Persuasions #13, 1991                                                                                                                          Pages 16-26


Jane Austen’s Case Study of Child Abuse: Fanny Price



University of Colorado, Box 7150, Colorado Springs, CO 80933-7150


Many readers of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park respond to its shy heroine, Fanny Price, with feelings ranging from guilt because they are not charmed by her (as they are by Elizabeth Bennet or Anne Elliot) to downright dislike for her passivity and her staunch morality, which some say borders on priggishness.1  In an effort to explain this enigmatic heroine and readers’ reactions to her, critics have discussed Fanny in cultural terms as a Cinderella character,2 a figure of Christian heroism and patience,3 or especially provocatively, a Romantic outcast, thus placing her in company with the Ancient Mariner or the Byronic hero-villain, and connecting her remotely with Beowulf’s jealous and predatory Grendel, who, like Fanny, is excluded from social intercourse.4  And John Halperin, an Austen biographer, has even observed “autobiographical resonances” in Fanny Price.5  But I should like to suggest yet another way of approaching and understanding Fanny Price – a way that may help to explain the sympathy that she frequently arouses even among readers who grow impatient with her.  Fanny Price is Austen’s insightful study of “the battered-child syndrome.”6  And the families with whom Fanny resides – both her immediate family, the Prices, at Portsmouth and her avuncular family, the Bertrams, at Mansfield Park where she lives from age ten – exhibit many symptoms of the dysfunctional family that modern health care and social work professionals now recognize in situations of child abuse.7  My proposed interpretation of Fanny Price and her living conditions complements and expands that put forth by Bernard J. Paris in Character and Conflict in Jane Austen’s Novels: A Psychological Approach, which discusses Fanny as “a highly realized mimetic character” and “a complex and fascinating psychological portrait,” who manifests concepts of the self explained by Karen Horney’s theory of the “self-effacing personality” and “Abraham Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of basic needs.”8

Knowing neither economic nor social boundaries, “the battered child syndrome,” wherein children are victimized in body, mind and/or spirit is as old as history.  Only during the past thirty years, however, have both the public and the professionals in medicine, social work, and related fields been made fully cognizant of the many types of child abuse, as well as the indicators of child abuse in victimized and at-risk children and the culpable families.9  That Jane Austen should have discerned these phenomena as early as 1811, when she began Mansfield Park, is not as surprising as it might seem.  Ever an astute observer of human behavior, she had already created by 1805 “a model case study” of the complex and often subtle disorder of psychopathy in the character of Lady Susan.10  She was equally perceptive in creating the characters of Mansfield Park, many of whom illustrate what today is recognized as child abuse.  And among these characters, Fanny Price is the victim.

The voluminous literature on child abuse, a complicated and horrifying subject, continues to evolve and provide new insights.  But it is possible, for the purposes of this essay, to extract and summarize not only the forms of abuse, but also the indicators of abuse in the victimized child and the culpable parents or parental figures.11  Forms of abuse are categorized as physical, material, and mental or emotional.  Each category has varied, even diverse, and overlapping manifestations.

Physical abuse, for example, is not limited to the most obvious criminal deeds such as beating, molesting, or even killing the child.  It can also involve exploitation, wherein the victim bears excessive responsibilities and/or is overworked beyond physical endurance.  Related to the physical is material abuse, which includes failing to supply the child with adequate shelter and sleeping arrangements or sufficient protection from the cold.  Emotional or mental cruelty is frequently a less visible and even less intentional form of abuse than the other two forms.  Nonetheless, this insidiously abusive treatment, which is variously manifested, can be extremely damaging to the victim.  An emotionally cruel parent or guardian may deny the child so-called “normal” experiences conducive to feeling wanted, loved, and worthy.  The abusive adult may reject the victim passively and thus less obviously through bland indifference and emotional neglect; on the other hand, the abuser may reject the child actively and thus more overtly.  Instances of the latter type of rejection include isolating the child or “scapegoating” him or her wherein the victim is blamed for problems or “trouble.”  The emotionally abusive adult may place the child in demoralizing circumstances, which include subjecting him or her to overly severe discipline and criticism.  Finally, in their failure to individualize children and discern each child’s unique needs, emotionally or mentally cruel parents or parental figures may see one child as “different,” in a pejorative sense, from other family members.

