No, not referring to any actual guys in my life or anyone I know. I am referring to Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, of Pride and Prejudice fame.
Fair warning, I’m about to get up onto my soapbox and there are going to be an awful lot of SPOILERS.
Most people, women especially, take this stance on Darcy:
And they just swoon over this part:
As well as at a lot of other parts, because he’s a GENTLEMAN, and he’s just shy and AWKWARD, and he CHANGES, and he loves Elizabeth so MUCH, and he helps with Lydia and Wickham’s wedding, and you just HAVE to love the end, when he calls her “Mrs. Darcy”…… et cetera, et cetera.
But what Darcy Fans never tell people when trying to convert them to the state of Austenite, is that shortly after he says he can “bear it no longer” and proposes to Elizabeth. She refuses.
Mr. Darcy: Are you rejecting me?
Elizabeth Bennet: I’m sure that the feelings which, as you’ve told me have hindered your regard, will help you in overcoming it.
Mr. Darcy: Might I ask why, with so little endeavor at civility, I am thus repulsed?
Elizabeth Bennet: And I might as well inquire why, with so evident a design of insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your better judgment. If I was uncivil, then that is some excuse. But I have other reasons, you know I have.
To clarify for those who don’t know, Darcy is very well-off, while the Bennetts are more in the middle-class area, and so it would not have been considered proper for Darcy to marry someone below his station. That explains part of why it goes against his ‘better judgement.’ The rest comes later.
Mr. Darcy: What reasons?
Elizabeth Bennet: Do you think anything might tempt me to accept the hand of the man who has ruined, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister? Do you deny that you separated a young couple who loved each other, exposing your friend to censure of the world for caprice and my sister to derision for disappointed hopes, involving them both in misery of the acutest kind?
Earlier on, Darcy persuaded Bingley to quit Netherfield Park, go to London for a while, and to not propose to Elizabeth’s sister Jane.
Mr. Darcy: I do not deny it.
Elizabeth Bennet: How could you do it?
Mr. Darcy: Because I believed your sister indifferent to him.
Elizabeth Bennet: Indifferent?
Mr. Darcy: I observed them most carefully and realized his attachment was far deeper than hers.
Elizabeth Bennet: That’s because she’s shy!
Mr. Darcy: Bingley was persuaded she didn’t feel strongly.
Elizabeth Bennet: You suggested it.
Mr. Darcy: I did it for his own good!
Elizabeth Bennet: My sister hardly shows her true feelings to me. [silence] I suppose his… fortune had some bearing?
Mr. Darcy: No, believe me I wouldn’t do your sister the dishonor it was just merely suggested…
Elizabeth Bennet: What was?
Mr. Darcy: [pause] It was clear that an advantageous marriage would be the worst option possible…
Elizabeth Bennet: Did my sister give that impression?
Mr. Darcy: No! No, there was, however, the matter of your family…
Elizabeth Bennet: Our want of connection? Mr. Bingley did not seem to object…
To once again clarify: Connections, knowing the right people and so on was very important in the Regency Era. Being a middle-class family in a small town, the Bennetts would not have had very good connections, making them less important to the posh people in society.
Mr. Darcy: No, it was more than that.
Elizabeth Bennet: How, sir?
Mr. Darcy: It was the lack of propriety shown by your mother, your three younger sisters, and even, on the occasion, your father. [thunder clash, Elizabeth is hurt]
You propose to her, she tells you no and gives her reasons, and then you start bashing her family? Yes, staying within the bounds of propriety was extremely important back then. It was as important as wearing a hat whenever you went out was in 1919 and the nineteen-twenties. And Elizabeth’s mother was to fault in having her youngest daughter Lydia ‘out’ before she was sixteen. That’s like letting a thirteen-year-old dress like she’s twenty-five, and her father was to fault in not being a bit more aware in how much his wife and daughters ran amok. But that’s all I’ll say in Darcy’s favor, because it was also very bad form for a gentleman in the Regency Era (Or really a gentleman in ANY era) to point out the bad manners and flaws of a person or her family members.
And why, may I ask you, did he help with Lydia and Wickham’s wedding, despite his extreme disapproval of the fact that Wickham gambled and drank away all his money, as well as his disapproval of Lydia and most of her family? (Jane and Elizabeth are somehow miraculously excluded) He helps because he wants to get in good with Elizabeth. He does it because he hopes to save her family from scandal (Which would make her even more unreachable) and ultimately win her over.
