The silences in Mansfield Park are there to tell us something about a character or a scene. Some of Fanny’s silences are there to reveal something about the other characters; sometimes her silences are there for the sake of her character. Fanny began growing up with her large, rambunctious family in a cramped house; then she finishes growing up with the Bertrams. She gets the chance to live in a large country house that is filled with unknowns. These unknowns challenge Fanny because she is naturally shy. Her female cousins who are full of confidence do not understand this part of Fanny. To them, Fanny is their younger, dumber cousin. They criticize her because she does not know the things they know like how to speak French. This causes Fanny to feel more like she does not belong in the Bertram household for a long time. Fanny is silent because that is the role she takes on in the family. The rest of the family is confident to begin with, so they have no problem speaking their minds, especially in front of Fanny. Fanny’s extended family has some silence that reveal things about them, but more often it is the times when they talk that tells the reader about what is happening around them.
Fanny is the background to many conversations in the book. This is when the reader gets glimpses into what the other characters in Mansfield Park are like . At Sotherton, Mary approaches the subject of Edmund’s ordination with him and Fanny. In the whole of this conversation, Fanny only speaks once to say one word, “certainly” (87). She says this because Edmund has her convinced about manners which is conduct. This, of course, leads to more of Fanny’s silence while the other two characters continue to discuss the topic of Edmund’s profession.
After Fanny becomes tired from walking and retires to the bench, the other two leave her to silence once again. Surprisingly to Fanny, she is left for minutes upon minutes in silence until another group finds her. By not looking for people after being left on the bench, Fanny possesses the virtue of patience. This virtue does not seem to be common in the Bertram household. After Mr. Rushworth leaves the three at the bench, the reader sees Fanny disappearing into the background of Maria and Henry’s conversation. Maria starts to flirt with Henry Crawford even though she is engaged to a man who is just at the house. Maria and Henry do not even pause to think if Fanny would tell someone of their indiscretions. They only think to tell Fanny to tell those who come to find them that they will be near the “grove of oak on the knoll” (93). They turn Fanny into a messenger instead of a person. At this time, the reader sees Henry and Maria without others around them. The reader sees that Henry and Maria are flirts at their cores.
Another instance of this background Fanny is when the others and Yates talk about what play to perform. Fanny sits and listens to each person’s opinion on what play is be performed, a...