The appeal of Mr Darcy

Monday, 25 October, 2004

It's natural such a fantasy held sway over women two centuries ago. When society was deeply patriarchal, men like Darcy really were severe, remote and all-powerful—in the novel, Darcy even describes himself as “selfish and overbearing”. Women were separated from men by all sorts of formal conventions which left them little opportunity to get to know men until after they were married. The question is, why does Darcy continue to have a compelling hold over women, particularly educated literary feminist women, in the 21st century?

(Source via Fuzzi)

I think it's because his proud and arrogant character was redeemable—that the pride (and the prejudice) which he exhibits in the early scenes of the book gradually get chipped away (chipped away on both him and Elizabeth) and so in the end they become better people for it. (Of course, this is coming from me who sees Rob Gordon in High Fidelity as a character who eventually grows up and improves on his more unattractive qualities; I like the fact that he commits to Laura in the end, even though his manner of doing so is not very “romantic” [the cool thing is that she recognises that this is a major thing for him and she even says, “That's the most romantic thing I've ever heard.”])

I also think that one of the lovelist things about Mr Darcy is that he goes out of his way—subjecting himself to considerable discomfort—just to help Elizabeth and her family (whom, you remember, he thinks are quite awful and considerably beneath him). He seeks out the pair himself in the seedier side of London, arranges payment of debts and makes sure that Wickham walks down that aisle to marry Lydia, thus saving Lydia's reputation and the reputation of the entire Bennett family. And consider how much he despises Wickham, especially on account of his sister! His actions really make me think he's changed his ways and, if I were Lizzy, I would feel special!

(Incidentally, Deb feels that politely-offered violence makes a girl feel special; what makes you feel special?)


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Other comments

Darcy doesn’t really reform - Elizabeth knocks a few rough edges off him, thats all.

Darcy is attractive because of his aloofness, his self-possession, his confidence, his power. He dominates every character he encounters in the book.

Yes, he does change a little for Elizabeth, but not too much. He does make an effort for her, but not too much. Even his final proposal is a “take it or leave it”.

Darcy is telling Elizabeth “I want you, but I don’t need you”. In my observation, women find that kind of strength intensely fascinating.

Another way to describe what is attractive about Darcy is to look at what makes his anti-type, Collins, so repulsive.


Certainly a rather patriarchal reading of the text wink

Me or Craig?

I was thinking of Craig. But I can’t really comment on either, because I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice (and, what’s more, I don’t intend to anytime soon. Emma was quite enough for me).

Ben - P&P beats Emma hands down. I found Emma rather forgettable - so much so that I forgot I’d read it until I was rereading my 1998 diary.

I like P&P and Mr Darcy. I wonder if I would as much, though, if Elizabeth wasn’t so strong - strong enough to be a match for Mr Darcy.

Reading the Princess Diaries recently, and Mia is quite thrilled to be bossed around by her boyfriend, who is older and opinionated. And this doesn’t seem healthy. Whereas Lizzy and Darcy are both flawed but strong-minded, independent individuals.

I find that the desirability of Mr Darcy goes hand in hand with the desirability of being like Elizabeth. But that might just be me.

‘They’ are making a new movie of P&P, with Keira Knightley.

Yes, P&P is the best of Austen (closely followed by Persuasion). Emma is quite infuriating and boring and in no way matches P&P.

Much as I like Keira Knightley, how on earth can they top Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle???

Ah, you got me Ben…I haven’t read the book either, just watched the mini-series. Yes a patriarchal reading - but it was the 19th century for goodness sake!

I don’t disagree that Elizabeth is a strong character and well-matched to Darcy. Women identify with Elizabeth and that probably adds to the attraction.

Colin Friels in a wet shirt probably doesn’t hurt either…

I reserve judgement on Colin Friel’s shirts. Colin *Firth’s*, however…

Actually, I fail to understand the fuss about such things. People generally look better clothed and dry and in their right minds.

Needless to say… Colin Firth.


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