As for shy and awkward, no he wasn’t. He felt the Meryton assemblies beneath him, and he resented the fact that Bingley danced with Jane so much, because station.
And he never apologizes for any of it. All of the other Austen Men apologize for their mistakes, and their foolishness, and their harshness. Observe, if you will, the following:
Mr. Bingley, talking to Jane for the first time after not proposing to her and leaving for several months, breaking her heart entirely: (Pride and Prejudice) First, I must tell you I’ve been the most unmitigated and in-comprehensive ass.
Mr. Nobley, apologizing to Jane about being so horrible during a large part of the movie: (Austenland) You thought me horrible. I was horrible.
Mr. Knightley, referring to their earlier disagreement about who Harriet should marry: (Emma) I will do you the justice of saying that you would have chosen better for him than he did for himself. Miss Smith has some first-rate qualities, infinitely preferable to a sensible man than Mrs. Elton. I was surprised by our conversation.
Mr. Knightley, after scolding Emma for embarrassing Miss Bates: (Emma) It gives me no pleasure to say these things.
Captain Wentworth, trying to apologize to Anne for allowing her sister’s sister-in-law to attempt a jump off a rather high flight of steps while in Lyme Regis, but unable to find the right words. He still manages to get his meaning across, and his regret for all that had happened: (Persuasion) I wish… I wish…
And that’s only three movie adaptations of three out of six novels. I’m not as familiar as I should be with a couple of the other novels and their movie adaptations.
Oh! And kindly, as a last favor to me, read this exchange between Catherine Morland and Mr. Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey, when Tilney is explaining why Catherine was turned out of Northanger Abbey, the Tilney’s residence in the middle of the night and was forced to make the journey unaccompanied on the stagecoach and apologizing for it, and assuring her that he is no longer angry with her for her thoughts that Captain Tilney, his father, might have murdered his mother:
Catherine Morland: He thought I was rich?
Henry Tilney: It was Thorpe who misled him at first. Thorpe, who hoped to marry you himself. He thought you were Mr. Allen’s heiress and he exaggerated Mr. Allen’s birth to my father. You were only guilty of not being as rich as you were supposed to be. For that he turned you out of the house.
Catherine Morland: I thought you were so angry with me, you told him what you knew. Which would have justified any discourtesy.
Henry Tilney: No! The discourtesy was all his. I-I have broken with my father, Catherine, I may never speak to him again.
Catherine Morland: What did he say to you?
Henry Tilney: Let me instead tell you what I said to him. I told him that I felt myself bound to you, by honor, by affection, and by a love so strong that nothing he could do could deter me from…
Catherine Morland: From what?
Henry Tilney: Before I go on, I should tell you there’s a pretty good chance he’ll disinherit me. I fear I may never be a rich man, Catherine.
Catherine Morland: Please, go on with what you were going to say!
Henry Tilney: Will you marry me, Catherine?
Catherine Morland: Yes! Yes I will! Yes!
Oh, Mr. Tilney. He’s kind of my favorite of the Austen Men. He’s capable of being just as sincere as Mr. Knightley, and he cares for Catherine just as much as any of the others, but he also has a brilliant sense of humor.
So, yeah. I’m basically the Tilney equivalent of the Darcy fans, because, as we all know, he understands muslins very well, and says beautifully intelligent things like this:
Anyway, enough Tilney fangirling. Back to the original subject of the post
In short the general unpleasantness of Darcy’s character can be attributed to this very simple fact:
HE IS A FOPPISH, UNGENTLEMANLY SNOB
And there you go, folks. That’s my opinion on the Austen Men, Mr. Tilney and Mr. Darcy in particular. 😀 I sincerely hope I haven’t bored you all to tears. Off my soapbox now. 🙂
Oh, by the way, just have to say, I went off on a Yarn And Book Hunting Expedition with some lovely friends of mine on Saturday, and found a 1970-1972 (Can’t tell which, it’s rather unclear) copy of The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian, by Lloyd Alexander, which was generally cool, but it’s a really good book. Go find a copy and read it, pronto. Thank you for being so obliging, and have a nice day! 🙂