 101). When we encounter a fully drawn mimetic character,
"we are justified in asking questions about his motivation based
on our knowledge of the ways in which real people are moti-
vated" (p. 87). What the purists say is true for aesthetic and
illustrative characters, but we must employ the realist's approach
if we are to appreciate mimetic characterization.
Highly developed characters often serve aesthetic, illustra-
tive, and mimetic functions. When this happens, as it does with
most of Jane Austen's heroines, there is usually a conflict
between form, theme, and mimesis. Such characters require a
combination of the purist and realist approaches: we must try
to understand them both as parts of a larger structure and as
persons in their own right.
As W.J. Harvey has observed in Character and the Novel,
the purist approach has been dominant for many years.6 One
reason for this is that while we have developed sophisticated






Form. Theme, and Mimesis


methods for analyzing many aspects of literature, we do not
know how to talk about mimesis. We appreciate it, but in
vague, inarticulate ways. What is required is a conceptual sys-
tem congruent with the psychological phenomena which have
been artistically portrayed. In A Psychological Approach to
Fiction, I tried to show how Horneyan psychology helps us first
to see and then to discuss the intricacies of much mimetic
characterization. This theory works extremely well with Austen
also, and I shall use it again here.7 One particular advantage of
Horneyan theory for the literary critic is that it is concerned
with the strategies of defense and the structure of inner conflicts
which exist in the adult. It permits us to explicate the text in a
detailed way without having recourse to unconscious tantasies
or childhood events for which there is no concrete evidence.
The theory deals with the same psychological processes which
are dramatized by the author, and it enables us to analyze the
character as given.
When we have understood Jane Austen's characters psy-
chologically, we shall see that the combination of mimetic
characterization, comic action, and moral theme poses artistic
problems which may be insoluble. Comic structure and realistic
characterization involve canons of decorum, universes of dis-
course, which seem to be incompatible. Comic structure is
highly conventional; it follows the logic of desire, and its pat-
tern is derived, ultimately, from the mythos of Spring. Realistic
characterization aims at verisimilitude; it follows the logic of
motivation, of probability, of cause and effect. The reader who
responds sensitively to both comic form and realistic character-
ization has aroused within him conflicting sets of expectations:
one for the emotional satisfactions which accompany the over-
coming of obstacles and the triumph of desire, the other for the
pleasures of recognition which derive from verisimilitude. Real-
istic characters create an appetite for a consistently realistic
world. We want their behavior to make sense and their fates to
be commensurate with the laws of probability. Austen does not
sacrifice mimetic characterization to the demands of her comic
plots; her most fully realized characters remain true to their
own natures up to the end. Their world, however, is often
manipulated for the sake of the comic action; and when this





Character and Conflict


occurs, the reader has a disturbing sense of disjunction between
the demands of realism and the necessities of form. This prob-
lem would not occur if the protagonists were neutral figures or
stock types who existed mainly as functions of the plot.
Realistic characterization fights against theme as well as
against form. In almost all novels which attempt to combine a
concrete portrayal of experience with an abstract moral per-
spective, a disparity arises between representation and interpre-
tation.x Mimetic characters tend to escape the categories by
which the author tries to understand them and to undermine his
evaluation of their life styles and solutions. The great psycho-
logical realists have the capacity to see far more than they can
understand. Their grasp of inner dynamics and of interpersonal
relations is so subtle and profound that concrete representation
is the only mode of discourse that can do it justice. When they
analyze what they have represented or assign their characters
illustrative roles, they are limited by the inadequacy of abstrac-
tions generally and of the conceptual systems of their day. The
author's understanding of his character is often wrong and
almost always oversimple. To see a mimetic character primarily
through his author's eyes is to sacrifice much of his interest and
complexity as a human being.
When we have understood a realistic character psycholog-
ically, we often find that our judgment, as well as our under-
standing, is at variance with that of the author. Novelists tend
to glorify characters whose defensive strategies are similar to
their own and to satirize those who have different solutions.
The rhetoric of the novel and sometimes even the action are
designed to gain our sympathy for the life styles and values of
the approved characters. Changes from a condemned defensive
strategy to an approved one are celebrated as growth and
education. Insofar as the characters are mimetically portrayed,
however. we are given an opportunity to understand them in
our own terms and to arrive at our own judgment of their
development and their solutions.
I am, of course, implying that Jane Austen celebrates
unhealthy solutions. To those who go to fiction for values, this
will seem a severe criticism. To me it is not. My own feeling is
that though novelists do. indeed, see more than the rest of us,





Form, Theme, and Mimesis


they are not necessarily wiser or healthier than ordinary men.
We place too much value, I think, upon their attitudes and
beliefs and too little upon their concrete portrayal of reality. If
my experience with students is any indication, readers who find
Jane Austen's morality quaint and her themes outdated will be
struck by the immediacy of her novels when they understand
her characters as imagined human beings. Manners change and
values are debatable, but human needs and conflicts remain
much the same, and mimetic truth endures.














2





Mansfield Park


1



There are a number of brilliant
essays which explain "what Jane Austen meant by the creation
of such a heroine" as Fanny Price.' The fact remains, however,
that many readers cannot identify with Fanny's hopes and fears
or admire her character and values in the ways that they must if
the novel's comic pattern and rhetoric are to have their desired
effects. Some critics complain that Fanny is insipid, others that
she is a prig. The major source of difficulty, I believe, is that
Fanny is a highly realized mimetic character whose human
qualities are not compatible with her aesthetic and thematic
roles.
The novel as a whole is designed to vindicate Fanny Price
and the values for which she stands. Its highest tribute is placed
in the mouth of Henry Crawford: "'You have qualities which I
had not before supposed to exist in such a degree in any human
creature. You have some touches of the angel in you not






Mansfield Park


merely beyond what one sees .. but beyond what one fancies
might be.' 2 If the worldly, corrupted Crawford can celebrate
Fanny in such terms, we, the readers, can do no less. When we
look at Fanny as a mimetic character, however, and try to
understand her as a person, we see that Jane Austen is telling
us, in fact, the story of a girl whose selfhood and spontaneity
have been crushed by a pathogenic environment and who devel-
ops, in response, a set of socially sanctioned but personally
crippling defensive strategies. No one has analyzed Fanny's
psychology in detail;3 but many readers, I am sure, have sensed
the severity of her problems and have been unable to enter into
Austen's glorification of her solution.
In the analysis which follows, I shall look at Fanny as an
aesthetic, as an illustrative, and as a mimetic character. In
exploring her aesthetic and illustrative functions, I shall be
guided by the novel's rhetoric and design; I shall show what our
moral, emotional, and intellectual responses are supposed to
be. In understanding Fanny as a person, I shall look at Jane
Austen's concrete representation of her behavior, attitudes, and
experiences. The result will be a rather different Fanny from the
one the author thinks she has portrayed, as well as a better
appreciation of why it is difficult to respond to Fanny as Jane
Austen intended.


2

Fanny is, of course, the protagonist in the comic plot. She
falls in love with Edmund quite early in the novel, and much of
the action centers around the creation and removal of obstacles
to her desire. The chief blocking force is Edmund's love for
Mary Crawford. It is removed when Mary's unprincipled re-
sponse to her brother's affair with Maria reveals her true nature.
Mary is charming but corrupted; Fanny is dull but good. Ed-
mund has always appreciated Fanny's virtues, but love has
blinded him to Mary's vices. The removal of his illusions saves
him from a disastrous marriage and opens the way for the
transfer of his affections to Fanny. He does not strike us as an
exciting lover; but for Fanny he is a romantic figure, a being far





Character and Conflict


above her for whom she must struggle with a rival and whose
name breathes "the spirit of chivalry and warm affection" (II,
iv). From Fanny's point of view, the story has an almost mi-
raculously happy ending. She receives an "affection of which
she has scarcely allowed herself to entertain a hope" (III, xvii).
She is united with the hero she has always dreamed of but who
has seemed unattainable.
Mansfield Park is not only about Fanny getting her wishes;
it is also about Fanny getting her due. The novel is clearly a
variation on the Cinderella story. Edmund appreciates Fanny's
value, but everyone else treats her as personally and socially
inferior. She is used as a drudge by her aunts, she is compared
unfavorably with the Bertram girls and is subordinated to them,
and she is excluded from the pleasures and privileges of family
membership. In the course of the novel all this is reversed.
Fanny becomes the favorite of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram
(replacing their disappointing daughters), she gains the love of
desirable men (where her cousins have failed), and she comes to
be admired as the most consistently virtuous and perceptive
person around. Her chief persecutor, Aunt Norris, is appro-
priately punished; and she becomes one of the most valued
members of the family. The happy ending brings her the full
acceptance for which she has yearned and the recognition and
respect which she deserves but is too modest to claim.
Fanny moves from having only one friend and many de-
tractors to gaining the highest respect from a wide circle of
admirers. Her primary enemy is Aunt Norris, who tries always
to make sure that she is "lowest and last" (II, v). Her most
consistent champion is Edmund, and we are invited from the
outset to share his more accurate perception of her nature and
his more just estimation of her worth. Fanny's shyness makes
her difficult to know, but Edmund's kindness penetrates her
reserve. At a time when his father thinks Fanny "far from
clever" and his sisters think her "prodigiously stupid," Edmund
knows her "to have a quick apprehension as well as good sense"
(I, ii). He sees that she has "an affectionate heart, and a strong
desire of doing right." While unsympathetic observers may
scorn her as creepmouse, Edmund perceives "her to be farther
entitled to attention, by great sensibility of her situation, and





Mansfield Park


great timidity." The reader is supposed to identify with Ed-
mund's attitudes of empathy, concern, and admiration and to
find Fanny, as he does, "an interesting object."
Edmund is an important ally. He watches out for Fanny's
health, provides for her amusement, and stands up for her
rights. He gives her moral support, advice, and encouragement.
His triumph over Mrs. Norris in arranging for Fanny to go to
Sotherton marks the first step in Fanny's advancement toward
social recognition. But as long as Mrs. Norris is such a powerful
force in domestic affairs and as long as Sir Thomas is unsym-
pathetic to Fanny, Edmund is powerless to change her overall
situation. That can be done only by Sir Thomas, who is the
source of all authority at Mansfield Park. In her first six years
of residence Fanny makes little progress in gaining his esteem.
If William comes to Mansfield, Sir Thomas tells Fanny upon
his departure of Antiqua, 'I fear he must find his sister at
sixteen in some respects too much like his sister at ten' "(I, iii).
Fanny "cried bitterly over this reflection." If she is to escape the
persecution of Mrs. Norris and to gain the recognition which
she deserves, Fanny must win the favor of her uncle.
It is the play which gives Fanny the opportunity to prove
her worth. In the absence of Sir Thomas, everyone, even Ed-
mund, goes astray. Only Fanny is beyond reproach. Edmund is
quick to point this out to his father: 'Fanny is the only one
who has judged rightly throughout. She never ceased to
think of what was due to you. You will find Fanny everything
you could wish' (II, ii). Softened by his absence from home,
attracted by Fanny's improved looks, and impressed by her vir-
tue, Sir Thomas now takes a strong interest in Fanny; and her
fortunes improve rapidly. As Fanny's star rises, Mrs. Norris's
falls. Sir Thomas finds her increasingly offensive, and he
effectively thwarts her efforts to exclude Fanny and to demean
her. With the departure of her girl cousins, Fanny's "conse-
quence increasess" further (II, iv); and, for the first time, she is
invited to dinner and given a ball. She is beginning to be treated
like a full-fledged member of her social world.
Fanny is no longer a despised, unappreciated, marginal
figure. As the beloved of Henry Crawford she becomes, indeed,
the center of attention and begins to outshine her noble cousins.





Character and Conflict


Without at all trying, Fanny has captivated a clever, proud,
fastidious man, a confirmed flirt who had meant to toy with
her, as he had done with others, for the gratification of his own
vanity. In doing so, she triumphs over all the fashionable
women who have pursued him in vain. Fanny is not conscious
of her triumph; but Jane Austen makes sure, largely through
Mary, that the reader appreciates it.
The conquest of Crawford is a testimony, above all, to
Fanny's merit. Despite his own corruption, Henry appreciates
(and wishes to appropriate) her virtues, even when he does not
know them by their proper name:

The gentleness, modesty, and sweetness of her character were warmly
expatiated on Her affections were evidently strong Then, her
understanding was beyond every suspicion, quick and clear; and her
manners were the mirror of her own modest and elegant mind. Nor was
this all. Henry Crawford had too much sense not to feel the worth of
good principles in a wife, though he was too little accustomed to serious
reflection to know them by their proper name; but when he talked of
her having such a steadiness and regularity of conduct, such a high
notion of honour, and such an observance of decorum as might warrant
any man in the fullest dependence of her faith and integrity, he ex-
pressed what was inspired by the knowledge of her being well principled
and religious. (II, xii)

Fanny wins not only Henry's approval, but Mary's as well:
'There is not a better girl in the world.' This is impressive
coming from a woman like Mary, who has such "high and
worldly notions of matrimony" (II, xiii). Even that misogynist
the Admiral will admire Fanny: 'for she is exactly such a
woman as he thinks does not exist in the world. She is the very
impossibility he would describe' (II, xii). As we read Mans-
field Park we sense a powerful rhetoric at work glorifying
Fanny. When we look closely we find that the narrator says few
things directly in her praise. There is no need to when such
glowing testimonials can be put into the mouths of these
worldlings.
Fanny's fortunes take a downward turn with her refusal of
Henry Crawford's proposal. Sir Thomas is seriously displeased:
"Self-willed, obstinate, selfish, and ungrateful. He thought her





Mansfield Park


all this. She had deceived his expectations; she had lost his good
opinion. What was to become of her?" (III, i). Fanny's distress
is intense. Nothing-not even Edmund-is more important to
her than Sir Thomas's favor and esteem. His supplying a fire in
her room is a good sign, another step toward equitable treat-
ment; but it is clear that Fanny's refusal of Crawford must be
justified if Sir Thomas is to feel warmly toward her again.
Fanny's happiness seems in greatest jeopardy during her
visit to Portsmouth. Sir Thomas is awaiting her change of
heart, her parents do not give her the love she had hoped for,
and she expects every day to hear of Edmund's marriage to
Mary. She is in danger, it seems, of being left with no one to
love and care for her. The noise, confusion, and confinement of
her parents' home affect her health; and the author suggests
that she may die if she has to endure these trials much longer
(III, xi). While these aspects of her situation are arousing our
anxiety for Fanny, others are working to increase her glory.
Henry Crawford continues to court her, despite her low connec-
tions, and shows signs of moral growth under her influence:
" 'Your judgement is my rule of right.' The only sensible
member of her family, sister Susan, regards her as an "oracle"
(III, xii) and matures rapidly under her tutelage.
All of Fanny's problems are solved when Henry runs off
with Maria and Julia marries Mr. Yates. With the disgrace of
the Bertram girls and the downfall of Mrs. Norris, Fanny
becomes the family's hope of comfort and the center of its
affections. For Edmund she is 'My Fanny-my only sister-
my only comfort now' (III, xv). Aunt Bertram is miserable
until she arrives: 'Dear Fanny! now I shall be comfortable' "
IIll, xvi). The behavior of Henry Crawford shows her to have
been right all along, and his regret at losing her is yet another
tribute to "the sweetness of her temper, the purity of her mind,
and the excellence of her principles" (III, xvii). She was right
about Mary as well; and when Edmund learns the truth, it is not
long before he falls in love with her, thus fulfilling her fondest
wish. Sir Thomas, who had feared such a marriage when he
brought Fanny to Mansfield, is now overjoyed: "Fanny was
indeed the daughter he wanted." Fanny's triumph is complete.





Character and Conflict


3

Thematically, Mansfield Park is, in a certain sense, a novel
of education. It is not the heroine who is educated, however,
except insofar as she is instructed by her reading and her
intercourse with Edmund, who "encouraged her taste, and cor-
rected her judgment" (II, ii). For the most part Fanny remains
the same, while the people around her learn to appreciate her
worth and to share her values. The most important education is
that of Sir Thomas. In addition to recognizing Fanny's merit,
he must see that he has been faulty as a father, mistaken about
Mrs. Norris, and too worldly in his notions of marriage. In this
comic action, the powerful older man is not deposed. He is an
essentially good man whose faults are corrected, making him fit
to lead the new society which crystallizes at the end.
Most of the characters in the novel can be placed upon a
scale ranging from those who have nothing to learn at one end
to those who are uneducable at the other. In the middle are the
characters who are educated. At the higher end are Fanny and
William Price, who are well-nigh perfect. Among the characters
who learn from their experiences the range is wide. Edmund has
only to be undeceived about Mary; his principles are sound.
Susan is a good-natured, well-intentioned girl who excels once
she learns from her sister "the obligation and expedience of
submission and forebearance" (III, ix). Sir Thomas profits from
his mistakes and becomes a perfect figure of authority, while
Lady Bertram feels as she ought when roused by misfortune
and instructed by Sir Thomas. Tom and Julia are chastened by
the suffering they bring upon themselves and others and be-
come dutiful children. Toward the lower end of the scale we
find Henry and Mary Crawford. They are capable of respond-
ing to the virtues of Fanny and Edmund, but the effects of
faulty training and bad companions are too strong to over-
come, and they lose their chance for redemption. The unedu-
cable characters include Mr. and Mrs. Price, who will never
change, despite William's hope that Fanny will bring order and
propriety into their home. Maria and Mrs. Norris are also
utterly incorrigible.