Among any and all forms of child abuse, the homelife may take diverse forms.  At one extreme, the family unit may be highly authoritarian and inflexibly disciplined; at the other, it can be loosely defined and ill-structured.  In either case, the parent figures usually exhibit one of two behaviorial patterns: they either demonstrate detachment and even unawareness of the child or focus intently, even exclusively, on the child.

Victims of any and all forms of the abuses summarized can display any combination of sometimes contradictory behavioral indicators.  For example, a victim may demonstrate an inability to deal with aggression, a sense of inferiority, and a reluctance to participate in group activities.  Victims with such characteristics can be uncommunicative, shy, excessively watchful, and unusually fearful, giving them an “impaired capacity to enjoy life.”12  But the identical consequences can also appear in a victim who manifests extreme willfulness and opposition to others.  Clearly, the complexity of the child abuse phenomena cannot be minimized.  And neither can Jane Austen’s insights into the subject.

Although Mansfield Park is a grand estate owned by Fanny’s well-meaning uncle and aunt, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, it is an abusive environment for her – indeed, even in some ways for her apparently pampered female cousins.13  The Bertrams are basically unintentional, passive abusers, whose household reflects an interesting, even oxymoron-like combination of what are normally extreme environmental characteristics: Mansfield is both highly authoritarian and loosely defined, inflexibly disciplined and ill-structured.  This bizarre hybrid derives from the detached personalities of the owners and the dominating personality of Lady Bertram’s sister, Mrs. Norris, whose insidious influence and “love of directing”14 are given ascendant power by the very detachment of the Bertrams.  Thus, the household is ill-structured with the wrong person, the highly authoritative Mrs. Norris, largely “in charge.”


“In vain were the well-meant condescensions of Sir Thomas.” (MP) 


To see how this occurs, we need to examine the conduct of Sir Thomas and his wife.  Sir Thomas’s behavior is quite paradoxical.  As the father and head of the household, Sir Thomas Bertram exhibits a “most untoward gravity of deportment” (p. 12), which “awe[s]” both his daughters and the newly-arrived ten-year-old Fanny, who as a stranger to the household and a person with “very acute” feelings, finds “something to fear in every person [at Mansfield] …” (pp. 12, 14).  To realize that Fanny’s fearful response at age ten to her uncle’s severely grave demeanor is not an extreme reaction, we need only consider the distancing effect it has even on worldly adults later in the novel: for instance, Edmund speculates that Mary Crawford, a sophisticated young city woman, may find his father’s “reserve … a little repulsive” (p. 199).  Although “a truly anxious father, [Sir Thomas] was not outwardly affectionate, and the reserve of his manner repressed all the flow of [his children’s] spirits before him” (p. 19).  This also accounts for his not knowing what was happening in his daughters’ development, which falls into the hands of their Aunt Norris, instead of their parents, and thus distorts the household structure.

But while Sir Thomas’s grave, reserved demeanor distances or detaches him from his household, it also, ironically, exerts a highly authoritarian effect.  As Mrs. Grant observes, his “dignified manner … keeps every body in their place” (p. 162).  The oppressiveness of his manner is indicated by the “relief” felt by Fanny and his daughters when he departs for Antigua (pp. 32-33); the “habitual dread of her uncle” that Fanny, in particular, feels resurfacing when he returns from there, causing her nearly to faint (p. 176); and the “hatred” of her father’s household “restraint” that Maria Bertram numbers among her reasons for marrying a man she does not like, let alone love (p. 202).

While Sir Thomas’s gravity and reserve unintentionally detach him from his family, his wife willfully detaches herself from the household by abdicating her maternal duties to her sister: “To the education of her daughters, Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention” (p. 19).  This exacerbates the household’s ill structure.  A “cipher”-like (p. 162) creature, Lady Bertram has withdrawn from active family life to the company of her dog, Pug, and the comfort of her sofa, where her silence “dishearten[s] Fanny” (p. 14).  The insidious effect that both Bertrams’ detachment from their household has on Fanny is reflected early in the book.  Even before Fanny arrives at Mansfield, Mrs. Norris suggests that the child’s bedroom should be “the little white attic … close by the housemaids” (pp. 9-10), which will remain her bedroom until she leaves the mansion for the parsonage as Edmund’s wife.  Benignly complying with this idea, the Bertrams are accessories to Fanny’s material abuse engineered by Mrs. Norris.  For as we later learn, the seemingly innocuous “little white attic” is so “deficien[t] of space and accommodation” (p. 151) that she “cannot [even] have a fire in it” (p. 312).  They are guilty of failing to provide Fanny with adequate sleeping arrangements and protection from the cold.

