A theme of Jane Austen’s novels is the question of when to hold to our own opinions and when to allow ourselves to be swayed from them. Edward Ferrars, Marianne Dashwood, Catherine Morland, Elizabeth, Darcy, Edmund, Henry Crawford, Harriet Smith, Anne Elliot (in the past), and Louisa Musgrove all either wrestle with this question or illustrate some point about it. So especially does Fanny Price.
Among the characters we are invited to admire in this novel, there are no Mr. Bennets or Elizabeth Bennets or Henry Tilneys - characters with a taste for wit and irony. The only people in Mansfield Park who enjoy making others laugh are Henry and Mary Crawford; but their jokes show insensitivity and bad taste which is contrasted with the sensitivity and natural good taste of the heroine, who endures with fortitude the cruelty and selfishness of those around her. Henry teases Edmund by saying he will go and listen to him preaching and that he will take a pencil in order to 'note down any sentence pre-eminently beautiful'. The reader may enjoy such flippancy but Fanny sees it as disrespectful to the cloth and distinctly unfunny.