Mansfield Park


There is nothing in Mansfield Park comparable to the
complex process of change undergone by such characters as
Marianne Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, or Emma Woodhouse.
It is, however, more directly concerned than any of Jane Aus-
ten's other novels with the topic of education, with what makes
people good and bad and the forces which hinder or promote
their growth. Here, as elsewhere, Austen gives a good deal of
importance to inherent differences-some people are sensible
and some are not. But she places an even greater emphasis upon
nurture. Mary Crawford has been made "delightful" by "na-
ture": "how excellent she would have been, had she fallen into
good hands earlier" (I11, xvi). In Henry and Mary, in Maria,
Julia, and Tom, in the unruly Price children, we see the effects
of unfavorable circumstances and improper handling by the
responsible adults. In Fanny, William, and Susan Price, and in
Edmund Bertram, we see the result of a different sort of exper-
ience.
The contrast, quite simply, is between spoiled and un-
spoiled children. Children turn out well or ill according to the
degree that they have been privileged and indulged. Spoiled
children are selfish, proud, and rebellious; unspoiled children
are unselfish, humble, and submissive to authority. Spoiled
children are idle: unspoiled children work. Spoiled children
lack morals and propriety; unspoiled children are principled
and correct. Spoiled children love the light and lively; unspoiled
children are sober and steady. Spoiled children are restless and
unsatisfied; unspoiled children are tranquil and content. If a
child has not been too severely spoiled and does not lack sense,
he can be cured by suffering and good example. Suffering is
efficacious in some older people too. Lady Bertram is roused to
true feeling by Tom's illness and to moral awareness by Maria's
behavior. The changes in Sir Thomas are brought about largely
by his sufferings, first in Antigua and then over his failures and
disappointments as a father.
Reflecting on Fanny, William, and Susan Price, Sir Thom-
as sees "repeated reason to acknowledge the advantage of
early hardship and discipline, and the consciousness of being
born to struggle and endure" (111, xvii). His own daughters, he





Character and Conflict


recognizes, "had never been properly taught to govern their
inclinations and tempers, by that sense of duty which can alone
suffice." Born to privilege and spoiled by Mrs. Norris, they have
not learned "the necessity of self-denial and humility." Julia
escapes[] better than Maria" because she has "been less the
darling of [Mrs. Norris], less flattered and less spoilt. Her
beauty and acquirements had held but a second place .
education had not given her so very hurtful a degree of self-
consequence." As a result she "submitted the best to the dis-
appointment in Henry Crawford"; and though she makes a
hasty and ill-advised marriage, she returns home "humble and
wishing to be forgiven."
Though Jane Austen does not stress the point, Edmund's
goodness has something to do with his being a younger son.
This in itself is a "hardship and discipline"; he must struggle to
make a place for himself in the world and endure his subordi-
nation to a less worthy brother. Tom has "no want of sense"
and good examples at home, but his privileged position and the
companions and pursuits to which it leads him induce "habits"
of "thoughtlessness and selfishness" which bring evils to his
family and serious illness to himself. As a result of his illness,
Tom suffers and learns to think. The "self- reproach" arising
from Maria's downfall, "to which he felt himself accessary by
all the dangerous intimacy of his unjustifiable theatre" makes a
permanent impression upon his mind: "He became what he
ought to be, useful to his father, steady and quiet, and not living
merely for himself" (III, xvii).
Henry Crawford is also well endowed (otherwise neither
Edmund nor Sir Thomas would be so deceived); but, like Tom,
he becomes "thoughtless and selfish from prosperity and bad
example" (I, xii). The bad example in his case is a figure of
authority, the Admiral, who sets the tone for Henry's dealings
with women. Henry is "ruined by early independence" (III,
xvii). Before his majority the Admiral lets him have his way far
more than a father would (II, xii); and when he comes into his
estate he has the wealth and power to do what he wishes,
without ever having learned responsibility. Given these condi-
tions, it is no wonder that he is vain, unsteady, and self-indul-
gent. His admiration for Fanny shows that he still has a moral





Mansfield Park


sense, but it is too undeveloped to save him from temptation.
Henry is contrasted with William Price. The same vague sense
of his own deficiencies which leads him to worship Fanny
makes him, for a fleeting moment, at least, envy and admire
William: "The glory of heroism, of usefulness, of exertion,
of endurance, made his own habits of selfish indulgence ap-
pear in shameful contrast; and he wished he had been a William
Price working his way to fortune and consequence with so
much self-respect and happy ardour, instead of what he was!"
(II, vi).
William is a favorite child, but the partiality of his mother
is counterbalanced, evidently, by the hardship of his lot, the
necessity to struggle and endure. On her return to Portsmouth,
Fanny cannot help but see that her mother is "a partial, ill-
judging parent who neither taught nor restrained her
children" (III, viii). As a consequence, her children are uncivil-
ized; and her home is "the abode of noise, disorder, and impro-
priety." It is the opposite of Mansfield Park, which, under the
rational authority of the enlightened Sir Thomas, has become
the symbol of a justly ordered society in which everyone is in his
right place and everything is done as it ought to be. In her
uncle's house, thinks Fanny, "there would have been a consid-
eration of times and seasons, a regulation of subject, a pro-
priety, an attention towards every body which there was not
here" (II, vii). Attention is unevenly divided in the Price
household. Toward her sons and her daughter Betsey Mrs.
Price is "most injudiciously indulgent" (III, viii). Susan, who
has taken over Fanny's place in the family, has never known
"the blind fondness which was for ever producing evil around
her" (III, ix). As we might expect, it is Susan who is the good
child. She tries to create a better order in her home, but finds
that it is fruitless to contend with an irrational authority. She
profits from Fanny's lessons on submission and forebearance
and flourishes when transplanted to the well-ordered world of
Mansfield Park.
It is Fanny, of course, who best supports the theory of
education which is being advanced in this novel. She has suf-
fered the most from "early hardship and discipline, and the
consciousness of being born to struggle and endure"; and she





Character and Conflict


turns out to be the ideal woman, wife, and daughter. She has a
nervous temperament, to be sure, from which Susan is happily
free: but as a moral being she has "some touches of the angel"
and is almost beyond praise.


4

I have been examining certain aspects of the aesthetic and
thematic structures of Mansfield Park with the object of under-
standing how Jane Austen meant us to think and feel about
Fanny Price. I contended at the outset that Fanny is a highly
realized mimetic character, a creation inside a creation, whose
human qualities are not compatible with her aesthetic and
thematic roles. When we understand Fanny psychologically, it
is difficult to regard her as the angelic being she is supposed to
be and to accept the powerful rhetoric which aims at her glorifi-
cation. We may be at odds with the author also in our response
to the education theme. Jane Austen seems perceptive enough
in her criticism of the spoiled children, but it is difficult to agree
with her celebration of hardship, struggle, and suffering and the
effects which they produce.
Part of the problem is that the author herself has invited
our indignation at the way in which Fanny has been treated.
Her "motives [have] often been misunderstood, her feelings
disregarded, and her comprehension under-valued;. .. she [has]
known the pains of tyranny, of ridicule, and neglect" (I, xvi). It
is difficult, suddenly, to regard this 'abominable ... unkind-
ness' (11 xii) as advantageous. An even greater obstacle to our
acceptance of the author's final view of Fanny's education is
that she shows us, in her concrete portrayal of Fanny, how de-
structive this awful treatment has been. For reasons of her own,
Jane Austen needed to glorify suffering and to believe that
struggle and privation make one a better person. This did not
prevent her from portraying quite accurately, however, the
crippling effects of Fanny's childhood upon her personality.
When we see Fanny as a person, it is hard to believe that the
bad treatment she received was good for her and that she turned





Mansfield Park


out well. She is as damaged as the spoiled children, but in a
different way.
We do not sympathize with Fanny as much or find her as
interesting as we might because Austen asks us to admire her.
But when we look at Fanny as a person, rather than as a
heroine, our compassionate feelings are liberated and we find
her to be a complex and fascinating psychological portrait. In
order to appreciate fully the intricacies of her character and the
greatness of Austen's mimetic achievement, we need to look at
Fanny from the perspective of an appropriate psychological
theory. Those who are familiar with my use of Third Force
psychology in the study of literary characters may already have
seen that Fanny is a remarkable example of Karen Horney's
self-effacing personality. For the benefit of those who are un-
familiar with Third Force psychology, I shall present here a
brief account of its theories. Some of the material applies
directly to Mansfield Park; some of it will not be used until we
deal with other novels.4
Third Force psychologists see healthy human development
as a process of self-actualization and unhealthy development as
a process of self-alienation. They contend, in essence, that man
is not simply a tension-reducing or a conditioned animal, but
that there is present in him a third force, an "evolutionary
constructive" force, which urges "him to realize his given poten-
tialities."5 Each man has "an essential biologically based inner
nature" which is "good or neutral rather than bad" and which
should be brought out and encouraged rather than suppressed.
If this inner nature "is permitted to guide our life, we grow
healthy, fruitful, and happy." If it is "denied or suppressed," we
get sick. This inner nature "is weak and delicate and subtle and
easily overcome by habit, cultural pressure, and wrong attitudes
toward it."6
One of the most interesting Third Force contributions to
our understanding of man's essential nature is Abraham Mas-
low's theory of the hierarchy of basic needs. According to this
theory, all men have needs for physiological satisfaction, for
safety, for love and belonging, for self-esteem, and for self-
actualization.7 These needs are not always experienced con-





Character and Conflict


sciously; indeed, they tend to be more unconscious than con-
scious. They are hierarchical in that they exist in an order of
prepotency; the physiological needs are the most powerful, and
so on. The needs at the upper end of the hierarchy are much
weaker than the lower needs, though they are no less basic. All
of the needs are basic in the sense that they are built into man's
nature as a function of his biological structure, and they must
be gratified if the organism is to develop in a healthy way.
Each individual presses by nature for the fulfillment of all
these needs, but at any given time his motivational life will be
centered around the fulfillment of one of the needs. Since a
higher need emerges strongly only when the needs below it have
been sufficiently met, the individual tends to be occupied with
the basic needs in the order of their prepotency. The person
living in an environment which is favorable to growth will move
steadily up the hierarchy until he is free to devote most of his
energies to self-actualization; this is the full and satisfying use of
his capacities in a calling which suits his nature.
The hierarchy of basic needs, then, establishes the pattern
of psychological evolution. If the individual is not adequately
fulfilled in his lower needs, he may become fixated at an early
state of development; or, if he passes beyond, he may be subject
to frequent regressions. Frustration of a basic need intensifies it
and insures its persistence, whereas gratification diminishes its
strength as a motivating force. Gratification of the basic needs
produces health; it permits the individual to continue on his
way toward self-actualization. Frustration of the basic needs
produces pathology; it arrests the individual's development,
alienates him from his real self, and leads him to develop
neurotic strategies for making up his deficiencies.
The concept of the real self is the foundation of both
Maslow's and Horney's systems. Under favorable conditions,
says Homey, the individual "will develop the unique alive
forces of his real sell: the clarity and depth of his own feelings,
thoughts, wishes, interests; the ability to tap his own resources,
the strength of his will power; the special capacities or gifts he
may have; the faculty to express himself, and to relate himself
to others with his spontaneous feelings. All this will in time
enable him to find his set of values and his aims in life" (NHG,





Mansfield Park


p. 17). The real self is not very strong, however, and it is
frequently abandoned. The child is a weak and dependent being
whose needs for safety, love, and acceptance are so strong that
he will sacrifice himself, if necessary, in order to get these
things. "The primal choice," says Maslow, "is between others
and one's own self. If the only way to maintain the self is to lose
the other, then the ordinary child will give up the self" (PB,
p. 50).
The person who is able to develop in accordance with his
real self possesses a number of characteristics which distinguish
him from the self-alienated person. The child who is not per-
mitted to be himself and who does not live in a safe, relatively
transparent world develops a defensiveness which cuts him off
both from himself and from external reality. The opposite of
defensiveness is "openness to experience," and the self-actualiz-
ing person is characterized above all by his openness to his own
inner being and to the world around him.
The self-actualizing person's openness to himself is mani-
fested in his greater congruence, his greater transparence, and
his greater spontaneity. A person is congruent, says Carl Ro-
gers, when whatever feeling or attitude he is experiencing is
matched by his awareness of that attitude.8 He is not self-
deceived or torn by unconscious conflicts. A person is trans-
parent when his acts, words, and gestures accurately indicate
what is going on inside of him. Transparency requires self-
acceptance and a confidence that one's real self will be accepted
by other people or that one can handle rejection. Spontaneity
involves an absence of inhibition both in experiencing and in
expressing the real self. It cannot exist without a profound trust
both in self and others.
The self-actualizing person is distinguished not only by his
courage to be himself, but also by his courage to be in the
world. Ernest Schachtel sees human development as, in part, a
conflict between our tendencies toward embeddedness and our
tendencies toward openness and growth. There is in every man's
psychic evolution "a conflict between the wish to remain em-
bedded in the womb or in the mother's care, eventually in the
accustomed, the fear of separation from such embeddedness,
and the wish to encounter the world and to develop and realize,





Character and Conflict


in this encounter, the human capacities."9 In the course of
healthy development, "the embeddedness principle yields to the
transcendence principle of openness toward the world and of
self-realization which takes place in the encounter with the
world" (M, p. 157). Under unfavorable conditions, such as
"anxiety-arousing early experiences in the child-parent rela-
tionship, the embeddedness principle may remain pathological-
ly strong, with the result that the encounter with the world is
experienced in an autocentric way as an unwelcome impinging
of disturbing stimuli" (M, pp. 157-158). When this happens, the
individual fears and avoids "everything new or strange that
might disturb the embeddedness in a closed pattern or
routine, which may be the pattern of a particular culture, a
particular social group, a personal routine pattern of life, or
usually, a combination of all these" (M, p. 167). Embeddedness
and openness are always matters of degree; the conflict between
them is never finally resolved: "Man always lives somewhere
between these two poles of clinging to a rigid attitude with its
closed world and of leaping into the stream of life with his
senses open toward the inexhaustible, changing, infinite world"
(M, pp. 199-200).
Frustration of the basic needs produces a number of defen-
sive strategies, all of which cut us off from ourselves and from
the world and intensify our tendencies toward embeddedness. A
brilliant analysis of these strategies can be found in Karen
Homey's work, particularly in her last book, Neurosis and
Human Growth. Before we discuss Homey, however, let us
look at Fanny Price from the perspective of the theories which
have been presented so far.
Fanny is the product of a pathogenic environment which
forces her to develop in a self-alienated way. She does not feel
safe, she does not feel loved and accepted, and she has little self-
esteem. She is severely deprived of the external support which
she needs in order to grow. She receives reinforcement from
William and Edmund; but it is not enough to counterbalance
the absence of parental love, a secure home, respect for her
needs, and fair treatment. "Apprehensiveness, fear, dread and
anxiety, tension, nervousness, and jitteriness are all conse-
quences of safety-need frustration" (MP, p. 144); and Fanny





Mansfield Park


displays all of these characteristics. She perceives the world "to
be hostile, overwhelming, and threatening"; she "behaves as if a
great catastrophe were almost always impending"; and she is
engaged "in a search for a protector" (MP, p. 88). She becomes
"the quiet, .. serving, dependent person" who is the product of
insecurity and low self-esteem (MP, p. 53).
Self-actualization is never an issue, either for Fanny or for
the author. Constitutionally feeble to begin with, Fanny has no
chance to be her own person in the chaotic, competitive, un-
sympathetic milieu of the Price household. She subordinates
herself entirely to others in the hope of gaining some scrap of
love, praise, consequence, and protection. What is at issue is
not whether Fanny will be able to grow, but whether her self-
sacrifice will be appreciated. Since Jane Austen is highly sym-
pathetic to Fanny's solution, she makes it work. By the end
Fanny receives in abundant supply the love, security, and rec-
ognition of which she had been so severely deprived. This calms
her nerves, and she becomes less anxious than she had been.
But her ways are set; her development has been arrested. Her
circumstances are much better, but there is no evidence that this
produces inner liberation. Fanny's lack of spontaneity does not
bother Jane Austen because she approves the rigidities which
deprivation has produced in her heroine.
In Rogers' terms, Fanny completely lacks congruence,
transparence, and spontaneity. As we shall see, her defense
system is such that she cannot permit herself to feel resentment,
envy, or triumph. As a result, she represses these feelings or
feels them on behalf of someone else. On other occasions, she
consciously experiences feelings which she is supposed to have
but which are at odds with her deepest attitudes, as when she
reproaches herself for her "want of attention" to poor, lonely
Aunt Norris, whom she hates (II, xi). Her friendly or concerned
feelings toward her girl cousins seem to be a reaction formation,
an unconscious defense against inadmissible hostility. Fanny is
so afraid of disapproval that she either hides herself from others
or makes her behavior conform to their expectations. She is so
eager to accept the Grants' dinner invitation that she is afraid
"she might not be able to appear properly submissive and
indifferent" (II, v). It is a great relief when Sir Thomas says,





Character and Conflict


" 'She appears to feel as she ought.' "This is Fanny's project: to
appear to feel as she ought. Spontaneity is out of the question.
Both her feelings and her behavior are almost constantly de-
termined by strategic necessities. She is so frightened, so anx-
ious, so defensive, that she can hardly be aware of, much less
express, her own thoughts and desires. She is freest with Wil-
liam, but even with him it is hard to imagine her expressing any
but socially approved feelings.
Schachtel distinguishes two forms of the fixation in em-
beddedness, both of which we find in Fanny. One form "is the
attempt to remain in or return to familial embeddedness, main-
ly embeddedness in the protection and parental love and care of
a mothering person or of a mother or father substitute" (M,
p. 75). The other form is the attempt to find safety "by com-
pletely accepting the closed pattern of ... .the world institu-
tionalized in the particular culture ... into which the individual
is born and in which he is living." Fanny needs protection and
parental love so desperately because she has never gotten them
from her mother and father. Her substitutes are William, Ed-
mund, and eventually Sir Thomas. She is in such dread of Sir
Thomas early in the novel because he possesses absolute power
and is the source of all true safety; if he rejects her, she is lost.
She gains his protection and esteem by being true to his values
even when he is absent, by completely accepting the world
institutionalized in the subculture of Mansfield Park. Her
greatest danger is in being misunderstood. She gets her reward
when everyone sees how good and right she has been all along.
We begin to understand why Mansfield Park strikes us as being
so narrow and oppressive. It is a celebration of embeddedness
and sterility.
The embedded person is afraid of life. He cannot cope.
Because of his early traumatic or frustrating experiences, stim-
uli are threatening to him; he wants to escape into a womblike
refuge. Fanny likes the solemnity of a peaceful night, the grav-
ity of Mansfield after Sir Thomas returns, the serenity of her
long empty hours with Aunt Bertram: "her perfect security in
such a t&te-a-t&te from any sound of unkindness, was unspeak-
ably welcome to a mind which had seldom known a pause in its
alarms or embarrassments" (I, iv). Any change is hard on





Mansfield Park


Fanny. She is hysterical during her first week at Mansfield, and
she goes into a decline after a few weeks in the hurly-burly of
Portsmouth. Edmund explains to Mary that Fanny is "of all
human creatures the one, over whom habit [has] most power,
and novelty least .. that [she can] tolerate nothing that [she is]
not used to" (III, iv). The embedded person craves stability,
peace, and order. Fanny clings to familiar people and to "the
peace and tranquillity of Mansfield" (III, viii).
The severely embedded person relates to life in an infantile
manner. He depends on the strength and benevolence of others
with power, authority, or more strongly developed egos. He
does not do, he suffers; and by his suffering he gets others to
take responsibility for his well-being. As many critics have
noted, Fanny is an almost totally passive heroine. She matures
physically, but she remains psychologically a very young child.
Mansfield Park is a wish fulfillment fantasy of embeddedness.
The heroine does not grow up, but tries to cope with a frighten-
ing, rejecting world by being good, helpless, and unthreatening.
As if by magic, her goodness is recognized, frightening people
turn benign, persecutors and competitors are gotten rid of; she
is married by the prince, adopted by the noble family, and lives
happily ever after in the peace and tranquillity of the womblike
world of Mansfield Park.


