Name Theory: Concerning Fanny

Today I was going to write about something else. Today I had a plan. But today all I can think about is Fanny Price.

Tonight is the next meeting of our local Jane Austen book club, and tonight we discuss Mansfield Park. It is not as bad as I thought it might be after reading reviews, but I think I’m not getting it. So it’s all I can ponder.

Who is Fanny Price? How did she become as she is—the old nature vs. nurture question? Why does she have that name?

That last one’s a question I probably ask more than most reader. Why did the author choose that name? Why would the character’s parents have chosen that name? What does the name say about the character?

I think Fanny is an ugly name. (Sorry if I offend.) I think the fact that it is an “old fashioned” name with a “bad” colloquial meaning (butt/vag) doesn’t help. But I don’t think Austen chose the name because she thought it was ugly.

Maybe she thought it was a soft name for a shy character. Maybe she thought it was a homey name for a homely girl. Maybe she had reasons I would never guess at.

I’ll continue to ponder Fanny. (No pun intended.) I’ll continue to wonder about her name, and her character, and her story, and why Austen chose to write this story—especially after the witty Pride and Prejudice.

This is one of the wonderful things about Austen’s writings. Even now, 200 years later, readers are still considering and pondering and wondering about her novels.

As a writer, I can only hope to attain such lasting concern for my characters and stories. That’s why after my book club tonight it will be time to re-write my novel’s first chapter—to seek the perfect beginning to a lasting legacy.

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