Likewise, because Sir Thomas is both determined that his niece should “remember that she is not a Miss Bertram” (p. 10) and detached from his household’s daily life, he does not interfere with actions that emphasize Fanny’s “different-ness.”  Unrestrained by their parents, the twelve-year-old Julia and thirteen-year-old Maria – whose social development has been under their Aunt Norris’s aegis – exercise juvenile inconsiderateness and abuse their cousin as soon as she arrives: they tease her about her size and shyness and “hold her cheap” for having “but two sashes, and … never [having] learnt French” (p. 14), thus making her feel “different” and inferior.  Mortified about being “small of her age” (p. 12), especially in relation to her cousins who are “well-grown and forward of their age” (p. 13), Fanny finds her only friend in her sixteen-year-old cousin Edmund.15  It is not, Austen tells us, that people “meant to be unkind, but nobody [Edmund excepted] put themselves out of their way to secure her comfort.”  Thus, Fanny is subjected to unintentional mental and emotional cruelty – grounded in utter thoughtlessness – by five of the six Bertrams, including Lady Bertram.

Even as her habitual silence communicates passive rejection to Fanny, Lady Bertram also denies Fanny’s needs when, on rare occasion, she speaks.  For example, when Mr. Norris dies and the Bertrams believe that his widow will now take Fanny into her home and relieve their financial exigencies, Lady Bertram blithely tells the shocked fifteen-year-old Fanny, “It can make very little difference to you, whether you are in one house or the other” (p. 25).  Saying this to her adolescent niece, she denies Fanny’s right to feel and also communicates rejection and ejection from Mansfield.  Not surprisingly, immediately after this incident Fanny states to Edmund, “I can never be important to anyone” (p. 26).  Although Lady Bertram did not intend to abuse Fanny’s emotions with this remark, she did so through bland indifference.  Her sister, Mrs. Norris, however, is far from indifferent towards Fanny.

Aunt Norris targets Fanny for overt, active hostility.  She pointedly “inquire[s]” among her young nieces and nephews “into [Fanny’s] faults” (p. 17).  Fanny “never receive[s] kindness from” this aunt (p. 25).  And after Sir Thomas departs for Antigua, confidently leaving his household to “Mrs. Norris’s watchful attention and … Edmund’s judgment” (p. 32), the officious Mrs. Norris will virtually move into Mansfield, enhance her authoritarian position in the household, and abuse Fanny with great regularity.

While Mrs. Norris advances the Miss Bertrams’ social lives, chaperoning them to balls and “promoting [their] gaieties”, the Cinderella-like Fanny remains at home with Lady Bertram (pp. 34-35).  She is further excluded from the normal activities of her cousins, who take “cheerful rides in the fine mornings of April and May”; instead, she must walk “beyond her strength at the instigation of” Mrs. Norris, who in promoting this activity, physically abuses the easily fatigued Fanny by taxing her beyond her endurance (p. 36).  When Edmund asserts that “ ‘Fanny must have a horse’ ” (p. 36) so that she too may ride, Mrs. Norris says everything possible to discourage such a gift in an effort to deprive Fanny of feeling like a “Miss Bertram,” thus fusing emotional abuse with material deprivation.  The selfish Mrs. Norris is deliberate in these abusive actions.  But Edmund, Fanny’s usual protector and advocate, inadvertently participates in Fanny’s emotional abuse, oblivious to his deeds.

Ironically, when Mary Crawford arrives and monopolizes Fanny’s new horse while riding with Edmund, his romantic attraction to the beautiful, lively visitor causes him to forget that Fanny is waiting for her horse (pp. 66-69).  Understandably, Fanny feels “neglected” (p. 74).  A similar situation occurs during the visit to Sotherton, where Edmund leaves Fanny resting on a bench.  Promising to return from his walk with Mary in “a few minutes” (p. 96), he leaves her there for an hour (p. 103).  Albeit unthinkingly, Edmund has been emotionally abusive to his cousin, who is caught in a web of unintentional and intentional abuse.  And her most vicious abuser is, of course, her widowed aunt.