5

According to Karen Homey, neurosis begins as a defense
against basic anxiety, which is a "profound insecurity and
vague apprehensiveness" (NHG, p. 18) generated by feelings of
isolation, helplessness, fear, and hostility. It involves a dread of
the environment as a whole, which is "felt to be unreliable,
mendacious, unappreciative, unfair, begrudging... merci-
less."10 As a result of this dread, the child develops self-protec-
tive strategies which in time become compulsive: "He cannot
simply like or dislike, trust or distrust, express his wishes or
protest against those of others, but has automatically to devise
ways to cope with people and to manipulate them with mini-
mum damage to himself."" He abandons himself in order to






Character and Conflict


protect himself; but as the real self becomes weaker, the envi-
ronment becomes more threatening.
Basic anxiety involves a fear not only of the environment,
but also of the self. A threatening environment is bound to
produce in the child both an intense hostility and a profound
dependency which makes him terrified of expressing his hostil-
ity and compels him to repress it. Because he "registers within
himself the existence of a highly explosive affect," he is fearful
of himself, afraid that he will let out his rage and thus bring the
world crashing down on his head.12 The repression of hostility
has severe consequences. It reinforces the child's feeling of
defenselessness; it leads him to blame himself for the situation
which makes him angry, to "feel unworthy of love" (NP, p. 84),
and to fear spontaneity.
Basic anxiety affects the individual's attitudes toward both
himself and others. He feels himself to be impotent, unlovable,
of little value to the world. Because of his sense of weakness he
wants to rely on others, to be protected and cared for; but he
cannot risk himself with others because of his hostility and deep
distrust. The invariable consequence of his basic anxiety "is that
he has to put the greatest part of his energies into securing
reassurance" (NP, p. 96). He seeks reassurance in his relation to
others by developing the interpersonal strategies of defense
which we shall examine next, and he seeks to compensate for
his feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy by an intrapsychic
process of self-glorification. These strategies constitute his ef-
fort to fulfill his highly intensified needs for safety, love and
belonging, and self-esteem. They are also designed to reduce his
anxiety and to provide a safe outlet for his hostility.
There are three main ways in which the child, and later the
adult, can move in his effort to overcome his feelings of help-
lessness and isolation and to establish himself safely in a threat-
ening world. He can adopt the self-effacing or compliant solu-
tion and move toward people; he can develop the aggressive or
expansive solution and move against people; or he can become
detached or resigned and move away from people. In each of
the defensive moves one of the elements involved in basic
anxiety is overemphasized: helplessness in the compliant solu-
tion, hostility in the aggressive solution, and isolation in the


I





Mansfield Park


detached solution. Since under the conditions which produce
anxiety all of these feelings are bound to arise, the individual
will come to make all three of the defensive moves compulsively.
They involve incompatible value systems and character struc-
tures, however; and a person cannot move in all of these direc-
tions without feeling confused and divided. Thus, order to gain
some sense of wholeness and an ability to function, he will
emphasize one move more than the others and will become
predominantly compliant, aggressive, or detached. The other
trends will continue to exist quite powerfully, but they will
operate unconsciously and will manifest themselves in devious
and disguised ways. Under the impetus of some powerful influ-
ence or of the dramatic failure of his predominant solution, the
individual may embrace one of the repressed attitudes. He will
experience this as conversion or education, but it will be merely
the substitution of one defensive strategy for another.
The person in whom compliant trends are dominant tries
to overcome his basic anxiety by gaining affection and approval
and by controlling others through his need of them. He needs
"to be liked, wanted, desired, loved; to feel accepted, welcomed,
approved of, appreciated; to be needed, to be of importance to
others, especially to one particular person; to be helped, pro-
tected, taken care of, guided" (OIC, p. 51). He needs to feel
himself part of something larger and more powerful than him-
self, a need which often manifests itself as religious devotion,
identification with a group or cause, or morbid dependency in a
love relationship. His "self-esteem rises and falls" with the
approval or disapproval of others, with "their affection or lack
of it" (OIC, p. 54).
In order to gain the love, approval, acceptance, and sup-
port which he needs, the basically compliant person develops
certain qualities, inhibitions, and ways of relating. He seeks to
attach others to him by being good, loving, self-effacing, and
weak. He tries to live up to the expectations of others, "often to
the extent of losing sight of his own feelings" (OIC, p. 51). He
becomes 'unselfish,' self-sacrificing, undemanding over-
considerate, over-appreciative, over-grateful, generous"
(OIC, pp. 51-52). He is appeasing and conciliatory and tends to
blame himself and to feel guilty whenever he quarrels with





Character and Conflict


another, feels disappointed, or is criticized. Regarding himself
as worthless or guilty makes him feel more secure, for then
others cannot regard him as a threat. For similar reasons, "he
tends to subordinate himself, takes second place, leaving the
limelight to others" (OIC, p. 52). Because "any wish, any striv-
ing, any reaching out for more feels to him like a dangerous or
reckless challenging of fate," he is severely inhibited in his self-
assertive and self-protective activities and has powerful taboos
against "all that is presumptuous, selfish, and aggressive"
(NHG, pp. 218, 219).
The compliant defense brings with it not only certain ways
of feeling and behaving, but also a special set of values. "They
lie in the direction of goodness, sympathy, love, generosity,
unselfishness, humility; while egotism, ambition, callousness,
unscrupulousness, wielding of power are abhorred-though
these attributes may at the same time be secretly admired be-
cause they represent 'strength' (OIC, pp. 54-55). The compli-
ant person does not hold his values as genuine ideals but be-
cause they are necessary to his defense system. He must believe
in turning the other cheek, and he must see the world as dis-
playing a providential order in which virtue is rewarded.
In the compliant person, says Homey, there are "a variety
of aggressive tendencies strongly repressed" (OIC, p. 55). They
are repressed because feeling them or acting them out would
clash violently with the compliz it person's need to feel that he
is loving and unselfish and would radically endanger his whole
strategy for gaining love and approval. His inner rage threatens
his self-image, his philosophy of life, and his safety; and he must
repress, disguise, or justify his anger in order to avoid arousing
self-hate and the hostility of others.
The person in whom aggressive tendencies are predomi-
nant has goals, traits, and values which are quite the opposite of
those of the compliant person. Since he seeks safety through
conquest, "he needs to excel, to achieve success, prestige, or
recognition" (OIC, p. 65). What appeals to him most is not
love, but mastery. He abhors helplessness and is ashamed of
suffering. He seeks to cultivate in himself "the efficiency and
resourcefulness" necessary to his solution (OIC, p. 167).






Mansfield Park


There are three aggressive types: the narcissistic, the per-
fectionistic, and the arrogant-vindictive. They all "aim at mas-
tering life. This is their way of conquering fears and anxieties:
this gives meaning to their lives and gives them a certain zest for
living" (NHG, p. 212). The narcissistic person seeks to master
life "by self-admiration and the exercise of charm" (NHG,
p. 212). He has an "unquestioned belief in his greatness and
uniqueness," which gives him a "buoyancy and perennial youth-
fulness" (NHG, p. 194). The perfectionistic person "feels super-
ior because of his high standards, moral and intellectual, and on
this basis looks down on others" (NHG, p. 196). He may insist
that others live up to "his standards of perfection and despise
them for failing to do so" (NHG, p. 196). Through the height of
his standards he compels fate. The arrogant-vindictive person is
motivated chiefly by a need for vindictive triumphs. He is
extremely competitive and must show his superiority to all
rivals. He seeks to "exploit others, to outsmart them, to make
them of use to himself" (OIC, p. 167). He avoids emotional
involvement and dependency and uses the relations of friend-
ship and marriage as a means by which he can possess the
desirable qualities of others and so enhance his own position.
The basically detached person worships freedom and
strives to be independent of both outer and inner demands. He
pursues neither love nor mastery; he wants, rather, to be left
alone, to have nothing expected of him and to be subject to no
restrictions. He handles a threatening world by removing him-
self from its power and by shutting others out of his inner life.
He disdains the pursuit of worldly success and has a profound
aversion to effort. He makes himself invulnerable by being self-
sufficient. This involves not only living in imagination, but also
restricting his desires. In order to avoid being dependent on the
environment, he tries to subdue his inner cravings and to be
content with little. His resignation from active living makes him
an onlooker toward both himself and others and often permits
him to be an excellent observer of his own inner processes.
While the individual's interpersonal difficulties are creating
movements toward, against, and away from people and the
conflicts between them, his concomitant intrapsychic problems





Character and Conflict


are producing their own defensive strategies. The destructive
attitudes of others, his alienation from his real self, and his own
self-hatred make the individual feel weak and worthless. To
compensate for this he creates, with the aid of his imagination,
an "idealized image" of himself: "In this process he endows
himself with unlimited powers and with exalted faculties; he
becomes a hero, a genius, a supreme lover, a saint, a god"
(NHG, p. 22). Thus begins his "search for glory," as "the
energies driving toward self-realization are shifted to the aim of
actualizing the idealized self" (NHG, p. 24).
The creation of the idealized image produces not only the
search for glory but a whole structure of defensive strategies
which Homey calls "the pride system." Self-idealization leads
the individual to make both exaggerated claims for himself and
excessive demands upon himself. He takes an intense pride in
the attributes of his idealized self, and on the basis of these
attributes he makes unrealistic claims upon others. He feels
outraged unless he is treated in a way appropriate to his status
as a special being. His claims make him extremely vulnerable,
of course; for their frustration threatens to confront him with
his "despised self," with the sense of worthlessness from which
he is fleeing.
The individual's pride in his idealized self also leads him to
impose stringent demands and taboos upon himself which
Homey describes as "the tyranny of the should." The function
of the should is to make oneself over into one's idealized self"
(NHG, p. 68). Since the idealized image is for the most part a
glorification of the self-effacing, expansive, or resigned solu-
tions, the individual's should are determined largely by the
character traits and values associated with his predominant
tendency. The should are a defense against self-loathing, but
they tend to aggravate the condition they are meant to cure.
Not only do they increase self-alienation, but they also intensify
self-hate, for they are impossible to live up to. The penalty for
failure is the most severe feeling of worthlessness and self-
contempt. This is why the should have such tyrannical power.





Mansfield Park


6

When Fanny arrives at Mansfield Park at the age of ten,
she has been already crushed by her experiences at home. She
feels herself to be weak, worthless, inconsequential, and inade-
quate; and she is in the grip of a basic anxiety. Her defense
system is already formed, and she displays many of the self-
effacing traits which characterize her throughout the novel. She
is "exceedingly timid and shy, and shrinking from notice" (I, ii).
She is "ashamed of herself." She finds "something to fear in
every person and place," creeps "about in constant terror of
something or other," and often "retreat[s] toward her own
chamber to cry." She is completely abject until she gains the
friendship of Edmund. Fortified by his support, she begins to
make a place for herself in the family by being useful and
compliant: "if there were some amongst them whom she could
not cease to fear, she began at least to know their ways, and to
catch the best manner of conforming to them." She is "of an
obliging, yielding temper," shows "a tractable disposition," and
is pronounced, even by the supercilious Miss Bertrams, to be
"good-natured enough." Edmund sees that she has "an affec-
tionate heart, and a strong desire of doing right."
Fanny's insecurities are exacerbated by the treatment she
receives at Mansfield Park. Almost everything conspires to
make her feel like a nothing. She is criticized frequently, is
constantly put in her place, and is made to feel like a person
with no rights, no gifts, and no claims to consideration. She
feels totally dependent and strives desperately to do whatever
will gain her acceptance and enhance, her security. She has little
confidence in her capacities, perceptions, and judgments and in
her ability to gain approval or to cope with new situations. She
has no power to resist the negative image of herself which she
receives from Mrs. Norris's continual deprecations, from the
disdain of her girl cousins, and from the disapproval of Sir
Thomas. She does not feel like a real person with a real place in
the world. This is made evident when, late in the novel, she





Character and Conflict


becomes a subscriber to a circulating library: she is "amazed at
being any thing in propria persona, amazed at her own doings
in every way; to be a renter, a chuser of books!" (III, ix).
Fanny's chief persecutor, as we have seen, is her Aunt
Norris. She is terrified of Mrs. Norris, who is at first an impor-
tant figure of authority; and in order to avoid her reproaches
and the danger of her displeasure, she tries to think, feel, and
behave exactly as her aunt prescribes. This is not difficult, for
Mrs. Norris's injunctions correspond to the should and taboos
of Fanny's defense system. Mrs. Norris talks "to her the whole
way from Northampton of her wonderful good fortune, and the
extra-ordinary degree of gratitude and good behavior which it
ought to produce" (I, ii); and Fanny does her utmost to be
grateful and well behaved. Since this seems to be the condition
of her acceptance at Mansfield Park, she is in dread of being
thought ungrateful or naughty; and she experiences great anx-
iety at the least hint of disapproval. She constantly hears that
she will be "a very obstinate, ungrateful girl, if she does not do
what her aunt and cousins wish her" (I, xv); and whenever she
can do so without violating principles, she slavishly complies
with their demands. Aunt Norris says that she should always be
"lowest and last," and Fanny anxiously shuns any form of
notice or distinction. She accepts the various deprivations im-
posed by her aunt as "perfectly reasonable. She rated her own
claims to comfort as low as even Mrs. Norris could" (II, v).
Fanny is not secure enough even to resent the way in which
she is abused. She is "often mortified" by her cousins' treatment
of her, but she thinks "too lowly of her own claims to feel
injured by it" (I, ii). She thinks so lowly of her own claims
partly because of her damaged self-esteem and her taboos
against presumption and partly because she is afraid to feel
injured. To be angry with others for their treatment of her is to
risk their anger in return and possibly their rejection. This she
cannot do. She must handle abuse by belittling herself, by
feeling that the way she is treated is perfectly reasonable, con-
sidering her inconsequence. Any recognition, any triumph,
threatens to upset this solution; and Fanny responds by anx-
iously reaffirming her unworthiness. Her taboos against pride
are so powerful that she does not even take satisfaction in her






Mansfield Park


own humility-though the author makes sure that it is properly
appreciated.
Fanny's defenses are, broadly speaking, of two kinds: those
designed to prevent dangerous situations from arising and those
designed to secure reassurance and protection. The preventive
defenses include self-minimization; self-accusation; avoidance
of attention, competition, and triumph; and taboos against
pride, envy, and resentment. Fanny does not want to do any-
thing which will arouse antagonism, expose her to judgment, or
jeopardize her acceptance. She feels safest when others cannot
possibly regard her as a threat. The less attention she attracts
and the less recognition she receives, the less likely she is to be
an object of criticism or envy. As Mary Crawford observes,
Fanny is "almost as fearful of notice and praise as other women
[are] of neglect" (II, iii). Fanny is acutely self-conscious. Being
the focus of attention when she enters a room, speaks, or dances
is an ordeal for her.
Most of Fanny's preventive defenses are generated by her
self-effacing trends; but this set of defenses includes also her
strong tendencies toward withdrawal, resignation, and detach-
ment. She frequently hides away in the East room, which is her
"nest of comforts" (I, xvi), her retreat, her refuge from the
buffets and alarms of daily life. She is "not often invited to join
in the conversation of others, nor [does] she desire it. Her own
thoughts and reflections [are] habitually her best companions"
(I, viii). She turns for her pleasures to such solitary occupations
as reading or to the contemplation of nature; she does not
expect to get much from other human beings. To avoid being
judged, she keeps her thoughts and feelings to herself. She is
"always so gentle and retiring" that Sir Thomas finds "her
emotions" to be "beyond his discrimination" (III, v). Since
having wishes seems dangerous, Fanny tries hard to accept
what is given and to want nothing for herself. She is easily
satisfied and does not complain, even to herself, about her
deprivations. She does what she is told, but she never initiates
activity. If she is passive and subservient, there is less danger
that she will step out of her place or do something wrong. Her
most common roles are those of servant and spectator. Her
onlooker attitude, combined with her defensive alertness,






Character and Conflict


makes her a good observer of others; she sees more than people
who are active and involved.
Fanny seeks reassurance and protection in three major
ways: by being useful, by being good, and by attaching herself
to a stronger and more favored member of the family, someone
who can watch out for her needs and intercede on her behalf
with the powerful parental figure.
Fanny needs to be useful, needs to be needed, in order to
compensate for her feelings of worthlessness and inconsequen-
tiality. 'I can never,' she tells Edmund, 'be important to
any one' "(I, iii). She arrives at Mansfield Park with this feeling.
At home she had served as "play-fellow, instructress, and nurse"
to her younger brothers and sisters (I, ii); but she was neglected
by both her mother and father and was felt, as a "delicate and
puny" child (I, i) in a large family, to be something of a
nuisance, at best superfluous. When she leaves, no one, with the
exception of William, misses her. She is delighted, therefore, to
be of use to her aunts, to her cousins, to the actors in the play,
to anyone who will make her feel that her existence is of some
importance. She would be reconciled even to living with Aunt
Norris if her aunt really wanted her: 'it would be delightful to
feel myself of consequence to any body!' "(I, iii). Since she has
no inner feeling of worth, Fanny depends upon others to give
value to her life and becomes depressed and anxious when she
cannot be of service. She becomes so deeply attached to her
Aunt Bertram partly because her aunt is so dependent upon her
for comfort. Her aunt's repeated assertions that she cannot do
without Fanny are sweet music to her ears. When she returns to
Portsmouth, she dreams "of being of consequence" to her
mother (III, viii) as she had never been before. With the disap-
pointment of these hopes, she begins to long for Mansfield and
to think of it as her true home: "Could she have been at home,
she might have been of service to every creature in the house.
She felt that she must have been of use to all. To all, she must
have saved some trouble of head or hand" (III, xiv). When
disasters fall upon the Bertrams and everyone turns to her for
comfort, Fanny is happy.
Fanny is profoundly insecure not only about her worth,
her consequence, but also about her status. She is acutely aware





Mansfield Park


of her marginal position at Mansfield Park and feels that she
can be expelled at any time, returned to a home where no one
wants her, should she fail to give satisfaction. She derives from
Mrs. Norris the impression that she can assure her continued
acceptance only by being very, very good. She is in dread of Sir
Thomas, as we have seen, because he is a stern man who wields
an absolute power over her fate. Her security depends upon his
approval, his belief in her goodness. Being good involves, essen-
tially, being grateful and obedient and conforming to the prin-
ciples of morality and decorum taught by Edmund and en-
forced by Sir Thomas. Aunt Norris is such a terrible enemy
because she is constantly denying Fanny's goodness, accusing
her of self-will and ingratitude; and Fanny is afraid that Sir
Thomas will accept her judgments. Edmund, on the other hand,
knows that she really is good and provides a precious reassur-
ance. Fanny proves her goodness by behaving exactly as Sir
Thomas would have wished during his absence. She is over-
whelmed by anxiety when her refusal to accept Henry Crawford
arouses her uncle's ire: "The past, present, future, every thing
was terrible Selfish and ungrateful! to have appeared so to
him! She was miserable for ever" (III, i). Her uncle's provision
of a fire, even in these circumstances, calms her greatly; it
means that she is a part of the family, with recognized rights,
even though she has given displeasure. In the end, of course, her
goodness is more than vindicated; she is celebrated as little less
than angelic.
It is difficult to feel as positively about Fanny's goodness as
Jane Austen wishes us to. Hers is the goodness of a terrified
child who dreads total rejection if she does not conform in every
way to the will of those in power. It is rigid, desperate, compul-
sive. Fanny is not actively loving or benevolent; she is obedient,
submissive, driven by her fears and her should. Her goodness
provides, moreover, the only outlet for her repressed aggressive
impulses. She stands up to others, occasionally, in the name of
her principles. She is highly critical of many of the people
around her, either inwardly or with Edmund; but she gets
around her taboos against aggression and presumption by at-
tacking on the side of authority and in the name of virtue. She
is, in truth, a prig.





