When Fanny Price goes to Mansfield Park she is obviously very homesick. This fact isn’t helped by her relatives not welcoming her in the most gracious way. The only cousin who welcomes her is Edmund, who acts affectionately towards her: ” ‘My dear little cousin,’ said he with all the gentleness of an excellent nature , ‘what can be the matter?’ “. Edmund is her hero at the beginning of the novel and becomes a brother almost equal to William, and Fanny’s heart is divided. The other cousins act differently towards Fanny. Maria and Julia act as if she is ignorant, ” ‘Dear Mamma, only think, my cousin cannot put the map of Europe together’ “. This seems ridiculous to us, yet because the Miss Bertrams have been brought up in such an educated manner and upper class household they know no better, they genuinely think that she is stupid. Mrs Norris, however, has no excuse as she wasn’t brought up in such a fashion. She acts as if she is constantly disappointed and annoyed with Fanny. When Fanny first arrives at Mansfield Park Mrs Norris seems annoyed that Fanny isn’t gracious, not being empathetic to the fact that she’s obviously homesick: “the idea of it being a wicked thing for her not to be happy”. Tom Bertram is the only character who doesn’t seem to have much of an attitude towards Fanny, having very little interest as a 17 year old would towards a 10 year old. The only interaction he has with her when she’s young is to tease her slightly, “laughed at her”. Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram “received her very kindly” and yet they still intimidated Fanny, “She was disheartened by Lady Bertram’s silence,” and “awed by Sir Thomas’ grave looks”.
Due to this treatment, Fanny at her time in Mansfield Park learns only that she is inferior to the Bertrams and Mrs Norris, as she is constantly treated in that way. She must think that she is only there due to charity and so that the Bertrams (and more likely Mrs Norris) look Christian and benevolent. Fanny would also think that she is “ignorant” and “prodigiously stupid” (mainly due to Maria and Julia), despite her obvious love for reading, “books which charmed her leisure hours”.
Thanks for reading,