Mrs. Norris repeats her deliberate physical abuse of Fanny when she requires her not only to cut roses “standing and stooping in a hot sun,” but also to walk on errands between Mansfield and her home twice on the same hot day, resulting in Fanny’s getting a headache (pp. 72-73).  During this last episode, Lady Bertram has been the passive witness, and thus the inadvertent accomplice; indeed, she had even noticed Fanny’s suffering in the heat, for as she remarks about her niece to Edmund: “Poor thing!  She found it hot enough …” (p. 72).  Sensitive to Fanny’s physical weakness, Edmund on this occasion caustically tells his aunt, “I wish Fanny had half your strength, ma’am” (p. 73).  But Mrs. Norris, with the self-exculpatory behavior frequently seen in an abusing adult, smoothly transforms Edmund’s criticism of her into her own criticism of Fanny, wherein she mentally abuses her niece: “If Fanny would be more regular in her exercise, she would not be knocked up so soon” (p. 73).  Mrs. Norris also exploits her increased authority in the household during Sir Thomas’s prolonged absence in the West Indies to continue her material abuse of Fanny.  She “resigns” herself to allowing Fanny at the age of fifteen or sixteen to have as a sitting room the old schoolroom or East Room because “nobody else wanted” it (p. 151).  But Mrs. Norris “stipulate[s]” that the room should “never [have] a fire in it on Fanny’s account …” (p. 151).  It is interesting to note that while Edmund visits her there to discuss his taking part in the theatrical and his feelings for Mary Crawford, he is once again so self-absorbed that he does not notice the room lacks this basic amenity – although even at this time of year there is a fire in the drawing-room (p. 144).  Only after Sir Thomas returns from Antigua, a somewhat softened man, and notices the chill in the room is this material abuse rectified (pp. 312, 322).  Assuming that his wife “cannot be aware of” the room’s lack of a fire (another indicator of Lady Bertram’s passive complicity, through detachment, in Fanny’s abuse), Sir Thomas admits to his niece:


“Your aunt Norris has always been an advocate, and very judiciously, for young people’s being brought up without unnecessary indulgences ….  The principle was good in itself, but it may have been, and I believe has been carried too far in your case.  – I am aware that there has been, sometimes, in some points, a misplaced distinction .…” (pp. 312-313)


This is, among other indications, clearcut evidence of Austen’s perception that Mrs. Norris exhibits towards Fanny three characteristics observed by modern researchers in abusive parents or parent-figures: (1) “ ‘a general defect in character structure allowing aggressive impulses to be expressed too freely’ ”; (2) “ ‘mistaken notions of child-rearing’ ”;16 and (3) intense focus on the victim.

While Mrs. Norris is guilty of actively and intentionally abusing Fanny in physical and material forms, it is as an emotional abuser, a practitioner of mental cruelty, that she perpetrates her worst deeds.  We have already witnessed some minor episodes of this, where in her physical and material abuse of Fanny, she manages also to make her niece feel demoralized, inferior, and different.  Because examples of Mrs. Norris’s pointedly and purposely subjecting Fanny to emotional abuse are numerous, I will remind us here of just a few particularly cruel instances.  When Fanny begs to be excused from participating in the planned theatrical, Mrs. Norris berates her as “a very obstinate, ungrateful girl … – very ungrateful indeed, considering who and what she is” (p. 147).  Just as Mrs. Norris had attempted to deprive Fanny of a horse, so too, she determines to deprive Fanny of company and the normal experience of being wanted.  When all the Bertrams and Crawfords decide to visit Rushworth’s estate, Sotherton, Mrs. Norris declares in front of the group and in her niece’s presence that “Fanny will stay at home with” Lady Bertram (p. 62).  Learning that Mrs. Grant has included Fanny in a dinner invitation, Mrs. Norris, “intent only on lessening her niece’s pleasure, both present and future, as much as possible” (p. 219) insists to her niece that she “ought to be very much obliged to Mrs. Grant for thinking of [her] ....”  She continues: “Nor must you be fancying, that the invitation is meant as any particular compliment to you; the compliment is intended to your uncle and aunt, and me ….  Remember, wherever you are, you must be the lowest and last …” (pp. 220-221).  Likewise, as Sir Thomas announces that he will host a ball in Fanny’s honor, but is hesitating about its location, Mrs. Norris interrupts, saying, “If dear Julia were at home, or dearest Mrs. Rushworth … you would be tempted to give the young people a dance at Mansfield.  I know you would.  If they were at home to grace the ball …” (p. 252).  Even so innocent an action as Fanny’s taking a walk in the shrubbery, at Sir Thomas’s suggestion, but without informing Mrs. Norris, elicits a tirade of accusing and “scapegoating” that clearly shows Aunt Norris’s perverse vigilance of Fanny:


“ … it is all her fault.  If she would but have let us know she was going out – but there is a something about Fanny, I have often observed it before, – she likes to go her own way to work … she certainly has a … spirit of secrecy, and independence, and nonsense, about her, which I would advise her to get the better of.”  (p. 323)


Recall, as well, that Mrs. Norris launches this harangue in front of Fanny in the third person, which distances the girl while treating her as a non-person.  Finally, Mrs. Norris’s most insidious act of “scapegoating” occurs when Maria’s adulterous affair with Henry is exposed: “Had Fanny accepted Mr. Crawford, this could not have happened” (p. 448).  As Paris notes, such treatment deprives Fanny of the “basic needs,” including “safety … love and belonging … [and] self-esteem” that Abraham Maslow asserts “must be gratified if the organism is to develop in a healthy way.”17

Made to feel inferior, different, unwanted, and unloved; exerted beyond her endurance; “scapegoated” by her aunt, Mrs. Norris; made to sleep in the attic, near the servants, in a tiny room without a fire: is it any wonder that Fanny’s inherently timid nature is magnified at Mansfield Park?  Going to her parents’ house in Portsmouth, where she hopes to be “loved by so many, and more loved by all than she had ever been before” (p. 370), Fanny does not fare much better.  While she is free of Mrs. Norris’s overt, active hostility, she is still subjected to unintentional emotional abuse in her parents’ home.  Her mother shows her “no affection … no curiosity to know her better, no desire of her friendship, and no inclination for her company ….” (p. 390).  Her father, buried in his newspaper in a darkened parlor, acknowledges “that he had quite forgot her” presence, dutifully hugs her, and then “seem[s] very much inclined to forget her again” (p. 380).  Whether at Portsmouth or at Mansfield, Fanny “is the product of a pathogenic environment which forces her to develop in a self-alienated way.”18

The cumulative experiences of her life since age ten exacerbate the eighteen-year-old Fanny’s inherently fearful, sensitive nature, making her “very timid, and exceedingly nervous ….” (p. 320).19  Knowing the “pains of tyranny, of ridicule, and neglect” (p. 152), she “sigh[s]” wistfully while speaking to Edmund of the popular Mary Crawford’s security in having “the regard of all the rest of you” (p. 199).  When she gets caught in an unexpected downpour of rain, she not only feels “very much ashamed” when Dr. Grant comes to her rescue with an umbrella (p. 205), but also knows that her aunts at Mansfield would be experiencing no “alarm” at her being out, unprepared, in the rain (p. 206).  After experiencing the happy shock of opening a ball and learning that she can breakfast early the next morning with her sea-going brother, William, albeit in the company of Henry Crawford, she is in a state of wonder because “she was so totally unused to have her pleasure consulted, or to have any thing take place at all in the way she could desire ….” (p. 280).  Fanny’s reiterated feelings of unworthiness and fearfulness; her sense of inferiority and rejection: these are all observable characteristics in the victim of abuse.  Even Fanny’s occasional opposition to others – e.g., her refusal to participate in the play and her dogged determination not to be charmed by the suave Henry Crawford, despite the accusation from Sir Thomas that she is “wilful and perverse” (p. 318) for not accepting Crawford, and the persuasion from Edmund that she should “let [Henry] succeed at last” (p. 347) – springs, I suggest, not only from high moral standards and deep insight, but also from her abused background.  Having had it drilled into her at Mansfield that she is “the lowest and last,” Fanny must respond by being the moral superior.  In fact, as Paris’s psychological analysis of Fanny shows, her behavior reflects the anxious, unloved individual’s tendency “to compensate for his [or her] feelings of worthlessness … by an intrapsychic process of self-glorification”; such self-idealization, he continues, exemplifies Karen Horney’s “pride system,” wherein the subject “takes an intense pride in the attributes of his [or her] idealized self, and on the basis of these attributes … makes unrealistic claims upon others.”20  For example, we witness in volume one at some length Fanny’s intense opposition to the play and the players and in volume three her particularly harsh evaluation of her overburdened mother, whom she reviles as “a dawdle, a slattern” (p. 390).  Thus, Fanny demonstrates the characteristic of extreme willfulness observed in some victims of child abuse.