Character and Conflict


Given her timidity, her dependency, her inability to assert
herself in the face of neglect, abuse, and injustice, Fanny would
be lost without a protector. Despite their differences in person-
ality, William and Edmund play this role for her in remarkably
similar ways. William is "her constant companion and friend;
her advocate with her mother (of whom he was the darling) in
every distress" (I, ii). At Mansfield Park, she is in a state of
panic until Edmund befriends her, helps her write to her
brother, and recognizes her goodness: "From this day Fanny
grew more comfortable." As his behavior at cards makes clear
(II, vii), William has an aggressive personality. Fanny subor-
dinates herself to him; and he, in turn, looks out for her inter-
ests and intercedes with their mother on her behalf. Edmund is
compliant. He makes up for his inferior position as second son
by being good; and, as a result, he becomes the favorite of his
father. He identifies with Fanny as a kindred spirit and takes an
immense moral pleasure in being good to her. Like William, he
is sensitive to Fanny's weakness and hovers about her with a
kind of parental solicitude, forcing others to be considerate. He
is not himself a dominating personality (like William); but his
influence in the household, especially with his father, makes
him a source of security; and Fanny sees him as her hero, her
champion. She becomes quite worried when Sir Thomas looks
reproachfully at Edmund on learning of his participation in the
play (II, i). Eventually, of course, Sir Thomas himself becomes
Fanny's protector, and then she is completely safe.


7

Now that Fanny's character structure and defensive strate-
gies have been analyzed, it is possible to understand her rela-
tionships with other characters and her behavior in various
episodes. Jane Austen's characterization is so rich that it is
almost inexhaustible. I shall concentrate upon some major
aspects of Fanny's behavior in the play episode, her relationship
with Henry Crawford, her visit to Portsmouth, and her trium-
phant return home.





Mansfield Park


No detailed reasons are given for Fanny's opposition to the
play. Until Edmund decides to act, her sentiments, presumably,
are the same as his. The central issue for Fanny is respect for the
authority of Sir Thomas: 'he would never,' says Edmund,
" 'wish his grown up daughters to be acting plays. His sense of
decorum is strict' (I, xiii). When Lovers' Vows is chosen, the
offense is compounded. Fanny is astonished that so "improper"
a play "could be proposed and accepted in a private Theatre,"
and-she longs to have her cousins "roused as soon as possible by
the remonstrance which Edmund would certainly make" (I, xv).
Even Lady Bertram urges them not to 'act anything improper
... Sir Thomas would not like it.' As we have seen, Fanny is
in dread of Sir Thomas. The idea of challenging, usurping, or
disobeying his authority is extremely frightening to her. Fanny
protects herself in this threatening situation by identifying with
Sir Thomas as he is represented by Edmund, the good son; by
refusing to participate; and by making clear, to herself at least,
how much she disapproves of what is going on. Her censor-
iousness reassures her that she is a good girl and that she will
not, therefore, be an object of Sir Thomas's wrath. She is deeply
disturbed when Edmund decides to act. She is torn between her
impulse to submit to him and her need to disapprove; she is
distressed at this sign of Mary Crawford's power; and she is
afraid of the danger in which his complicity will place her
protector. When Sir Thomas returns home, her "solicitude on
Edmund's account [is] indescribable" (II, i).
Fanny's refusal to act is only partially motivated by her
fear of Sir Thomas. Her initial reaction is prompted chiefly by
her dread of exposing herself:


"You must be Cottager's wife."
"Me!" cried Fanny, sitting down again with a most frightened
look. "Indeed you must excuse me. I could not act any thing if you were
to give me the world. No, indeed, I cannot act."
". It is not that I am afraid of learning by heart," said Fanny,
shocked to find herself at that moment the only speaker in the room,
and to feel that almost every eye was upon her; "but I really cannot
act." (I, xv)





Character and Conflict


Fanny is not saying that she will not act or feels that she should
not act, but that she cannot act: 'It would be absolutely
impossible for me.' Her reaction is quite understandable in
the light of her need for obscurity, her acute self-consciousness,
her fear of attention. If she is "shocked" to find herself the only
speaker in the room, she would be traumatized by having to
appear on a stage, an object of scrutiny and judgment.
Despite her evident panic, Fanny's refusal is not accepted.
Tom persists in his request and is urgently backed by Maria,
Mr. Crawford, and Mr. Yates. Fanny is quite overpowered; and
before she can catch her breath, Mrs. Norris joins in with the
charge that she will be 'a very obstinate, ungrateful girl, if she
does not do what her aunt and counsins wish her.' Edmund
and Mary Crawford give Fanny what moral support they can,
but she is badly shaken by this experience.
We must see Fanny as a person if we are to feel the
dramatic intensity of this situation and to understand the extent
of her confusion and distress. She fears a repetition of the
assault, with "Edmund perhaps away" (I, xvi). Can she stand up
to "all the authoritative urgency that Tom and Maria [are]
capable of?" She is not sure, moreover, what she ought to do.
Mrs. Norris struck a nerve when she accused Fanny of ingrati-
tude. Fanny is caught in a conflict between several of her self-
effacing should. She must not do what Sir Thomas would
disapprove of, but she must not be selfish or ungrateful either:
"Was she right in refusing what was so ... strongly wished for?
What might be so essential to a scheme on which some of those
to whom she owed the greatest complaisance, had set their
hearts? Was it not ill-nature- -selfishness-and a fear of expos-
ing herself? .. It would be so horrible to her to act, that she
was inclined to suspect the truth and purity of her own scru-
ples." It is of the utmost importance to Fanny to do what is
right, but she cannot "find her way to duty," and she is emo-
tionally paralyzed. She hopes that Edmund will at once relieve
her moral anxiety and save her from having to perform by
assuring her that to act would be wrong, but he has decided that
he must take a part himself in order to confine the evil.
When Fanny is asked again. Edmund answers for her, and
she is saved. But she has not resolved her conflict. When she is





Mansfield Park


asked to aid in rehearsal by reading a part, she cannot refuse:
"As they all persevered-as Edmund repeated his wish, and
with a look of even fond dependence on her good nature, she
must yield .... Everybody was satisfied-and she [was] left to
the tremors of a most palpitating heart" (I, xviii). At this critical
juncture Fanny is saved from a possible nervous collapse and
from a possible charge of complicity by the arrival of Sir
Thomas. We never learn if reading would have been wrong.
Fanny does, in fact, become quite involved in the produc-
tion of the play, but in ways which do not arouse her various
anxieties. Once she has been saved from having to act, she finds
herself quite left out; and this arouses her old feelings of incon-
sequence. Everyone else is "gay and busy, prosperous and im-
portant." "She alone was sad and insignificant; she had no
share in any thing; she might go or stay ... without being seen
or missed. She could almost think any thing would have been
preferable to this" (I, xvii). She compensates for her feeling of
insignificance in the usual way, by serving: "The gloom of her
first anticipations was proved to have been unfounded. She was
occasionally useful to all; she was perhaps as much at peace as
any. There was a great deal of needlework to be done, more-
over, in which her help was wanted."(I, xviii). Fanny's behavior
in the play episode is consistent throughout with our under-
standing of her character; but from a thematic point of view, it
is difficult to understand the difference between acting and
sewing.

It is during a discussion of the play while they are dining at
the Grants' that Henry Crawford first becomes attracted to
Fanny. When Henry expresses a wish that Sir Thomas's return
had been delayed, Fanny replies:

"As far as I am concerned, sir, I would not have delayed his return
for a day. My uncle disapproved it all so entirely when he did arrive,
that in my opinion, everything had gone quite far enough."
She had never spoken so much at once to him in her life before,
and never so angrily to any one; and when her speech was over, she
trembled and blushed at her own daring. He was surprised; but after a
few moments silent consideration of her, replied in a calmer, graver
tone, and as if the candid result of conviction, "I believe you are right. It





Character and Conflict


was more pleasant than prudent ..." And then turning the conversa-
tion, he would have engaged her on some other subject, but her answers
were so shy and reluctant that he could not advance in any way. (II, v)

Henry is an expansive person who prides himself on his charm
and his ability to capture the hearts of women. He is accus-
tomed to being pursued or to making easy conquests. He is
attracted to Fanny in part because she presents an unusual
challenge which, for the sake of his pride, he is determined to
meet:

"I was never so long in company with a girl in my life-trying to
entertain her-and succeed so ill! Never met with a girl who looked so
grave on me! I must try to get the better of this. Her looks say, 'I will
not like you, I am determined not to like you,' and I say, she shall."
(II, vi)

Henry is attracted also by Fanny's moral rectitude. There is a
side of him which is self-condemning and which leads him to
accept Fanny's rebuke. He sees Fanny as a moral superior and
hopes to be more at peace with himself by submitting to her
values and gaining her approval. In effect, Fanny has hurt his
pride and activated his conscience; both his expansive and his
self-effacing should require him to win her love and approval.
Henry's initial plan is to remain heart-whole himself, but to
make Fanny feel, when he goes away, 'that she shall never be
happy again.' In this way he will restore his pride and will get
revenge on her for having made him doubt his powers. As he
comes to know Fanny, however, he is genuinely attracted; and
he determines to win her hand in marriage. He decides to marry
her in part, I suspect, because he is having no success in flirting;
an offer of marriage, he feels, will be irresistible. But he also
wishes to possess for himself certain qualities which he sees
Fanny display toward others and which he feels will be his once
he wins her heart. He imagines her being as affectionate as she
is toward William, as cheerfully subservient as she is toward her
aunts, and as grateful as she is toward anyone who does her the
smallest kindness. Her "dependent, helpless neglected" (II,
xii) state feeds his sense of power; he will transform her life.
What a reward will he not deserve from her! Marrying such a





Mansfield Park


deprived creature and doing so much for her will make him feel
virtuous. Her principles will give him every assurance of her
fidelity and will help him to avoid moral uneasiness and self-
disgust. Her continued resistance even after his proposal makes
"her affection appear of greater consequence, because it was
withheld, and determines] him to have the glory, as well as the
felicity, of forcing her to love him" (III, ii; my italics). He
"derives[s] spirits" from the "difficulty."
Henry's glorification of Fanny is a bit overstrained, mak-
ing one suspect authorial manipulation; but, on the whole, his
behavior toward her is in keeping with his character. Given her
character, Fanny could never love a man like Henry Crawford,
despite Jane Austen's assurances that Henry would have had a
chance if Fanny's heart had not been already engaged or if
Edmund had married Mary. The author wishes us to believe in
Henry's chances for thematic purposes, so we will feel that he
has destroyed himself, that he could have been rewarded had he
remained virtuous.
Fanny has a serious objection, of course, to Henry's moral
character. She has observed his flirtations with Maria and
Julia, and she has 'received an impression which will never be
got over' "(III, iv). When, at the Grants, Henry remarks that he
was "never happier" than during the period of the play, Fanny
is full of "silent indignation": 'never happier than when behav-
ing so dishonourably and unfeelingly!-Oh! what a corrupted
mind!' (11, v). When Henry begins his attentions, Fanny sur-
mises, quite correctly, that "he wanted ... to cheat her of her
tranquillity as he had cheated" her cousins of theirs (II, viii). He
eventually overcomes her distrust of his affection, but he never
convinces her of his virtue. He makes some progress in this
direction at Portsmouth, but Fanny is not much disillusioned
when he runs off with Maria. Given her need to be good, to be
allied with someone who shares her values, and to be protected
by someone whom she trusts completely, Fanny could never
bring herself to marry a man as tainted in her mind as Henry
Crawford.
Henry tries to assure Fanny of his virtue by praising hers:
" 'You are infinitely my superior in merit; all that I know' "(III,
iii). But this is exactly what Fanny does not like to hear. She





Character and Conflict


does not like to be admired, to be praised, to be placed in a
position of leadership and superiority. When Henry says that
her judgment is his 'rule of right,' Fanny replies, 'Oh,
no!-do not say so' "(Ill, xi). She reacts similarly to Edmund's
assertion that her guidance will remedy Crawford's defects of
character, that she 'will make him everything' ": 'I would
not engage in such a charge,' cried Fanny in a shrinking
accent-" 'in such an office of high responsibility!' (III, iv).
Insofar as Henry's attentions feed her pride and bring triumph
and glory, they are frightening to Fanny. Mary Crawford hopes
to recommend her brother's suit by reminding Fanny of the
"envy" of other women and 'the glory of fixing one who has
been shot at by so many' "(III, v). These things would be grati-
fying to the expansive Mary, but they are repugnant to the self-
effacing Fanny.
Fanny is quite right when she tells Edmund that 'there
were never two people more dissimilar,' that it is 'quite
impossible' that she and Henry Crawford could 'ever be
tolerably happy together, even if [she] could like him' "(III, iv).
Henry Crawford is a brilliant, restless, gregarious man; Fanny
is the opposite. She would be overwhelmed as Henry's wife, and
he would soon come to be dissatisfied with her social limita-
tions. Fanny senses this. The prospect of such a marriage is re-
pellent to her. Even if Edmund were out of the picture, Fanny
could never marry a man like Henry Crawford. She would
rather be a spinster and remain safe at Mansfield.
As long as Edmund is in the picture, Fanny must love him.
Understanding why Henry Crawford is so unsuitable helps us
to see the appeal of Edmund. Fanny feels him to be her mentor,
her moral superior, her friend, champion, and protector. She
trusts his good will completely. He is the only person, other
than her brother William, to whom she can speak with any
degree of openness. They are entirely compatible in tastes,
inclinations, and life styles; they are "equally formed for domes-
tic life, and attached to country pleasures" (III, xvii). They will
share a life of serenity, repose, and mutual approbation. Their
happiness may not be sublime, but it will be "secure." With
Edmund there will be no challenges which Fanny cannot meet.






Mansfield Park


When Fanny sees that Henry Crawford seriously wants to
marry her, that he seeks her for "her gentleness, and her good-
ness" (III, ii), and that he has secured William's promotion for
her sake, she has "a sensation of being honored" and a feeling of
"gratitude"; but for the most part she is oppressed by the
situation into which his attentions have placed her. Henry
threatens her security by bringing down upon her Sir Thomas's
wrath. Sir Thomas is angry mainly because he does not under-
stand the grounds of Fanny's refusal. She does not tell him of
her objections to Crawford because this would implicate her
cousins; and she has a strong taboo against being critical of
others, especially of those toward whom she must repress her
envy and resentment. Nor can she tell him that she loves another
because this would arouse his suspicions about Edmund. She
must keep her love a secret in order to avoid family resentment
and the charge of presumption. When Edmund falls in love
with Mary, Fanny struggles to feel as she ought: "To call or to
fancy it a loss, a disappointment, would be a presumption; for
which she had not words enough to satisfy her own humility"
(II, ix). She is in a painful position with Edmund also. He is
constantly promoting her marriage with Crawford and confid-
ing his love for her detested rival. It is no wonder that when, in
Portsmouth, Fanny begins to think better of Crawford, her
highest hope is that "he would not much longer persevere in a
suit so distressing to her" (III, xi). This is the only way, it seems,
in which she can be freed of Edmund's urgings and restored to
Sir Thomas's favor.


The Portsmouth episode has attracted critical attention
because of the obvious disparity between Jane Austen's approv-
ing view of Fanny, which is reflected in the chorus of praise that
increasingly surrounds her, and Fanny's snobbish attitudes and
unattractive behavior toward her family. She seems excessively
cold and critical, embarrassed and ashamed. Instead of having
sympathy for her overburdened mother, she is preoccupied with
self-pity and her nostalgia for "the genteel and well-appointed"
(III, xii). We shall find that here, as elsewhere, Fanny's behav-





Character and Conflict


ior is more intelligible, and we are more sympathetic, when
Fanny is seen as a person rather than as a heroine.
The prospect of returning home awakens Fanny's hunger
for love and belonging. Both in her early years in Portsmouth
and in her stay at Mansfield Park, she has been starved for
parental affection, for love, warmth, and tender concern. Her
father never showed her "anything approaching to tenderness"
(III, viii). And her mother, "occupied by the incessant demands
of a house full of little children" (III, vi), partial to the boys, and
"alienated by the helplessness and fretfulness of a fearful
temper," was either hostile or indifferent to Fanny. At Mans-
field Park, Sir Thomas is remote and stern, Mrs. Norris is an
enemy, and Lady Bertram is a passive figure who does not give
but requires indulgent care. Fanny has handled this deprivation
by blaming herself, by resigning her claims, and by making do
with parent substitutes, like William and Edmund. Feeling that
she had probably "been unreasonable in wanting a larger share
than any one among so many could deserve," and that she has
therefore been sent away, she learns at Mansfield "how to be
useful and how to forbear," so as to avoid a second rejection.
Her need for love has not disappeared, however; and the
thought of returning home awakens fantasies of gratification.
She dreams of being "in the centre" of the family "circle," of
being "loved by so many, and more loved by all than she had
ever been before," of feeling "affection without fear or re-
straint," of feeling "herself the equal of those who surrounded
her." She will "now find a warm and affectionate friend" in her
mother; they will "soon be what mother and daughter ought to
be to each other."
She is, of course, severely disappointed by the treatment
she receives. Her father seems "inclined to forget her" (III, vii)
shortly after her arrival; her mother still has "neither leisure nor
affection to bestow on Fanny" (III, viii); and the other children,
with the exception of William and Susan, are favored rivals to
whom she is of little or no importance. She handles her resent-
ment, at first, in a variety of defensive ways. She is being
"unreasonable" (III, vii). She has no "right ... to be of impor-
tance to her family." "William's concerns must be dearest";
perhaps in a few days, when the Thrush has sailed, there will be





Mansfield Park


time and attention for her. But it does "pain her to have
Mansfield forgotten; the friends who had done so much-the
dear, dear friends!" The pain of neglect, which she is afraid to
feel on her own behalf, she is free to feel on behalf of others.
Before the week is over it is "all disappointment"; her home
is "the very reverse of what she could have wished" (III, viii). In
the bitterness of her disillusionment, with nothing left to hope
for, Fanny allows her resentment to show:

She might scruple to make use of the words, but she must and did feel
that her mother was a partial, ill-judging parent, a dawdle, a slattern,
who neither taught nor restrained her children, whose house was the
scene of mismanagement and discomfort from beginning to end, and
who had no talent, no conversation, no affection toward herself; no
curiosity to know her better, no desire of her friendship, and no
inclination for her company that could lessen her sense of such feelings.

