Monday, February 14, 2011

Hero profile: Fitzwilliam Darcy

Two of my Twitter friends and I have discovered that in addition to Jane Austen, we all share a love for Star Wars and Superman. As these aren't interests that tend to go alongside each other, we wondered what common point they all share and eventually we landed on the ideal of a hero. Since today is Valentine's Day, the three of us are all blogging about our favorite hero: Jessica is writing about Superman and Rebecca about Han Solo. I get to share my love of Darcy with you for the first time.  

First, I have a confession to make: Darcy did not immediately win me over when I first read Pride and Prejudice as a teenager. His first proposal was disastrous and though his second was better, there just didn't seem to be much to swoon over. I was much more taken by Elizabeth's strength and wit. I wanted to be Elizabeth, rather than be with Darcy. 

That didn't really change until I decided to tell Darcy's story. To gain a better understanding of him, I read the novel once more with I had two questions in mind: 1) What made him so reluctant to give his good opinion to others, and 2) How did Elizabeth so easily gain it, almost against his own will? The answer completely won me over. 

Darcy prizes honesty above all else. As a man of position and wealth, he is accustomed to being used and pursued. Men want to be known as his friend and women want to be courted by him. His disdain of this is clear in his response to Miss Bingley in Chapter Eight: "Undoubtedly," replied Darcy, to whom this remark was chiefuly addressed, "there is a meanness in all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend to employ for captivation. Whatever bears affinity to cunning is despicable." Caroline catches enough of his point to drop the subject.

Elizabeth is often described as artless--that is, free from deceit. She never pretends to like Darcy, and thus he cannot help but fall in love with her. Unfortunately, it does not occur to him that if she shows him the barest civility, she actually might not like him. This he discovers in his proposal, when that same admirable honest streak leads him to say things he perhaps ought to have kept to himself.

However, Darcy is not just honest with others, he is also honest with himself. After the immediate sting of Elizabeth's rebuke dulls, he sees the truth in her words and he resolves to change. He respects her opinion enough to trust her insight, even when her words hurt.

An honest man who wants nothing more than to be deserving of an honest woman? Swoon. Then he takes Lydia's rescue upon himself to save Elizabeth the pain of having a fallen woman for a sister and his character is fixed as the noblest man in Derbyshire. I could not help but fall in love with him, as generations of women before me have done.

So much of modern courtship is deceit. Pretend to be someone you aren't, so the other person (who is also pretending) will then fall in love with someone that doesn't exist. No wonder relationships are falling apart! We need heroes; men who are honest with us and with themselves, who are willing to tells us the truth about our flaws and listen when we gently point out theirs. We need... Well, just watch this.