So while Fanny Price is a cultural symbol of figures ranging from Cinderella to Beowulf, as well as “one of the great mimetic characters in English fiction” demonstrative of the “self-effacing” personality,21 she is also a case study of one of the most frightful phenomena in social history, child abuse.  This helps to explain why some readers of Mansfield Park intuitively sympathize with Fanny, overlooking the personality traits – manifested most clearly in her self-effacing, insecure, priggish comments – that are otherwise off-putting.  That Austen had the insights into human behavior and psychology to create Fanny, the Prices, Mrs. Norris, and even Sir Thomas, Lady, and Edmund Bertram, reminds us that comparing her artistry and knowledge of humanity to Shakespeare’s is far from hyperbolic.  Both writers are, as one of Jane Austen’s favorite authors, Dr. Johnson, would say, “poet[s] of nature.”22


The color image has replaced the original black and white image for the on-line edition of this essay. – C. Moss, JASNA Web Site Manager





1 As Tony Tanner observes, “Even sympathetic readers have often found [Fanny] something of a prig ….  [And] nobody falls in love with [her].”  See Tanner’s Jane Austen (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 143.  Lionel Trilling says, “Nobody, I believe, has ever found it possible to like the heroine of Mansfield Park”; see his “Mansfield Park,” in Ian Watt, ed., Jane Austen: A Collection of Critical Essays, Twentieth Century Views (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963), p. 128.  The same anthology includes Kingsley Amis’s well-known “What Became of Jane Austen?” (141-144), where he charges Fanny with being “morally detestable,” “untiringly sycophantic” (142) and a “monster of complacency” (144).  Joseph Duffy, Jr. asserts, “It would be difficult ever to call Fanny a likeable person ….”  See his “Moral Integrity and Moral Anarchy in Mansfield Park,” ELH, 23 (1956), 89.  Janet Burroway calls Fanny an “insufferable prig” in her “The Irony of the Insufferable Prig,” Critical Quarterly, 9 (1967), 127-128.  Howard S. Babb writes that while Jane Austen made “efforts … to make Fanny a more sympathetic figure,” the heroine has “qualities [that] … keep Fanny from winning the heart of the reader ….”  See his Jane Austen’s Novels: The Fabric of Dialogue (n.p.: Archon Books, 1967), p. 146.  Rachel Trickett “admit[s] at once that Fanny Price is [her] least favourite Jane Austen heroine” in “Mansfield Park,” The Wordsworth Circle, 17 (1986), 88.


2 Avram Fleishman, A Reading of “Mansfield Park”: An Essay in Critical Synthesis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1967), pp. 58-69.  Janice C. Simpson, “Fanny Price as Cinderella: Folk and Fairy-tale in Mansfield Park,” Persuasions, 9 (1987), 25-30.


3 Trilling, note 1, pp. 128-129.  See also Marvin Mudrick, Jane Austen, Irony as Defense and Discovery (1952; rpt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), p. 156.


4 Nina Auerback, “Jane Austen’s Dangerous Charm: Feeling as One Ought about Fanny Price,” in Janet Todd, ed., Jane Austen: New Perspectives.  Women and Literature, n.s. 3 (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1983), 208-223.  Professor Auerbach’s interpretation reminds us of Peter Conrad’s concept that English literature is a continuous story, with kinships observable among works that seem remote and diverse.  See his The History of English Literature: One Indivisible, Unending Book (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987).


5 John Halperin, “The Novelist As Heroine In Mansfield Park, A Study in Auto-biography,” MLQ, 44 (1983).  136-156.


6 This term was first used in 1961 at a symposium of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  See the groundbreaking paper by C. H. Kempe, F. N. Silverman, B. F. Steele, W. R. Droegemueller, and H. K. Silver, “The Battered-Child Syndrome,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 181 (1962), 17-24.  I should like to thank formally at this point my husband, Robert D. Ray, Ed.D., an elementary school teacher, for sharing his professional observations about child abuse, and Mary K. Kromphardt, R.N., School Nurse at Turman Elementary School, Harrison District 2, Colorado Springs, Colorado, for sharing her bibliographical materials about child abuse when the idea for this essay first occurred to me.  Thanks also go to Christina Martinez, Librarian, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, for helping me work with Psychological Abstracts, and to Mary Burton, an especially enthusiastic auditor of my senior and graduate seminar, “Major Author: Jane Austen,” during fall 1990, who provided quality feedback for my preliminary in-class musings about Fanny Price and child abuse.  I note here, too, that Avram Fleishman, in his study of Mansfield Park cited in note 2, includes a chapter dealing with “The Psychology of Moral Character” (pp. 43-56), where he treats Fanny “as a complex tangle of impulse and restraint” (43).  While he observes certain behavioral patterns in Fanny similar to those I will note, he does not connect them with the psychology of child abuse.