These are the harshest thoughts that Fanny has toward anyone
in the whole course of the novel. They reflect not only her
current disappointment, but also her resentment of earlier de-
privation, memories of which now begin to surface. When
Fanny returns to Portsmouth, she is in a vulnerable state; she is
allowing herself to crave the love and acceptance which have
always been denied to her. Her frustration is proportional to
the intensity of her desire, and her hostility is proportional to
her frustration. She is in no condition to see things from any
perspective other than her own; she is bitterly hurt and angry.
Fanny does not express or act out her rage, of course; she
is much too insecure for that. She reverts to her usual defenses
of modesty, usefulness, and withdrawal. She devotes herself to
the appreciative Susan. She continues, however, to be inwardly
critical of her parents and their home. This is partly an expres-
sion of her anger and partly a defense against self-hate. She has
violated her taboo against feeling resentment; and she must
assure herself of her righteousness by tearing down her family,
by convincing herself that they deserve her condemnation. She
validates her judgments by identifying her criteria of propriety
with those of Mansfield Park, which she now glorifies and
invests with absolute moral authority. There, whatever is, is
right. She is so embarrassed by her family because she is so






Character and Conflict


critical of them. It is humiliating to be identified with a set of
people and a life style which she has thoroughly condemned.
She is acutely distressed when Henry Crawford arrives partly
because she fears that he will associate her with her family and
will heap upon her the contempt which she has been feeling
toward them.

Fanny's feelings on return to Mansfield Park are as im-
mature, and as understandable, as are her responses to Ports-
mouth; and, again, an analysis of them helps to explain why
reader response and authorial rhetoric often part ways. Jane
Austen has set herself a difficult artistic problem. Fanny's
happiness comes at the expense of others, not only of her
enemies, but of her friends as well. Through much of the
denouement, Edmund, Sir Thomas, and Lady Bertram are
quite miserable; but Fanny is happy, and we are supposed to
rejoice. Austen speaks frequently of Fanny's sympathetic suf-
ferings, which are no doubt genuine, and explains why she
"must have been happy in spite of every thing" (III, xvii); but
there is a euphoria about Fanny, and at times a kind of glee,
which seem inappropriate to the gravity of the situation. When
she first hears the news about Crawford and Maria, she thinks
it "scarcely possible" for Sir Thomas and Edmund "to support
life and reason under such a disgrace; and it appeared to her,
that as far as this world was concerned, the greatest blessing to
every one of kindred with Mrs. Rushworth would be instant
annihilation" (III, xv). But as soon as she is summoned home,
she is "exquisitely happy." She fights against such feelings,
recognizing their selfishness and insensitivity; but she cannot
suppress them. In the company of the dejected Edmund, "her
heart swells] with joy and gratitude" as she leaves Portsmouth;
and "her perceptions and her pleasures [are] of the keenest sort"
as she enters the grounds of Mansfield Park.
Here, as in Portsmouth, Fanny is so immersed in her own
sensations that she cannot be sensitive to the problems of
others. Before she receives news of the Crawford-Maria affair,
she is "very low" (III, xi). Portsmouth is hateful, her health is
declining, and she feels "deserted by everybody" who is of
importance to her. She cannot think of Henry's "returning to






Mansfield Park


town, and being frequently with Mary and Edmund, without
feelings so near akin to envy, as made her hate herself for
having them." She longs for Mansfield Park, which she now
recognizes as her only home; but she is powerless to return until
she is sent for. The Crawfords offer to take her back; but "her
awe of her uncle, and her dread of taking a liberty with him"
(III, xiv) make it impossible for her to accept. Henry Craw-
ford's attentions continue to threaten her relations with her
uncle; as long as she must decline Henry without being able to
explain herself, she is in danger of being thought rebellious and
ungrateful. Although Mary's character looks worse and worse,
there seems every likelihood that Edmund will marry her, and
Fanny expects every day to hear the dreaded news. If Edmund
marries Mary, she will be frustrated in love, cut off from her
protector, and exposed all the more to Henry's pursuit.
It is no wonder that with the sudden change of events
Fanny becomes euphorically happy. She has stepped out of a
nightmare into a dream come true. One after another, the
obstacles to her wishes are removed: "She was returned to
Mansfield Park, she was useful, she was beloved; she was safe
from Mr. Crawford, and when Sir Thomas came back she had
every proof... of his perfect approbation and increased regard;
S. .Edmund was no longer the dupe of Miss Crawford" (III,
xvii). At this point, what is a nightmare for others brings about
the realization of her most cherished fantasies. She cannot help
having a sense of triumph, of exultation. When Edmund begins
to love her, the hopes and dreams which she had felt it pre-
sumptuous to acknowledge even to herself are coming true. We
may not wish Fanny's kind of happiness for ourselves, but for
her it is perfect. No situation could be better adapted to her
needs than to be the wife of Edmund, the beloved daughter of
Sir Thomas, and the mistress of Mansfield parsonage.


8

Fanny Price is one of the great mimetic characters in
English fiction. Jane Austen's intuitive grasp and concrete por-
trayal of her psychology are amazing. To some, her misinter-





Character and Conflict


pretation of Fanny, her glorification of strategic motives and
unhealthy traits, may also seem remarkable. How could Austen
have portrayed Fanny so well and judged her so ill?
Novelists are more gifted than the rest of us in many ways,
but they are no less subject to psychological limitations.They,
too, have blind spots when it comes to their own defensive
strategies and their own destructive solutions, however percep-
tive they might be in analyzing and judging other and opposite
types. They, too, need to justify their values and to believe that
their solutions are well-adapted to the world. Mansfield Park is
clearly a glorification of the self-effacing solution. Fanny is the
exemplar of this solution; and the novel as a whole is a fantasy
of her strategies working to perfection, much better than they
usually do in life.
There is a certain amount of manipulation in the removal
of blocking forces. Edmund's love for Fanny is neither depicted
nor explained; it is simply a part of the fairy-tale atmosphere
which dominates at the end. The manner in which the Craw-
fords are removed has caused considerable uneasiness among
Austen's readers. Part of the explanation, I believe, is that the
Crawfords are too fully rendered to be merely villains in the
comic action but not rendered fully enough, particularly at the
end, to be entirely believable as people. When antagonists are
rendered as persons, as Henry and, to a lesser degree, Mary are,
we tend to find them more interesting and sympathetic than we
should, given their comic roles and their moral characters.
Jane Austen does not manipulate her main character in the
least. She is a creation inside a creation and is mimetically
rendered throughout. This, as I have suggested, creates an
appetite for a thoroughgoing realism. The ending, however,
strikes us not as true to experience, but as an indulgence of the
heroine. It shows the triumph of the self-effacing protagonist
over her aggressive enemies. The author presides, dispensing
justice and making Fanny's dreams come true. Jane Austen is
as harsh upon the aggressive characters as she is indulgent to
the "good" ones. She has no blind spots here. She sees their
faults, understands the damage which has been done by their
upbringing, and calls attention to the self-destructiveness, and
ultimate failure, of their solutions. One reason why we may





Mansfield Park


have some sympathy for the Crawfords is that the author has
loaded the dice against them. She has made them behave worse,
or at least more stupidly, than we had expected they would.
Mary may have wished for Tom's death, but she would never
have revealed such sentiments to Fanny.
In order for Mansfield Park to have its desired effect, the
reader must be sympathetic to the defense system of the implied
author, with its accompanying values and fantasies. A reader
who approaches it from a different perspective will find himself
alienated by the heroine, at war with the author, and, in some
cases, in league with the villains.














3





Emma






Emma is, like Mansfield Park,
a controversial novel. The chief issues are the genuineness of
Emma's reformation and the felicity of her marriage to Knight-
ley. Most critics feel that Jane Austen means for us to see
Emma's self-knowledge as profound, her education as perma-
nent, and her marriage as perfectly happy, and that the author's
interpretation is correct. There are two minority positions. One
is that Emma does not grow as much as Austen thinks she does
and that the ending is not as happy as the rhetoric makes it
seem. The other is that Austen is aware of the limitations of her
heroine's growth and happiness and that she does not really
mean for us to see Emma's character and situation at the end as
ideal.
This controversy becomes intelligible, 1 believe, when we
see that Emma is, like Fanny Price, a creation inside a creation.
She is the heroine of the comic action and the character whose





Emma


education constitutes the novel's thematic center, but she is also
an imagined human being whose personal qualities are not
always in harmony with her dramatic and thematic functions.
Most critics are not troubled by a sense of conflict in the novel
because they do not respond to Emma as though she were a
person; they see her only as an aesthetic and an illustrative
character. The critics who see the ending as open, or ironic, or
subtly critical of the society into which Emma is absorbed do
respond to her as a person. They then ascribe to the novel a
thematic structure which fits their perceptions of her character.
I am in agreement with those who feel that the novel's rhetoric
is in conflict with its concrete portrayal of life. Both as a
comedy and as a novel of education, Emma encourages a
favorable view of the protagonist's happiness and growth.
When Emma is understood psychologically, however, it is evi-
dent that her change is neither complete nor entirely for the
better, and that her marriage to Knightley signifies not so much
an entrance into maturity as a regression to childish depen-
dency.


2

As a comic structure, Emma is composed of three love
relationships with their corresponding blocking forces. The
happiness of Emma and Knightley is threatened by Emma's
faults and illusions, by the lovers' unconsciousness of their
feelings for each other, and by Mr. Woodhouse's opposition to
marriage. Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill are blocked by
Mrs. Churchill. Harriet Smith and Robert Martin are thwarted
by the interference of Emma. Each of the protagonists under-
goes a period of distress as his or her happiness seems about to
be frustrated; the blocking forces are removed by a series of
rapid reversals; and there is a flurry of weddings at the end. All
obstacles to happiness are overcome. Mistakes are acknowl-
edged, transgressions are forgiven, and conflicts between love
and duty are resolved. The marriages are all socially suitable
and based on love. No one, it turns out, has been permanently
harmed.





Character and Conflict


"The humor in comedy," says Frye, "is usually someone
with a good deal of social prestige and power, who is able to
force much of the play's society into line with his obsession"
(AC, p. 169). The most important humor in Emma is Emma
herself, who fulfills the role both of romantic heroine and of the
alazon or imposter who is the major blocking force. Emma's
humorss" or obsessions are many, and they give rise to a variety
of mistakes and illusions. She is an "imaginist," a snob, an
arranger of other people's lives. She prides herself on her own
elegance and "Understanding" and is obsessed with her super-
iority and importance. She imposes an irrational law of celibacy
upon herself and insists upon an unsuitably grand marriage for
Harriet Smith. "The social judgment against the absurd is
closer to the comic norm," says Frye, "than the moral judgment
against the wicked" (AC, p. 168). Emma becomes more and
more absurd as she ritually repeats her obsessions. Her repen-
tances, which she repeats with almost equal frequency, keep her
from seeming wicked. She is opposed by Knightley, who plays
the role of "the plain dealer, an outspoken advocate of a kind of
moral norm who has the sympathy of the audience" (AC, p.
176). The comic resolution depends upon Emma's being purged
of her humors and brought round to Knightley's point of view.
When we respond to the novel as a comedy, we have no doubt
that this happens; and, as Frye observes, "whatever emerges is
supposed to be there for good" (AC, p. 170).
The new society which crystallizes at the end is not only
more clear-sighted; it is also better ordered and morally more
secure. The mystery of Harriet's birth is removed, and she
enters her proper social sphere. The capricious Mrs. Churchill
is dead, and the relationship between Frank and Jane can
become open and honorable. Most important of all, Emma
accepts subordination to a proper authority. She has had too
much power and independence. Her marriage to Knightley
brings back to Hartfield the moral order which had disappeared
with the death of her mother.
The tone of Emma is notably different from that of Mans-
field Park. Both novels have comic structures; but Emma is
amusing and gay, whereas Mansfield Park is serious and som-
ber. Emma is full of humors characters who are wittily por-





Emma


trayed and who repeat their obsessions with delightful regular-
ity. It abounds in ironies and misunderstandings and gives us all
the fun of a comedy of errors. Mansfield Park specializes in the
creation and removal of anxiety. Its satisfactions are those
which accompany the gradual lifting of a nightmare and its
eventual transformation into a wish fulfillment fantasy. There is
nothing amusing about Fanny's plight, and the blocking char-
acters are far more ominous than funny. Emma is presented as
essentially secure; and we are free to laugh at her difficulties,
most of which she brings upon herself. It is only after the Box
Hill episode that her discomfiture becomes truly painful. Her
subsequent vision of a bleak future is the darkest moment in the
book, but it is quickly followed not only by her deliverance but
also by a general rejoicing which is in marked contrast to the
gloom surrounding Fanny on her return to Mansfield. Fanny's
jubilation seems somewhat callous; Emma's seems entirely ap-
propriate.
The new society is achieved in Mansfield Park through an
expulsion of scapegoats, some of whom seem more attractive,
in certain respects, than the hero and heroine. In Emma, there is
no need for a ritual of expulsion. Emma, who has much in
common with the spoiled children of Mansfield Park, is, unlike
most of them, highly educable. Once she is purged of her faults,
the new society becomes possible. She represents, at the end, a
combination of "energy and spirits" with propriety and moral
awareness which is more attractive than the sober rectitude of
Fanny and Edmund.
Even in terms of its comic structure, however, the ending
of Emma leaves something to be desired. Mr. Woodhouse
retains too powerful an influence upon the novel's society. He
represents, throughout, the forces opposed to comic values. He
dislikes marriage, fears life, and opposes change. Like Emma,
he repeats his obsessions and imposes them upon others by
virtue of his position. In his presence, honesty, spontaneity, and
the healthy enjoyment of life are out of the question. There is no
possibility of his changing, of course; and we do not wish to see
him expelled from the new society; but we would like to see his
influence diminished more than it is. For a time it looks as if
Emma and Knightley will not be able to marry until he dies.





Character and Conflict


The irrational law he would impose upon his daughter is cir-
cumvented by a manipulation of the plot which makes the
marriage harmonize with his obsessions, but the high spirits of
the last several chapters are considerably dampened by the
prospect of the newlyweds having to humor Mr. Woodhouse
for as long as he lives. The reader wishes for his death, and one
cannot help imagining that Emma and Knightley will soon be
troubled by inadmissible longings for release.

3

Different as it is in tone, Emma is not so much a departure
from Mansfield Park as a variation upon its central theme.
Mansfield Park shows the advantages of discipline, hardship,
and struggle and the evils of excessive liberty and indulgence.
Emma explores the same theme by making a spoiled child the
central figure and showing how she is educated through a
combination of suffering, correction, and good example.
The opening pages of the novel present Emma to us im-
mediately as a spoiled child, long before Knightley identifies her
as such. She has "lived nearly twenty-one years in the world
with very little to distress or vex her." Her mother has been long
dead; her father is feeble and indulgent; and, "in consequence of
her sister's marriage," she has "been mistress of his house from
a very early period." Miss Taylor has been her governess for
sixteen years, but "the mildness of her temper [has] hardly
allowed her to impose any restraint," and "the shadow of au-
thority" has long since "passed away." Emma does "just what
she like[s]" and is "directed chiefly by her own" judgment. Her
"power of having .. too much her own way" and "disposition
to think a little too well of herself" are identified as the "real
evils of her situation," "disadvantages" which threaten "alloy to
her many enjoyments."
We are reminded of the Crawfords, with whom Emma has
much in common. Like them, she has "sense and energy and
spirits" (I, ii). She is well-endowed by nature, but deficient in
nurture. There are crucial differences in her upbringing, how-
ever, which make her corrigible, whereas they are not. Miss





Emma


Taylor has given her principles (II, xvii). Her father's demands
for care impose a kind of hardship and discipline and mold her
into a dutiful daughter. Living in Highbury, she is insulated
from the evils of worldliness and the contagion of corrupt
examples. The dominant figure in her world is Knightley, who
provides guidance, good example, and rebuke. She has 'the
assistance of all [his] endeavors to counteract the indulgence of
other people' (III, xvii).
Emma's deficiencies are, in Jane Austen's view, the fault of
her nurture. Her existence has been too privileged; she has been
made to feel too important; she has received too much defer-
ence and praise. She has not had to earn respect, to submit to
judgment, or to acknowledge a higher authority. As a result,
she lacks discipline, is indisposed to work, and fails to develop
her potentialities. She is arrogant, self-important, and control-
ling. She overrates her capacities and is too confident of her
knowledge, judgment, and perception. Because she is so accus-
tomed to having reality arranged for her convenience, she is
given to fantasizing and to assuming that things are probably as
she wishes or imagines them to be. She has a weakness for
flattering illusions and for people who feed her pride. She tends
to avoid competition, to cut down rivals, and to evade unplea-
sant realizations. Her description of Mrs. Elton fits Emma
herself very well: she is "a vain woman, extremely well satisfied
with herself, and thinking much of her own importance ..
[who means] to shine and be very superior" (II, xiv).
There is a precise structure by which Jane Austen identifies
Emma's faults and traces the progress of her education. Almost
every time that Emma errs-in judgment, perception, or behav-
ior-she is corrected by Knightley. He warns her of the impro-
priety of matchmaking, disapproves of her intimacy with Har-
riet Smith, is outraged by her objections to Robert Martin and
her interference with Martin's proposal to Harriet, disagrees
with her view of Harriet's matrimonial prospects, warns her
against her designs on Mr. Elton, conveys his suspicions of
Frank Churchill's secret relation with Jane, and rebukes her for
insulting Miss Bates. On every occasion but the last Emma
pridefully rejects Knightley's position. Each episode of rejection





Character and Conflict


is paralleled by a later scene in which she humbly recognizes her
error. She not only sees that Knightley was right, but she also
recognizes the faulty attitudes and values which produced her
mistake and determines to change. She is guilty, of course, of a
good deal of backsliding; there are some lessons which she must
be taught again and again. But the cumulative effect of these
recognition scenes, with their accompanying repentances and
resolutions, is to suggest a profound and lasting reformation.
Her growth is manifested, moreover, in her actions. She accepts
Knightley's rebuke at Box Hill immediately, and she begins to
behave toward Miss Bates and Jane as Knightley has always
told her she should.
The most important change in Emma, from Jane Austen's
point of view, is in her attitude toward herself. The process is
slow, but her overinflated ego is eventually reduced to a proper
size. The movement is from pride to humility, from self-ag-
grandizement to self-castigation, from self-delusion to self-
knowledge: "With insufferable vanity had she believed herself
in the secret of everybody's destiny. She was proved to have
been universally mistaken" (III, xi). Her more realistic estimate
of herself is manifested not only by her repeated self-accusa-
tions, but also by her recognition of Knightley's merit and her
submission to his authority: "She had often been negligent or
perverse, slighting his advice, or even wilfully opposing him,
insensible of half his merits, and quarreling with him because he
would not acknowledge her false and insolent estimate of her
own" (III, xii). Emma is driven to many of her recognition by
threatening complications; but when all difficulties are resolved
and happiness is in sight, she does not revert to her former
attitudes: "What had she to wish for? Nothing but to grow more
worthy of him, whose intentions and judgment had been ever so
superior to her own. Nothing but that the lessons of her past
folly might teach her humility and circumspection in future"
(III, xviii).
Emma's education is an example of moral growth through
suffering. She is instructed not only by Knightley, but also by
reality, which crushes her pride and forces her to abandon her
delusional system. She does not accept Knightley's lessons until






Emma


reality proves her to have been wiong and threatens to punish
her for her errors. At first she suffers chiefly through the evils
she brings upon Harriet Smith. She feels humbled and repen-
tant and resolves to reform, but her pride and preeminence
remain essentially undisturbed, and she repeats her errors. It is
only when she begins to suffer on her own account that the
truth sinks in and she realizes that she must change. Her behav-
ior toward Miss Bates violates her own standards, as well as
Knightley's, and threatens her with the loss both of his respect
and of her own esteem. The prospect of Knightley's marrying
Harriet Smith convinces her, as nothing else could do, how
wrong she was to have neglected Jane, to have become intimate
with Harriet, and to have opposed her marriage to Robert
Martin. The blows to her ego, combined with the prospect of
losing Knightley, cure her of her delusions of self-sufficiency.
She realizes how much Knightley has always meant to her and
how much she needs him now. She is no longer the prideful
woman who sees marriage only as a threat to her power and
preeminence.
Emma has a comic education plot. The heroine errs as a
result of her faults, suffers as a result of her errors, grows as a
result of her suffering, and achieves happiness as a result of her
growth. (In a tragic education plot, the protagonist grows as a
result of his suffering, but is destroyed as a result of his errors.)
From Jane Austen's point of view, there is no reason to doubt
that Emma's reformation will be permanent and complete.
Every fault has been chastened, every error has been corrected,
every illusion has been removed. Emma's humility of spirit and
respect for Knightley's authority assure continued growth and a
prevailing rectitude of heart, mind, and conduct. Her change
has already been so remarkable as to earn Knightley's esteem:
they 'have every right that equal worth can give,' he pro-
claims, 'to be happy together' (III, xvii). As Wayne Booth
observes, "this will be a happy marriage because there is simply
nothing left to make it anything less than perfectly happy. It
fulfills every value embodied in the world of the book-with the
possible exception that Emma may never learn to apply herself
as she ought to her reading and her piano!"'




