Mansfield Park was published in 1814. The story centers on a young woman named Fanny Price who is rescued from the poverty of her immediate family and brought to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle at Mansfield Park. She is about eleven years old when she moves in with them and gradually grows accustomed to her largely opulent life there. She is ignored by most of her extended family because of her shyness. Despite that, she does develop and possess a strong moral character. One of her cousins, Edmund Bertram, is kind to her, engaging her in conversation and later becoming her closest friend.
As Fanny grows older, she eventually falls in love with Edmund. However, he remains oblivious of her affections mostly because of his interest in a woman named Mary Crawford. She is almost the complete opposite of Fanny; she is witty, clever, talkative, and determined to be noticed by others. She is somewhat attracted to Edmund, yet she disdains his chosen profession (the church) and repeatedly tries to dissuade him from being ordained. Under her influence, he begins to waver and frequently confesses to Fanny his confusion and anxiety regarding Mary and his career path. Fanny grows more and more disturbed at Mary's influence because she is in full support of Edmund's chosen career. Yet, her shyness prevents her from expressing her own opinions to her cousin.
In time, Fanny also begins to receive unwanted attention from Mary's brother Henry. He is attracted to Fanny precisely because she is not attracted to him. The reader is never sure if Henry is just playing a game with himself or if he does care for her in some way. Henry is a self-obsessed trouble maker and Fanny is never blind to his true character. Though he eventually proposes, she refuses to marry him. Henry then opts to elope with one of Fanny's married cousins. Because of Henry's actions and because of Mary's refusal to condemn her brother's behavior, Edmund's eyes are eventually opened as well and he ends his pursuit of Mary. Edmund then begins to realize the depth of this feelings for Fanny and the two marry shortly thereafter.
Mansfield Park was not well received by the general reading public. Many people disliked Fanny, considering her to be too uptight and rigid in her morals and behavior. As a character, she is not incredibly interesting because she appears to be faultless. Of course, there were some people who liked that her character was rigid and faultless, but the majority of readers simply found her dull and moralistic. Out of all of her main female characters, Jane Austen seemed the least similar to Fanny and perhaps that is why the character and the novel itself are considered less real and brilliant.