7 Among the writers who consider the role of the family in Mansfield Park are Jane Nardin, “Children and Their Families in Jane Austen’s Novels,” in Jane Austen: New Perspectives, cited in note 4, pp. 73-87, especially pp. 82-83; David Kaufmann, “Closure in Mansfield Park and the Sanctity of the Family,” PQ, 65 (1986), 211-229; Paula Marantz Cohen, “Stabilizing the Family System at Mansfield Park,” ELH, 54 (1987), 669-693.


8 Bernard J. Paris, Character and Conflict in Jane Austen’s Novels: A Psychological Approach (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1978), pp. 32-33.  As occasion warrants, this essay will refer to Paris’s psychological evaluation of Fanny Price, which though certainly cognizant of the unsatisfactory homelife she endured at Portsmouth and Mansfield Park (e.g., pp. 31, 45-46, 48, 58), does not consider the novel and its heroine in terms of child abuse.


9 For a concise historical overview of child abuse and its treatment, see Samuel X. Radbill, “Children in a World of Violence: A History of Child Abuse,” in C. Henry Kempe, M.D. and Ray E. Heifer, M.D., The Battered Child, 3rd ed., revised and expanded (Chicago and London: UMI Research Press, 1989), pp. 3-20.


10 Beatrice Anderson cogently demonstrates this in “The Unmasking of Lady Susan” in J. David Grey, ed., Jane Austen’s Beginnings: The Juvenilia and “Lady Susan” (Ann Arbor and London: UMI Research Press, 1989), pp. 193-203.  The quotation is on p. 194.


11 Information about forms and indicators of child abuse comes from the following sources: School of Medicine, University of New Mexico, and the Cooperative Extension Service, New Mexico State University for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Indicators: Child Abuse and Neglect,” 15 pp.-typescript, n.d. Rachel Calam and Cristina Franchi, Child Abuse and Its Consequences: Observational Approaches (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 1-14, et passim.  Gabriel V. Laury and A. M. Joost, “Mental Cruelty and Child Abuse,” Psychiatric Quarterly (Supplement), 41 (1967), 203-254.


12 Calam and Franchi, note 11, p. 6.


13 I exclude Thomas and Edmund Bertram because their lives appear to be less connected to their home.  While we learn about the Bertram daughters’ childhood pastimes and activities, we read comparatively little about the sons’ childhoods.  Older than their sisters, Tom is already seventeen when Fanny arrives, and Edmund is sixteen.  Tom is shortly thereafter riding about England, gambling and living the life of a ne’er-do-well, while Edmund is away from home studying at Eton and Oxford.


14 Jane  Austen, Mansfield Park, vol. 3 in The Novels of Jane Austen, ed. R. W. Chapman, 5 vols., 3rd ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1932-1934), p. 8.  All further quotations from Mansfield Park are taken from this edition and are noted in the text of the essay by parenthetical page numbers.


15 Paris discusses Fanny’s “seek[ing] reassurance and protection” through Edmund in terms of Ernest Schactel’s principle of “embeddedness” and the defensive strategies analyzed by Karen Horney; furthermore, he observes that Edmund, himself, “makes up for his inferior position as second son by being good ….” (pp. 35-36, 38, 50).


16 Calam and Franchi, note 11, p. 5, quoting J. J. Spinetta and D. Rigler, “The Child-Abusing Parent: A Psychological Review,” in G. J. Williams and J. Money, ed., Traumatic Abuse and Neglect of Children at Home (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980).


17 Paris, pp. 33-34.


18 Paris, p. 36.


19 Quoting Maslow’s statement that “ ‘Apprehensiveness, fear, dread and anxiety, tension, nervousness, and jitteriness are all consequences of safety-need frustration’ ” (p. 36), Paris contends, “Self-actualization is never an issue … for Fanny …” (p. 37).


20 Paris, pp. 40, 44.


21 Paris, pp. 61-62.


22 Samuel Johnson, “Preface to Shakespeare,” in Johnson on Shakespeare, vol. 7 of The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, ed. Arthur Sherbo (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965), 62.

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