Character and Conflict


4

"Marriage to an intelligent, amiable, good, and attractive
man is the best thing that can happen to this heroine," says
Booth, "and the readers who do not experience it as such are, I
am convinced, far from knowing what Jane Austen is about"
(Rhetoric, p. 260). As he is aware, there are such readers:

G. B. Stern laments, in Speaking of Jane Austen, "Oh, Miss Austen, it
was not a good solution; it was a bad solution, an unhappy ending,
could we see beyond the last pages of the book." Edmund Wilson
predicts that Emma will find a new protdgde like Harriet, since she has
not been cured of her inclination to "infatuations with women." Marvin
Mudrick even more emphatically rejects Jane Austen's explicit rhetoric;
he believes that Emma is still a "confirmed exploiter," and for him the
ending must be read as ironic. (P. 259)

The mistakes of these readers arise, Booth feels, from looking
"at Emma and Knightley as real people." From this perspective,
he acknowledges, the "ending will seem false"; but for him this
is an inadmissible perspective.
It is quite possible, it seems to me, both to experience
Emma from Jane Austen's point of view, to know what she
thinks she is doing, and to recognize that the novel which she
has actually created does not always support her intentions. If
we are guided wholly by her rhetoric, we will miss a large part
of her achievement and fail to recover some of her deepest
intuitions. Instead of ruling out responses which are in conflict
with the author's explicit rhetoric, it may be more fruitful to ask
if there is not something in the novel-unperceived, perhaps, by
the author-to which these critics are reacting.
What these critics see, without articulating it precisely, is
that Emma is more than an aesthetic and an illustrative char-
acter. She is an imagined human being whose problems have
deep psychological sources. The experience she undergoes does
not seem sufficient to cure her, and the conditions of her
marriage do not seem to promise the degree of happiness which
the ending predicts. Booth is right about-Jane Austen's inten-
tions. Those who object to the ending have a correct intuition
about the persistence of Emma's problems and the incomplete-






Emma


ness of the novel's resolution. Both positions are supported by
the text. The conflict between them is sponsored not only by
differing critical perspectives, but also by internal disparities
between rhetoric and mimesis. To understand these disparities
properly we must give as much attention to the analysis of
Emma's character and development as critics have hitherto
given to Jane Austen's view of these phenomena. By seeing
Emma as a creation inside a creation, we shall at once account
for the novel's inner tensions and enhance our appreciation of
Jane Austen's genius in mimetic characterization.

From a psychological point of view, Emma is the story of a
young woman with both narcissistic and perfectionistic trends
which have been induced by her early environment.2 She has
great pride in her superior position and abilities and in her high
moral standards. Her need to reinforce and to protect this pride
leads her to be domineering toward her subordinates, competi-
tive toward her rivals, and dutiful toward those for whom she
feels a sense of responsibility. She suffers inner conflict when
she is supposed to be good to her competitors or when she
harms (or is in danger of harming) those whom she is supposed
to protect. These conflicts produce psychological distress which
ranges from mild discomfort to intense self-hate. Her defensive
strategies lead her to misconstructions of reality and to moral
errors. The recognition of her mistakes and of their potentially
serious consequences crushes her pride and generates feelings of
anxiety and self-contempt. No longer confident of her own
preeminence and rectitude, she transfers her pride to Knightley
and restores her position by submitting to and possessing him.
This change signifies not maturation, but the substitution of a
new defensive strategy for the ones which have collapsed. Her
relation to her father, which has all along prevented her from
becoming a mature woman, remains essentially unchanged at
the end. She cannot marry Knightley until a twist in the plot
removes all parental opposition.
The narcissistic person "is often gifted beyond average,
early and easily won distinctions, and sometimes was the
favored and admired child" (NHG, p. 194). He is "driven by the
need for ... self-aggrandizement or for being on top" (NHG, p.





Character and Conflict


192). He gains the necessary feeling of mastery not by work or
vindictive triumphs, but by "self-admiration and the exercise of
charm" (NHG, p. 212). Narcissism means "being 'in love with
one's idealized image' (NHG, p. 194). The narcissistic person
"is his idealized self and seems to adore it. This ... gives him the
buoyancy or the resiliency entirely lacking in the other groups"
(my italics). Beneath his "belief in his greatness and uniqueness,"
however, there lurks a nagging insecurity: "He may speak inces-
santly of his exploits or of his wonderful qualities and needs
endless confirmation of his estimate of himself in the form of
admiration and devotion." His solution tends to divorce him
from reality and thereby makes him highly vulnerable: "His
plans are often too expansive. He does not reckon with limita-
tions. He overrates his capacities" (NHG, p. 195). As a result,
"failures occur easily. Up to a point his resilience gives him a
capacity to bounce, but .. repeated failures ... may crush him
altogether. The self-hate and self-contempt, successfully held in
abeyance otherwise, may then operate in full force" (NHG, p.
195). The applicability of this description to Emma is striking.
Emma's childhood situation is, like Fanny Price's, unheal-
thy, but to a lesser degree and in a different way. Unlike Fanny,
Emma is well-gratified in many of her basic needs. She is
socially secure. She feels loved, has a sense of belonging, and is
treated with consideration and respect. She seems to have an
abundance of self-esteem. In truth, however, her self-esteem is
shaky; and a close examination of her behavior shows that she
is busily engaged in warding off threats and in seeking reas-
surance.
Emma is insecure in her self-esteem because almost every-
thing in her situation has contributed to the formation of an
unrealistic self-image. She is the favored child, the cleverest
member of the family, the mistress of Hartfield, the first lady of
Highbury. Her father praises her constantly, almost everyone
treats her deferentially, and her governess devotes "all her
powers to attach and amuse" her, adapting herself to Emma's
"every pleasure, every scheme" (I, i). All of this inflates Emma's
sense of her own power, ability, and importance, while making
it unnecessary for her to earn her rewards through effort and
achievement. As a result, she makes great claims for herself; but





Emma


she lacks real self-confidence, which could have come only from
testing herself against reality and knowing that she had de-
served whatever she receives in the way of praise and respect.
Emma identifies with her idealized image, which in her case is
not a compensation for low self-esteem but is a product of the
inflated estimate of herself which she receives from others. She
loves her proud self, feels little need to change, and exuberantly
plays out her role. Consciously she has few doubts, but uncon-
sciously she is plagued by anxieties which manifest themselves
in her behavior.
Emma's insecurity is revealed in part by the frequent de-
fensiveness of her behavior. She is competitive toward women
like Jane Fairfax and Mrs. Elton, who threaten her position as
favored child or first lady of Highbury. Jane is her chief rival
for the attention and acclaim of the neighborhood; and her
accomplishments make Emma uncomfortably aware of the dis-
parity between her own promise and her performance, between
other people's praise of her playing and its true worth. Emma's
attitudes toward Jane have many of the characteristics of sib-
ling rivalry. She hates to hear Jane praised, and she is hostile
toward Miss Bates partly because the old woman is always
talking of her niece. Emma dislikes Jane's presence in the
neighborhood, is unfriendly to her when she is there, and cuts
Jane down by imagining things to her disadvantage and making
sport of her with Frank Churchill. She defends her pride, in
other words, by either avoiding Jane or belittling her. Since her
moral standards tell her that she should be a friend to Jane, she
is never comfortable with her own behavior; and she needs to
assuage her guilt by periodic self-criticism and resolutions to
reform.
The fact that we are meant to share Emma's estimate of
Mrs. Elton may obscure our perception that Emma is threat-
ened by this woman who is, in many respects, a vulgar version
of herself. Both women seek praise, wish to control others, and
need to be recognized as first in importance. When Mrs. Elton's
status as a newly married woman gives her precedence over
Emma, Emma is genuinely disturbed and thinks that it might be
worthwhile, after all, to consider marriage. The competition
with Mrs. Elton is not enough, of course, to propel her into





Character and Conflict


marrying; but we should take her discomfort seriously as an
indication of the importance which being first has for Emma. If
she were more secure, she would not be so jealous of petty
distinctions. Emma is severely critical of Mrs. Elton not only
because the latter deserves it, but also because she has a power-
ful need to put down a woman whom she experiences as a rival.
Emma is outraged and indignant when Mrs. Elton offers to
sponsor her in Bath by providing an introduction to a friend of
hers there: "The dignity of Miss Woodhouse, of Hartfield, was
sunk indeed!" (II, xiv). She has a similar reaction, though far
more intense, when Mr. Elton proposes marriage: ". that he
... should suppose himself her equal in connection or mind! ...
and be so blind ... as to fancy himself showing no presumption
in addressing her!-It was most provoking" (I, xvi). Emma is
"insulted by his hopes" because, by showing that he does not
regard her as inestimably above him, they threaten to bring her
down from the heights of her illusory grandeur. In order to
restore her pride, she carefully rehearses in her own mind all the
grounds of her superiority: "Perhaps it was not fair to expect
him to feel how very much he was her inferior in talent, and all
the elegancies of mind. The very want of such equality might
prevent his perception of it; but he must know that in fortune
and consequence she was greatly his superior. He must know
that the Woodhouses [were] the younger branch of a very
ancient family-and that the Eltons were nobody." Emma is so
jealous of her dignity, so angry when it is challenged, and so
eager to reaffirm it, because she lives largely for the gratifica-
tion of her pride, which is highly vulnerable. Mr. Elton's pro-
posal, like Mrs. Elton's patronage, is completely incompatible
with her idealized image of herself.
Emma's rivalry with Knightley is different from those
which we have so far examined. Each of her competitors tends
to threaten a different aspect of her idealized image, a different
set of claims. She acknowledges Donwell to be the equal of
Hartfield in consequence and takes pride in her sister's connec-
tion with the Knightleys. She is the first lady of Highbury, and
George Knightley is the first gentleman. Her rivalry with
Knightley is in the areas of perception and judgment. Since he is
a man, older, much respected, and authoritative in manner, she





Emma


is somewhat in awe of him; but, perhaps for that very reason,
she clings to a belief that, on some matters at least, she is his
superior in insight and discrimination. When they disagree, she
tenaciously maintains her own point of view. She longs for
vindictive triumphs, for events to prove her right; but it is
invariably he who is shown to have been correct. After a series
of mortifications, her pride is broken; and she submits herself
entirely to Knightley's guidance.
Emma's insecurity is revealed not only by her competitive-
ness, but also by her pursuit of reassurance. Not only does she
avoid people who threaten her, but she also seeks out the
company of those who feed her pride. Harriet, Mrs. Weston,
and Mr. Woodhouse constitute her claque; in their presence she
can be assured of admiration and applause. The mental defi-
ciencies of Harriet and her father disturb Emma at times, but
usually she welcomes them as a confirmation of her own super-
iority. Mrs. Weston is intelligent, but deferential. This combi-
nation makes her an excellent source of reinforcement, and it is
easy to understand why Emma is so often at Randalls. Critical
of almost everyone and contemptuous of many, Emma tends to
ignore the faults and to overrate the virtues of this trio. To
deprecate them would diminish the value of their exaltation of
herself.
Emma's scheming should be seen as, in part at least, an
expression of her need for reassurance. It is an effort to repeat
the triumphs of her childhood; it is an aspect of her search for
glory. The search for glory is usually compensatory in nature.
The individual has been made to feel weak, worthless, and, in
various ways, inferior. He compensates for all this by creating,
with the help of his imagination, an idealized image which
raises him above others; and he embarks upon the project of
actualizing his idealized image, of attaining in reality the glory
which he feels he deserves and which he has already experienced
in imagination. Emma's case is different. In this, as in all her
defensive strivings, she seeks not to make up for childhood
deprivations, but to hold onto the exalted status which she has
already been accorded. She is, at the beginning of the novel,
already in possession of her glory. Her project is not so much to
actualize her idealized image as to find ways of maintaining it.





Character and Conflict


This presents a considerable difficulty. What is Emma to
do? What adult role is she to play? She cannot rely upon her
"accomplishments" to provide confirmation, for she has never
attained excellence. One reason for this, as we have seen, is that
she has never had to prove herself; she has always been sur-
rounded by praise. Another reason, I suspect, is that she pro-
tects her pride by leaving her projects unfinished and doing less
than she can. She cannot risk being judged on her best effort. It
is safer to remain a promising but undisciplined child who
could do great things if she tried. In the presence of so chal-
lenging a competitor as Jane Fairfax, her lack of effort provides
an excuse for not being first in accomplishments.
Emma could seek to reaffirm her glory through a grand
marriage. But marriage, she feels, has little to offer: 'Fortune I
do not want; consequence I do not want: I believe few married
women are half as much mistress of their husband's house, as I
am of Hartfield; and never, never could I expect to be so truly
beloved and important; so always first and always right in any
man's eyes as I am in my father's' (I, x). Marriage presents
itself to Emma less as an opportunity for fulfillment than as a
threat. She would have to give up her domestic power and her
status as the favored child. There are additional reasons, as we
shall see, for her rejection of marriage. The question remains
then: what is Emma to do? How is she to preserve the domestic
situation which is so necessary to her pride and at the same time
discover an activity, suitable to her years, which will maintain
the sense of mastery and mental superiority that has been
fostered by her experience as a spoiled child?
Emma's solution is to live through other people, to imagine
their destinies, and to manage their lives. She will be a match-
maker. As the novel opens, she has just had a great success:
Miss Taylor has married, and Emma "'made the match' "
herself (I, i). When Mr. Woodhouse asks her not to make any
more matches, Emma promises to make none for herself," 'but
I must, indeed, for other people. It is the greatest amusement in
the world. And after such success you know!' "This project has
given her an occupation and a sense of direction for four years,
and the happy result confirms her sense of power and perspi-
cacity. But the completion of her project and the departure of





Emma


Miss Taylor leave a void in her life. It is soon filled by Harriet
Smith who has, like Miss Taylor, the compliant disposition
which Emma likes in other people. Emma will be Harriet's
sponsor, her mentor. Everything that Harriet becomes she will
owe to Emma. Her improvement, her triumphs, and, finally,
her superior marriage will all redound to the glory of her
maker. It is no wonder that Emma does not want Harriet to
marry Robert Martin. This would deprive her of occupation
and deny her a splendid opportunity to exercise her powers.
Emma's plans for Harriet and her plans for Mr. Elton
quickly coalesce. She has far too much pride invested in the
success of her project and far too much confidence in her
powers of judgment and control to perceive that she is encour-
aging Mr. Elton and that it is she, and not Harriet, who is his
object. As she herself comes to see, she takes "up the idea ..
and [makes] everything bend to it" (I, xvi). When she brings
Harriet and Elton together in the Vicarage, she feels, "for half a
minute, the glory of having schemed successfully"; but
Elton, of course, does not "come to the point" (I, x). His
proposal to her instead is such a blow, not only because it
insults her dignity, but also because it deprives her of glory,
challenges her sense of mastery, and calls into question the
superiority of her "Understanding." His scorn of Harriet, in
whom she has now invested her pride, is an offense to herself.
The bitterness of this experience makes her wish to avoid a
repetition, and she resolves "to do such things no more" (I, xvi).
Emma is far too resilient, of course, to be permanently
discouraged by a single setback. In addition, her unconscious
compulsions continue to operate. Driven by her needs to-pro-
tect her pride and to reaffirm her idealized image, she fastens
upon one ill-conceived idea after another and makes everything
bend to it. Repeated disillusionments and failures eventually
puncture her narcissism and produce a change in her behavior,
the exact meaning of which I shall discuss later.

Emma needs not only to be great, but also to be perfectly
good. Her expansiveness takes the form not only of narcissism,
but of perfectionism as well. The perfectionistic person "identi-
fies himself with his standards" and makes "strenuous efforts to






Character and Conflict


measure up to his should by fulfilling duties and obligations,
by polite and orderly manners" (NHG, p. 196). He "feels super-
ior because of his high standards and on this basis looks
down on others." He hides his "arrogant contempt of others,"
however, "because his very standards prohibit such 'irregular'
feelings." He defends his pride by equating "standards and
actualities-knowing about moral values and being a good
person," by denying his own deficiencies, and by externalizing
his self-condemnation. He is harsh upon others when they fall
below his standards or display failings which he cannot afford
to recognize in himself. His pride in his good qualities is intense
but vulnerable. It tends to be broken by misfortune and by "his
recognition of an error or failure of his own making" (NHG, p.
197). When he realizes "his own fallibility," "self-effacing trends
and undiluted self-hate, kept in check successfully hitherto,
then may come to the fore."
It is Emma's perfectionistic tendencies which gain her a
large measure of approval from Jane Austen even before her
pride is broken near the end, for the author has strong perfec-
tionistic elements in her own personality. Emma is no callous
manipulator. Her resolution, after the Elton affair, "to do such
things no more" is motivated in part by feelings of guilt and
concern for the harm she has done to Harriet. She has a strong
sense of duty toward her father, her guests, her friends and
dependents, and the poor of the neighborhood. We often see
her working very hard to perform her various roles in an
exemplary fashion. When she lives up to her standards, she
experiences a self-approbation which often manifests itself in
high spirits and gracious behavior. When she is conscious of
failure, she is always distressed, sometimes exceedingly; and she
usually attempts to remedy the situation as far as she is able.
Emma's perfectionism demands not only that she be good,
but also that she be the ideal lady, the model of elegance, good
taste, and fine manners. She tends to measure everyone on a
scale of refinement and to be contemptuous of those who fall
below her own standards. Her criticism of others is a reaffirma-
tion of her own superiority.
Emma's perfectionism, like her narcissism, is induced not
by deprivation, but by an excess of approbation. Having always






Emma


been told that she is perfect, and having derived immense
satisfaction from such praise, Emma is under strong pressure to
live up to this exalted image of herself. Her narcissism gives rise
to a great many claims; she experiences her perfectionism
largely as should. She may not work at her piano and her
painting, but she does her best to be perfect in her moral
relations. The chief threat to her self-regard is Knightley, whose
standards are even higher than her own and who has a kind of
authority because of his social position and the similarity of his
character structure. When subjected to his criticisms, Emma
must either defend her pride or be crushed.
Emma's perfectionism manifests itself in its most striking
and compulsive form in her relationship with her father. It
derives, indeed, chiefly from their pathological interaction.
Emma may seem to be in control of the situation at Hartfield;
but she manages her father-and, indeed, her own life-only in
small matters It is Mr. Woodhouse who dictates the life style of
Hartfield and who determines the possibilities of Emma's exis-
tence. He presents himself as a man on the verge of extinction
who can be kept alive and in tolerable comfort only by the rigid
observance of his wishes. He manipulates Emma through a
combination of dependency and praise. She receives from him
two complementary messages. The first is that if she does not
cater to his weakness and respect his obsessions, he will become
nervous and depressed and may, indeed, die. The second is that
she is wonderful for being so good to him. The result, for
Emma, is that she cannot do anything that will disturb her
father. If she did, she would have to take the risk of destroying
him and of losing her status as the perfect daughter. The result-
ing guilt and shame would be unbearable.
Jane Austen depicts Emma's relation with her father in
brilliant mimetic detail, but she seems quite blind to its destruc-
tiveness and to the compulsive nature of Emma's "goodness."
She is indulgent toward Mr. Woodhouse, softens his role as a
blocking force, and approves of Emma's hypersensitivity to his
needs and wishes. She does not see that Emma is severely
constrained by his embeddedness and that she is forced by the
combination of his praise and demands into a self-alienated
development. Emma is not free to feel her own feelings and to





Character and Conflict


consult her own wishes. She is compelled, much of the time, to
repress her resentment, to disguise her feelings, and to act a
part. In her father's presence, her lack of spontaneity, congru-
ity, and transparence is striking and nearly complete.
I do not mean to suggest that Emma's acting is for her
father only. She is motivated in almost all of her relationships
by her need to maintain the various components of her ideal-
ized image. As a result, she is almost always, to some extent,
insincere. The burdensomeness of this becomes clear when she
begins to look forward to a relatively .frank relationship with
Knightley. His having seen through her pretenses is in some
ways a relief. She can abandon her pride and, with it, the
necessity of playing a role. Mr. Woodhouse remains, however;
and it is not pleasant to imagine the constant hard labor of
pretending which living with him will entail.
As we have seen, Emma's narcissism is partly responsible
for her attitude toward marriage, which seems to her a state
which will threaten rather than enhance her power and pre-
eminence. The chief reason for her lack of interest in marriage,
however, is that it is incompatible with her relation to her
father. 'I must see somebody very superior to any one I have
seen yet,' she tells Harriet, 'to be tempted and I do not
wish to see any such person. I would rather not be tempted' "
(I, x). If she were to be tempted, she would experience, as she
knows, a painful conflict. In order to accept a husband, she
would have, it must seem, to kill her father and to become the
worst instead of the best of daughters.
Even when she realizes that Knightley must marry no one
else, she still does not want him to marry her: "Marriage, in
fact, would not do for her. It would be incompatible with what
she owed to her father, and with what she felt for him. Nothing
should separate her from her father. She would not marry, even
if she were asked by Mr. Knightley" (III, xii). After Knightly
proposes, "a very short parley with her own heart produced the
most solemn resolution of never quitting her father.-She even
wept over the idea of it, as a sin of thought. While he lived, it
must be only an engagement (III, xiv).





Emma


The conflict in which she finds herself because of her
relationship with her father produces a strong tendency toward
detachment in Emma. The most important feelings and activi-
ties for a woman of her age and culture are simply inadmissible
to her. In order to avoid guilt and conflict she represses her
sexual nature and renounces her aspirations for an adult, au-
tonomous, fruitful existence. 'Were I to fall in love,' she tells
Harriet, 'indeed, it would be a different thing! But I have
never been in love: it is not my way or nature; and I do not
think I ever shall' "(I, x). As 'objects for the affections,' she
will have her sister's children. She will be Aunt Emma! There
will be enough children 'for every hope and every fear; and
though my attachment to none can equal that of a parent, it
suits my ideas of comfort better than what is warmer and
blinder.' There is a reserve, even a frigidity about Emma
which is entirely explicable in the light of her bond with her
father. Since all warm and intimate relationships threaten that
bond, Emma cannot allow herself to experience even the desire
for them, which would be a sin of thought, but must settle for
what is cooler and more comfortable. She renounces not only
her sexual and maternal feelings, but also the active living of
her own life. She becomes an onlooker. She lives vicariously,
through protdeges and other people's marriages.
Emma is attracted to the idea of being courted by Frank
Churchill, but she never wishes their relationship to become
serious. What transpires between them is mostly in her imagina-
tion (though Fiank, for his own purposes, is attentive); and she
arranges everything, his feelings and her own, to suit her var-
ious psychological needs. Her "imagination" gives him "the
distinguished honour ... if not of being really in love with her,
of being at least very near it, and saved only by her own
indifference" (II, vii). It is important for her to feel that she has
him in her power, that he would be hers if she wished it; but
"her resolution of never marrying" requires that she be
indifferent and that his passion not be so strong as to produce
painful scenes and a disappointment which would expose her to
reproach. Eventually she comes to feel that she, too, is in love,





Character and Conflict


but only a little: 'I must be in love; I should be the oddest
creature in the world if I were not-for a few weeks at least' "
(II, xii). Emma's detachment has evidently made her feel odd;
being in love assures her that she is a normal woman. She is
pleased, however, to feel no temptation to accept nis proposal:

the conclusion of every imaginary declaration on his side was that she
refused him. Their affection was always to subside into friendship.
Every thing tender and charming was to mark their parting; but still
they were to part. When she became sensible of this, it struck her that
she could not be very much in love: for in spite of her previous and
fixed determination never to quit her father, never to marry, a strong
attachment certainly must produce more of a struggle than she could
forsee in her own feelings .. do suspect that he is not really
necessary to my happiness. So much the better .... I am quite enough
in love. I should be sorry to be more." (II xiii)

Everything is working out for Emma in the best possible
way. She imagines Frank to be in love with her, which satisfies
her pride. She feels that she is in love with him, which attests to
her normality, but not so much that she will be tempted to sins,
either of thought or of deed, against her father. Having been in
love, moreover, gives her a feeling of security for the future: 'I
shall do very well again after a little while-and then, it will be a
good thing over; for they say everybody is in love once in their
lives, and I shall have been let off easily' "(II, xiii). Apparently,
Emma has been afraid of love as overwhelming passion which
would throw her into painful inner conflict. Having had a mild
case of the disease, to which everyone, it seems, is subject, she
feels safe against its more virulent forms. Frank's absence cools
her completely; and when she hears of his return, she is deter-
mined not "to have her own affections entangled again"(III, i).
She is afraid that his feelings might produce "a crisis, an event,
a something to alter her present composed and tranquil state"
and is relieved to find him decidedly less attentive than before.
There is little reason to believe, I might add, that Emma has
been in love with Frank at all. Her feelings have been governed
by conventional expectations and by her various defensive
needs.






Emma


The change in Emma is precipitated largely by two events:
the Box Hill episode and the discovery that Harriet hopes to
marry Knightley. To appreciate the significance of the Box Hill
episode, it is important to understand three things: (1) why
Emma insults Miss Bates, (2) why, after Knightley's rebuke, she
is so depressed, and (3) what effect this experience has upon her
feelings toward Knightley.
Emma's insult has been foreshadowed earlier in the novel.
She displays an aversion toward Miss Bates throughout and
mocks or disparages her many times behind her back. Her
attitude toward Miss Bates has a number of sources. She
resents her constant praise of Jane; she has a "horror ... of
falling in with the second rate and third rate of Highbury, who
were calling on [her] for ever" (II, i); and she finds Miss Bates
" 'too good natured and too silly' to suit her (I, x). Miss Bates
is a poor spinster with a mother to care for who secures the
charity and affection of her neighbors by a strict course of self-
effacing behavior. She has "universal good-will" and a "con-
tented temper" (I, iii). She approves of everything without
discrimination, constantly expresses her gratitude, and has
nothing but praise for everyone. As Emma observes," 'nobody
is afraid of her; that is a great charm' "(I, x). As is typical of an
expansive person, Emma has a good deal of disdain for such
self-effacing qualities. When she encounters them in people like
Mr. Woodhouse, Isabella, Mr. and Mrs. Weston, and Harriet
Smith, she has strong motives for repressing her contempt. It is
more easily felt toward Miss Bates. Even here, however, she is
not free of discomfort. She believes, like Knightley, in noblesse
oblige; and she has a continual nagging guilt about her sins of
omission toward Miss Bates. She has, moreover, a self-effacing
component in her own personality which leads her to honor
"warmth and tenderness of heart," qualities in which she knows
herself to be deficient, especially toward Miss Bates. Insofar as
she makes Emma feel cold-hearted or undutiful, Miss Bates is a
threatening figure. As such, she arouses in Emma guilt and
hostility which are not felt by Miss Bates's more genial
neighbors.





Character and Conflict


Emma's insult to Miss Bates results from the slipping out,
under the cover of wit, of a contempt which she had felt fre-
quently but which she had hitherto expressed only privately
or indirectly. I have discussed so far some of the reasons for a
buildup of hostility toward Miss Bates, but there is yet another
source which I believe to be the chief motivation behind the
insult. What Emma is saying, as her victim well understands, is
that Miss Bates is exceedingly "dull" and that her "society" is
"irksome" (III, vii). As Emma explains to Knightley, 'I know
there is not a better creature in the world: but you must allow,
that what is good and what is ridiculous are most unfortunately
blended in her.' What Emma feels most of all toward Miss
Bates is an irritability in her presence, an impatience of her
silliness, a resentment at being obliged to humor this "tiresome"
woman (II, i). She rebels by staying away, by thwarting Miss
Bates when she can, by mocking her behind her back, and,
finally, by insulting her to her face. Her reactions are fully
intelligible, I believe, only when we see that Emma is discharg-
ing onto Miss Bates feelings which she has, but cannot admit,
toward her father.
To a dispassionate observer, Miss Bates and Mr. Wood-
house seem much alike. Like Miss Bates, Mr. Woodhouse is
"everywhere beloved for the friendliness of his heart and his
amiable temper" (I, i); and, like her, he is an unfortunate blend
of the good and the ridiculous. Comic as they may be when they
are encountered in a book, it would be impossible to enjoy their
society or to find them less than oppressive as people to live
with. Emma's heart goes out to Jane Fairfax at Donwell when
she thinks that her distress is because of her aunt:

Her parting words, "Oh! Miss Woodhouse, the comfort of being some-
times alone!"-seemed to burst from an overcharged heart, and to
describe somewhat of the continual endurance to be practiced by her,
even toward some of those who loved her best.
"Such a home, indeed! such an aunt! I do pity you. And the
more sensibility you betray of their just horrors, the more I shall like
you." (III, vi)

Emma is mistaken about Jane, but her response indicates what
her own feelings would be if she had to live with Miss Bates.





Emma


More than that, it indicates what Emma's feelings are, uncon-
sciously, about having to live with her father. She cannot stand
being with Miss Bates because of "the continual endurance"
which she must practice toward Mr. Woodhouse. She has no
patience left. What Knightley sees as Miss Bates's harmless
absurdities produce in Emma an almost phobic reaction.
Because of her need to be a perfect daughter, Emma must
repress-any irritation with-her father; but the motives for re-
pression are not strong enough to prevent such feelings from
being displaced onto Miss Bates and released, from time to
time, in relatively safe ways. She can feel on Jane's behalf
emotions which would be completely inadmissible if she were to
experience them on her own account. Emma behaves toward
her father with an unfailing grace and carefully avoids sins even
of thought. Her exasperation with Miss Bates, culminating in
the insult at Box Hill, betrays her unconscious feelings of
oppression and hostility.
As Jane Austen makes clear through Knightley's rebuke,
the insult to Miss Bates is inexcusable. Even so, Emma's reac-
tion seems out of proportion to her offense: "Never had she felt
so agitated, mortified, grieved, at any circumstance in her life
.... She had never been so depressed" (III, vii). She cries al-
most all the way home, in Harriet's presence, and that evening,
looking back upon the day, feels it "more to be abhorred in
recollection, than any she had ever passed." Emma is so dis-
tressed because she has seriously violated her perfectionistic
should and can find no way to protect her pride. Knightley has
reproached her before, sometimes severely; but she has always
been able to maintain the correctness of her own position. Now,
however, his values and her own coincide; and after a few
attempts at self-defense, she cannot deny "the truth of his
representation." Her depression is produced, to some extent,
by the collapse of her idealized image. Her self-esteem is sinking.
She feels that the "degree" of her father's "fond affection and
confiding esteem" is "unmerited." She feels ashamed before
Knightley, guilty toward Miss Bates, and angry with herself.
How could she have behaved in this way? Her sense of the
heinousness of her crime may be related to the fact that Miss
Bates is partly a surrogate for her father, toward whom she has





Character and Conflict


the most compulsive feelings of duty. Miss Bates's dependency
and compliance are also a factor; Emma has struck a defense-
less person.
Emma begins to work almost immediately at restoring her
pride. While recognizing that she is not as perfect as her father
thinks her to be, she takes comfort in attending to him and in
reflecting upon her general conduct toward him: "As a daugh-
ter, she hoped, she was not without a heart. She hoped no one
could have said to her, 'How could you have been so unfeeling
to your father?' "(III, viii). She assuages her guilt toward Miss
Bates by self-condemnation and a determination to reform:
"She had been often remiss, her conscience told her so; remiss,
perhaps, more in thought than fact; scornful, ungracious." As
she pays her penitential visit, she hopes to encounter Knightley,
but he does not appear. When he learns of her visit, however, he
understands at once "all that had passed of good in her feelings"
(III, ix). They part "thorough friends," as his manner assures
her that she has "fully recovered his good opinion."
Emma is comfortable once more, but things are not as they
were before. An important change has taken place in her pride
system and in her relation to Knightley. The self-hate and
humiliation which she has experienced as a result of her own
error have made her afraid of her pride and uncertain of her
ability to live up to her should. As a means of self-protection,
she submits to Knightley's judgment and authority. If she acts
and feels as he would wish, she will be certain of maintaining
both his esteem and her own. She makes him an omniscient
observer of her moral life, adding in this way the fear of his
judgments to her own should as a motive for the repression of
all unacceptable impulses. She begins not only to act, but also
to feel properly toward Jane and Miss Bates. When Jane rejects
her kind attentions, she is "mortified" at being "given so little
credit for proper feeling, or esteemed so little worthy as a
friend." But she has "the consolation of knowing that her
intentions were good, and of being able to say to herself, that
could Mr. Knightley have been privy to all her attempts of
assisting Jane Fairfax, could he even have seen into her heart,
he would not, on this occasion, have found any thing to re-
prove" (III, ix). Emma is still proud of her goodness, but she
88





Emma


experiences her pride now through Knightley's imagined ap-
proval rather than through a direct identification with her
idealized image.
The Box Hill episode marks the beginning, I believe, of
Emma's tender feelings for Knightley. As Homey observes, an
expansive person often cannot love until his pride is broken.
Emma's humiliation at Knightley's hands arouses feelings of
weakness, anxiety, and self-hate. She becomes dependent upon
his approval to relieve these feelings and upon his reinforce-
ment to prevent their recurrence. When Knightley hears of her
visit to Miss Bates, he looks at her "with a glow of regard":

She was warmly gratified-and in another moment still more so, by a
little movement of more than common friendliness on his part.-He
took her hand;- whether she had not herself made the first motion, she
could not say-she might, perhaps, have rather offered it-but he took
her hand, pressed it, and certainly was on the point of carrying it to his
lips-when, from some fancy or other, he suddenly let it go. (III, ix)

Emma is disappointed that he did not complete the motion.
There are earlier signs of Knightley's attraction to her, but this
is the first instance of a tender impulse on her part toward him.
Emma is not aware of the change in their relationship, but this
scene prepares for the recognition which is to follow.
Emma's pride receives a devastating blow when she learns
of Harriet's hopes of winning Knightley. The two things most
important to her, her self-esteem and her preeminence, are
severely threatened by this discovery. When Harriet indicates
that Frank Churchill is not her object, Emma waits speechless
and "in great terror" to learn the truth (III, xi). When all is
revealed, including the fact that Harriet has some reasonable
hope of a return, it darts through Emma, "with the speed of an
arrow, that Mr. Knightley must marry no one but herself!" This
intuition is in part a recognition of her own love and her need
for his affection. It is mainly, however, a response to threat. If
Knightley marries Harriet-or anyone else, for that matter-
Emma will lose her position of preeminence, both as first lady
of Highbury and, insofar as Knightley is in some respects a
father substitute, as favored child. Now that she is "threatened
with its loss," Emma discovers how much of her happiness





Character and Conflict


depends "on beingfirst with Mr. Knightley, first in interest and
affection" (III, xii). She need not marry him, but he must not
marry anyone else: "Could she be secure of that, indeed, of his
never marrying at all, she believed she should be perfectly
satisfied.-Let him but continue the same Mr. Knightley to her
and her father .. and her peace would be fully secured." Given
her bond to her father, this would, indeed, be the best solution.
What she cannot stand is the thought of Harriet being "the
chosen, the first, the dearest." When Knightley proposes,
Emma's earliest distinct thought is "that Harriet was nothing,
that she was everything herself" (III, xiii).
The discovery of her latest mistake about Harriet is the
culminating blow to Emma's pride in the superiority of her
values and perceptions. Immediately following her realization
that Knightley must marry no one but herself comes a recogni-
tion of her own faults. She finds every "part of her mind,"
other than "her affection for Mr. Knightley," to be "disgusting."
Her mistakes strike her now with such "dreadful force" because
they have brought upon her a real possibility of disaster. They
can no longer be juggled away by an internal process of ration-
alization or denial, and there seems to be nothing she can do to
restore her position. Her realization that Knightley has been
right all along and that she could have avoided her present
troubles by following his advice makes him assume all the more
the aspect of an infallible authority, and she is full of remorse at
her earlier impiety. She hates herself and reveres Knightley.
Knightley's proposal enables Emma to rebuild her pride.
Her social position is now secure, and she has won a man who is
clearly superior to the husband of her chief rival, Jane. She
maintains a low estimate of herself, but at the same time she
derives reassurance from the fact that so upright and discrimi-
nating a man has found her worthy of his love. Since Knightley
approves of it, her self-abasement becomes a virtue in which she
can take satisfaction. Her many errors of heart and head have
made her profoundly distrustful of herself, but she hopes to
maintain her perfection in the future by reminding herself of
Knightley's superiority and her own past folly (III, xviii).
At the beginning of the novel, Emma identifies with her
idealized image. Reality seems to be honoring her narcissistic





Emma


claims, and she is conscious of fulfilling her perfectionistic
should. In the course of the action she receives a series of
blows, as her schemes misfire and her perceptions and judg-
ments are proved to have been wrong. She restores her pride in
a variety of ways; but her pride system becomes more and more
vulnerable as she confronts, again and again, the disparity
between her idealized image and reality. The blows which she
receives at Box Hill and in her interview with Harriet penetrate
her defenses, crush her pride, and generate paroxysms of self-
condemnation. Her anguish passes, as events prove favorable;
but a significant change takes place in her pride system. She
feels weak and unworthy rather than powerful and perfect, and
she defends herself against the resulting self-hate and anxiety by
transferring her pride to Knightley and experiencing it vicar-
iously through him. Her needs for power and perfection remain
unchanged, and she pursues them as compulsively as before,
but in a different manner. She idealizes Knightley now, instead
of herself, and depends upon his rectitude and preeminence to
sustain her worth.
The crushing of Emma's pride and the substitution of
compliant for expansive trends seem like growth to Jane Aus-
ten because of her own glorification of the self-effacing solu-
tion. But when Emma is understood psychologically, there is no
reason to believe that she is moving significantly toward self-
actualization. This is not to deny that Emma learns from her
experiences and makes a better adaptation to her society. She
discovers the independence of external reality and gains a
knowledge of her inability to control it. She is forced to give up
her narcissistic claims and to recognize the immorality of many
of her expansive attitudes. Insofar as it made her averse to
marriage, her striving for power had cut her off from any
meaningful role in her society. The emergence of self-effacing
trends leads her to desire marriage and qualifies her for the role
of wife. At the beginning of the novel, Emma is an unusual
figure in her world; by the end she has the feminine personality
which was most commonly induced and most strongly ap-
proved by the society of her time.
Given Emma's psychological needs at the end, we must
agree with Wayne Booth that marriage to Knightley is "the best





Character and Conflict


thing that can happen to this heroine"; but if we look at it
closely, the Emma-Knightley marriage seems far from ideal.
The relationship is not based on mature love on the part of
either member. Emma is drawn to Knightley by the needs and
anxieties which arise when her pride is broken. She has been a
spoiled child; now she is a chastened and compliant one who
seeks safety through submission to a wise authority.
Knightley will keep her wayward impulses under control,
but he will not help her to grow. He is himself a perfectionist
who, unlike Emma, succeeds in living up to his own standards.
He is attracted to Emma by both her perfectionism and her
narcissistic pride and immaturity. He approves of her dutiful-
ness, especially toward her father, but he also enjoys being
superior to her in wisdom and maturity. Her pride arouses his
competitiveness, and her faults, which give him the victory, are
part of her charm. He takes pleasure in being proved right and
is most impressed by Emma when she submits to his lecturing.
He has found her physically attractive for a long time. The
fancied competition with Frank Churchill makes him realize,
perhaps unconsciously, how much he enjoys his role of mentor
and how important it is to him to be first with Miss Wood-
house. When Emma submits to him, he must play down her
deficiencies in order to maintain the value of his prize. She is
the "sweetest and best of all creatures, faultless in spite of all her
faults" (III, xiii). To satisfy his own pride, he needs at once to
exalt Emma and to keep her inferior to him. Since she needs at
once to receive his approval and to remind herself of.his super-
iority, their relationship promises to be mutually satisfying.
That does not, however, make it healthy. It is difficult to see
Emma, under Knightley's tutelage, outgrowing her dependency.
If she did, there might be trouble.
In one respect Emma does not change at all. She remains
completely bound to her father. After Knightley's proposal, the
conflict which she has always feared between love and duty
confronts her, but it is quickly resolved: she determines never to
quit her father, weeps over the idea as a sin of thought, and
decides that "while he livess, it must be only an engagement"
(III, xiv). Her conflict is easily disposed of because she does not
really have to choose between the two men: Knightley is hers,






Emma


whether she marries him or not. The problem is really Knight-
ley's. How is he to gain Emma in marriage without violating his
(and her) sense of duty toward Mr. Woodhouse? The solution
which he proposes is to make Hartfield his home. We are
supposed to feel, with Mrs. Weston, that this involves "no
sacrifice on any side worth the name" (III, xvii). Emma recog-
nizes, however, as have many readers, "that in living constantly
with her father, and in no house of his own, there would be
much, very much, to be borne with" (111, xv).
Knightley's solution, involving, as it does, an insistence on
marriage, makes Emma's conflict more severe. Not only has she
no rational ground for opposing the union, but she also has a
strong emotional need to comply with Knightley's wishes. But
she knows that even with Knightley's sacrifice Mr. Woodhouse
will be unhappy about her marrying. In her relations with her
father, Emma has no power of self-assertion. Her need to be the
perfect daughter is so compulsive that she cannot do anything,
however justified, that will disturb him. She is a slave to his
irrational claims. Even though Knightley is eager and Mr.
Woodhouse is beginning to be resigned, Emma is paralyzed:

Still, however, he was not happy. Nay, he appeared so much otherwise,
that his daughter's courage failed. She could not bear to see him suf-
fering, to know him fancying himself neglected; and though her under-
standing almost acquiesced in the assurance of both the Mr. Knightleys,
that when once the event were over, his distress would be soon over too,
she hesitated-she could not proceed. (11I, xix)

Then Mrs. Weston's turkey coop is robbed, and the problem is
resolved.
The manipulated ending is in complete accord with the
laws and spirit of comedy. It saves Emma from having to make
a painful choice, and it reconciles Mr. Woodhouse to the mar-
riage. It serves Jane Austen's thematic purposes by maintaining
the illusion of Emma's maturation. By arranging the world to
fit Emma's defensive needs, she obscures the psychological
realities which she has portrayed so vividly. She does not want
us to see, nor can she afford to see consciously herself, the
severity of Emma's father problem and the fact that it is unre-
solved.





Character and Conflict


Through Emma and through Frank Churchill, Austen
dramatizes brilliantly the damaging effects of manipulation by
sick, life-denying parental figures. The novel seems, at one
point, to promise a thematic exploration of this problem (I,
xviii); but Austen has, understandably, no wisdom to offer. All
that she can propose is to follow the self-effacing (or the perfec-
tionistic) route of doing one's duty. Frank should have stood up
to Mrs. Churchill in the name of his obligation to his father.
But he can only get what he wants for himself (and has a right
to have) if Mrs. Churchill dies. The dilemma he faces, and the
frustrations he has had to endure, account for his dishonorable
behavior, which is treated (perhaps because Austen sympa-
thizes) with a surprising mildness.
As the Knightleys' assurances indicate, Emma is not forced
by her situation to suspend the marriage. It would have been
perfectly moral for her to proceed, expressing all the while her
love and concern for her father. His unhappiness would have
passed. Jane Austen's amused tone suggests that she has some
awareness of the irrationality of Emma's decision, but she
seems, nevertheless, to be basically sympathetic toward her
heroine's self-sacrificial behavior. She could not have had
Emma behave differently, of course. Emma behaves as she
must. But it was within the power of her rhetoric, if she had had
a clear enough vision, to suggest the destructiveness of Emma's
solution and the preferability of the Knightleys' alternative. As
we have seen, Emma is in this instance saved from the conse-
quences of her psychological problems by authorial manipula-
tion of the plot. Form and theme work well together here. The
comic action accords with the picture of the world which ac-
companies the self-effacing solution. Reality is antagonistic to
Emma's wishes as long as she is proud. When she becomes
humble and unselfish, fortune turns in her favor. Virtue is
rewarded.
It is difficult to say whether Emma and Knightley have
(theoretically) any acceptable alternative to living at Hartfield.
As Jane Austen presents the situation, it is unthinkable either
for Emma to leave her father or for Mr. Woodhouse to move to
Donwell. Either course, we are made to feel, would result in his
death. The only solution which the author can sanction is to





Emma


have Emma and Knightley submit to Mr. Woodhouse's claims,
to sacrifice their autonomy, and to live a life of "continual
endurance." This may be, in fact, the only way of reconciling
the demands of morality with the actualities of the situation;
but, as some readers have felt, it is hardly a happy ending. Since
the death of Mr. Woodhouse is the only possible source of
relief, the reader is left wishing for it, and imagining the sup-
pressed impatience of Emma and Knightley, at the end of the
novel. Emma's oversolicitude about her father may well be, in
fact, a defense against unconscious desires for his disappear-
ance. The only way she can remain free of guilt when he dies is
to hover about him, protecting him from every disturbing influ-
ence.
Emma Woodhouse and Fanny Price are, for the most part,
opposite psychological types. It is impressive that Jane Austen
could enter into the inner lives of such different characters
equally well. Given her own character structure, it is not sur-
prising that Austen could judge Emma's narcissism much better
than she could see the destructiveness of Fanny's self-effacing
solution. She had more distance from Emma's solution, and she
could identify its sources and its inadequacies with considerable
precision, as she did with the spoiled children in Mansfield
Park. Austen's combination of empathy with insight gives rise
to the sympathetic mockery, so agreeable to the modern sensi-
bility, which sets the tone for much of Emma. She has blind
spots in Emma, however, just as she does in Mansfield Park.
She overestimates the educative value of suffering and the
nobility of compulsive goodness, whether it be perfectionistic or
self-effacing in origin. She interprets Emma least satisfactorily
toward the end, as she becomes more self-effacing; she is not
sufficiently disturbed by the embeddedness of Hartfield; and
she is blind to Emma's father problem, which is the source of
much of her difficulty and which remains unresolved at the end.













4





Pride and Prejudice


1



Side and Prejudice is a fantasy
of expansive triumph. In this novel it is not submissive virtue
but self-assertive merit which is primarily rewarded (Jane, of
course, also fares well). Elizabeth gains freedom from the op-
pression of her family, recognition of her personal superiority,
and the power and glory of a grand marriage. She is looking for
the kind of happiness which comes from the gratification of an
expansive pride, and she finds it. She is good enough to deserve
her happiness, but she does not have to pay for it with excessive
humility or self-sacrifice. The ending of Pride and Prejudice is
relatively free of the oppressions which dampen our pleasure in
Mansfield Park and Emma. The wishes which are fulfilled are
less displaced in the direction of morality.
Thematically. Prile and Pieiudice is the most complex of
Jane Austen's novels, and one which is very much in accord
Wilh tl spirit of comedy. In examining the relationship be-




Pride and Prejudice


tween the individual and society, it recognizes the importance
of social considerations; but it places a heavy stress upon the
desirability of attaining personal fulfillment. It is concerned
with the evils which flow from a lack of proper authority (as in
the Bennet household); but it is the least concerned of all the
major novels with the importance of duty and submission and
the value of suffering. Jane Austen's usual practice is to look at
individuals from the point of view of society and to criticize
those who follow their own will or who deviate from a rigid
code of manners and morality. Pride and Prejudice tends to
look at society from the point of view of the individual and to
criticize those institutions, conventions, and values which ham-
per intercourse and obstruct happiness.
Elizabeth Bennet is Jane Austen's first great mimetic char-
acter. Her psychological traits are less extreme, and hence less
obvious, than are those of Fanny and Emma; but with the
understanding gained from my study of these two heroines, it
will not be difficult to see Elizabeth as an imagined human
being. The analysis of Emma, in particular, will help us to
understand Elizabeth. Both women are expansive, both make
mistakes as a consequence, and both have their pride chastened
through the discovery of their errors. The process is muted,
however, in Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth's faults are less
palpable, her mistakes are less serious, and her humiliation is
less profound. Her sense of self-knowledge comes more easily,
and she needs to undergo no major reorientation of her values.
She is allowed to keep her aggressiveness more or less intact, a
fact which sets her apart from Emma and all other Austen
heroines.
The disparity between representation and interpretation is
less marked in Pride and Prejudice than in the other novels, but
still it is there. I do not find in this novel the glorification of the
compliant solution which led me to quarrel with Austen's inter-
pretation of Fanny throughout and of Emma at the end of her
story. The problem here is different. Jane Austen has less
distance from Elizabeth's expansiveness than she has from
Emma's. As a result, she misinterprets Elizabeth's motives for
wanting to marry Darcy and the nature of their union. She
understands Elizabeth best in the sequences preceding Darcy's





Character and Conflict


letter, but even here she does not seem to be fully aware of the
degree to which Elizabeth's behavior is dictated by defensive
needs. I shall discuss these matters in the course of analyzing
Elizabeth's psychology. But first let us look at the larger crea-
tion of which Elizabeth is a part.


2

Our chief concern in Pride and Prejudice is, of course,
Elizabeth's search for happiness. Elizabeth's plight is what one
imagines Jane Austen's to have been: she must find a man who
is at least her equal in intelligence and sensitivity, who can give
her an appropriate social and economic position, and who does
not object to making a disadvantageous alliance. Mr. Collins,
Wickham, and Colonel Fitzwilliam are all ruled out for one or
another of these reasons. The only potentially suitable mate is
Darcy, but at the time of his first proposal Elizabeth neither
likes nor respects him. Since she sees marriage primarily as a
'?means to personal happiness, this is an enormous obstacle.
What the comic action requires from this point on is for Eliza-
beth to discover her mistakes about Darcy and to change her K(5
view of him accordingly, for Darcy himself to change in such a4
way as to overcome Elizabeth's remaining objections, and for
their changes in character and sentiment to be somehow com-
municated to each other.
fhe obstacles to Elizabeth's marriage with Darcy are part- ,
ly external and partly within each of the protagonists. As soon _
as Darcv finds him.s" f attracted t Fiizabeth, he begins tol'
e i conflict. He ad beth for her sonal
qualities, but he feels that would be to connect
himself wit he family. When love conquers his scruples, he
proposes, but in suh a way as to offend Elizabeth's dignity; and
she rebukes him for his ungentlemanlike behavior. This rebuke v-o
from someone whom he respects chastens his prdeiandleads
him to sele t shness sniLobey of his beh_~irTThe
obstacles withii Darey-havenow been removed, but an external
blocking force remains: the difficulty of communicating his
change to Elizabeth and of discovering her sentiments. Lydia's






Pride and Prejudice


elopement and Lady Catherine's interference are threatening
only from Elizabeth's point of view (to which the reader is
largely confined). In reality they are favorable to the comic
resolution. Darcy's intervention on Lydia's behalf increases
Elizabeth's gratitude and esteem and gives her reason to hope
that he loves her still, while Elizabeth's defiance of Lady Cath-
erine (which is duly reported) encourages Darcy to risk a sec-
ond proposaLl
The major obstacle to the marriage is, of course, Eliza-
beth's dislike of Darcy. The central action of the novel is the
evolution of that dislike, its gradual softening after Darcy's first
proposal, and the emergence of Elizabeth's desire for the mar-
riage during her visit to Pemberley. "The action of comedy,"
says Frye, "is not unlike the action of a lawsuit, in which the
plaintiff and defendant construct different versions of the same
situation, one finally being judged as real and the other as
illusory" (A C, p. 166). The movement is from pistis (opinion) to
gnosis (proof). This is a perfect description of Pride and Preju-
dice. Elizabeth and Wickham are the plaintiffs and Darcy is the
defendant. Because Darcy injures her pride, Elizabeth is dis-
posed to believe Wickham's false testimony against him. It is
appropriate that critics have noted the legalistic tone of Darcy's
letter; it is his case for the defense.
The dispelling of illusion involves more than Elizabeth's
learning the true story of Darcy and Wickham. She must rec-
ognize that Jane had given no clear sign of her love for Bingley,
and she must acknowledge the justice of Darcy's reservations
about an alliance, for either himself or Bingley, with the Bennet
family. She must discover the extent _of her own blindness and
become more humble about her insight and objectivity. She
must learn more about Darcy's character than she could ever
discover from the superficial contact of social intercourse. And
she must take, finally, a less romantic view of marriage and
come to see gratitude and esteem as sound bases of a happy
union.
The ending of Pride and Prejudice provides many of the
satisfactions which we associate with the action of comedy. In
the marriage of Jane and Bingley we have the triumph of -
romantic love over social obstacles and the removal of the





Character and Conflict


threat which hangs over the Bennet women in the form of the
irrational law of entail. Although the marriage of Elizabeth and
Darcy is less romantically gratifying, it establishes a new society
which becomes normative for the world of the novel and which
seems to assure Elizabeth of a substantial and lasting happiness.
As Frye observes, pistis and gnosis correspond to the usurping
and the desirable societies respectively" (AC, p. 166). Ihe desir-
able society is represented not only by Pemberley, as opposed
to Longbourn, but also by the inner qualities of Elizabeth and
Darcy, by their clear-sightedness aAd maturity as opposed to
their earlier pride and prejudice Their marriage will prosper
-'because it is based upon a real understanding of themselves and
each other and upon a proper combination of value The Jane
Bingley relationship may be more passionately intense, but it
presented as a happy accident. Fortunately for themselves, Jane
and Bingley are what they appear to be. The experience of Mr.
Bennet with his wife and of Elizabeth with Wickham and Darcy
suggests, however, that appearances are in general a poor guide
in the choice of a mate. Neither Jane's good fortune nor Char-
lotte's cynicism are to be taken as normative. The well-
grounded relationship of Elizabeth and Darc shows that hap-
piness is not entirely a matter of chance.-
The new society which crystallizes around Elizabeth and
Darcy at Pemberley embodies a number of important values,
both from Elizabeth's and from the author's point of view. At
Longbourn, Elizabeth is a sensible person living in a world
composed largely of fools. There are few people whom she can
love, and even fewer whom she can respect.She is subject to the/ .
irrationality of her mother (who likes her least of all the chil-
& dren) and to the embarrassments of belonging to an ill-regu-
lated family. She finds her situation at first laughable, and then
extremely frustrating. Her marriage to Darcy rescues her from
this world and places her in a proper setting. It signals a
geographical redistribution of characters which is much to Eliz-
abeth's advantage. She is freed from her mother's presence, but
she retains the society of her father, who visits often. Jane and
Bingley settle nearby, but Lydia and Wickham are excluded
from Pemberley. They are cared for by Jane and Bingley,
however, which maintains the mood of comic inclusion; and