Monday, April 21, 2014

Mr. Darcy

Since I did a review (of sorts) way back when I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time, I decided not to do a second review now for my read of the book for literature class.
Instead, I'm going to talk about Mr. Darcy!

When I first watched Pride and Prejudice, and later read the book, I did not like Mr. Darcy. When my mom and I watched the 6-hour version over and over again and when I re-read the book, I did not like Mr. Darcy. I thought he was so mean to Lizzie, unfeeling towards her sister, and unbelievably rude.
But when I re-read this book for literature at the beginning of the year, I read it specifically noting Mr. Darcy, his characteristics, and everything about him.
After doing that I just had one question: Where in the universe did I get the idea that Darcy was a mean and rude person?! Where did that come from? I found that Mr. Darcy is the total opposite of my prejudices.
Which actually gives me an idea of where my ideas came from... Lizzie Bennet. The book is, after all, from her point of view, and though it is implied (especially later and, of course, in the title) that she is prejudiced... well, as a reader, aren't you supposed to see that and take your own point of view of things? I obviously didn't.
Anyway, looking at mostly Darcy as I read through the book, I found my point of view in regards to Darcy and Lizzie reversed. Mr. Darcy is a total gentleman throughout the book, acting just as someone in his position would be expected to, in my opinion. And Lizzie... well, she is very prejudiced, and rude too.

We first meet Mr. Darcy in chapter 3, at the ball. At first, the gentleman pronounce him "a fine figure of a man" and the women think him "much handsomer than Bingley." By the end of the night, however, they have "discovered [him] to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased... [with a] ...forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy compared to his friend."
Mr. Darcy, of course, goes on to say that he deserts dancing, unless particularly acquainted with his partner, and that Elizabeth is "tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me." He then says, "I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men."
Why is he out of humor? Fast forward a couple months and Lizzie gets his letter, telling all about Mr. Wickham's detestable dealings with his family. All the stuff with Georgiana had probably happened within the last few months from the time of the first ball. Could Mr. Darcy be out of humor because he's worried about his sister and thinking of her?
"Darcy was clever, haughty, reserved, fastidious, well-bred, but not inviting." At the Meryton ball he sees a "collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion."
I think this is a reasonable remark for someone in Mr. Darcy's shoes, who grew up surrounded by wealth and beauty. That's all he's used to. When thrown into a situation that we're not familiar with, don't we all tend to be critical? Especially if we're out of humor at the time.
"Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley's attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she herself was becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend." When first observing Lizzie, Darcy scarcely allowed her to be pretty. On a second observance, however, he realizes (to his mortification) that she is pretty, easy-going, and playful.
Isn't that how it is with all of us? Upon a second viewing of the "unfamiliar" or "disagreeable" circumstance, we tend to slowly admit that there are some good things. This, of course, is hard, and sometimes mortifying. No one likes to admit to being wrong. ("Don't be hasty [in forming opinions]... bararoom.")
Elizabeth, meanwhile, has written Darcy off as a disagreeable snob.
When attending a party at Lucas Lodge, Darcy determines to find out more about Lizzie. As a step towards talking with her himself, he spies on her conversations, and Lizzie calls him out on it, before going to the piano to sing with Charlotte. This is the first time Darcy hears her musicality.
After that, the dancing starts up and Sir William Lucas tries to get Darcy and Lizzie to dance with each other. Darcy is "not unwilling to receive her hand" but Lizzie pulls away and refuses. He then tells Caroline Bingley about Lizzie's "fine eyes."

Something I totally missed the first two times I read the book - at that is left out of the movie adaptions I've seen - is that Darcy loves books. We learn that Darcy's library at Pemberley has been the work of many generations. He is "always buying books" because he "cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these." When they're talking about what an accomplished woman should look like, Mr. Darcy adds "well-read" to the list.

Miss Bingley teases Darcy about Lizzie's fine eyes, but he cannot join in on her censure. Also, when Mrs. Bennet, along with Kitty and Lydia, come to see Jane at Netherfield, thought they are quite rude to Darcy, he is not rude back.

Chapters 10 and 11 are two of my favorites... Darcy is writing one of his "generally long" letters slowly and Caroline says that anyone who writes long letters must write well. They begin discussing indirect boasts and Darcy comments:
"The power of doing anything with quickness is always much prized by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance."
Later in the evening, after Bingley dissuades Darcy and Lizzie from a debate, Darcy asks the women to play. Caroline rushes forward, but Darcy politely informs her that he would like to hear Elizabeth first. His eyes are often on her throughout the evening, and Lizzie can't comprehend why - she thinks she is an object of censure. Darcy even asks her dance! when the Bingley sisters start to play lively music, but Elizabeth, of course, refuses, though she wonders at his gallantry.
He thinks her bewitching, but thinks himself in no danger because of her low connections.
That's something everyone has felt before - trying to talk one's self out of something. "It's okay if I stay for desert, even though I'm on a diet. The diet will keep me from eating the triple fudge chocolate cake!"
The next day, Caroline and Darcy are walking in the shrubbery ("Ni! Ni!") and Caroline teases Darcy and tries to get him to say bad things about Lizzie. Whoops! They are quickly joined by Mrs. Hurst and Lizzie herself! I hope she didn't hear... Anyway, Caroline takes one of Darcy's arms and Mrs. Hurst the other - they see that there is only room for three on the pathway. "Mr. Darcy felt their rudeness and immediately said - 'This walk is not wide enough for our party. We had better go into the avenue.'" Lizzie refuses with a laugh, and runs off.

After this, she and Jane are able to go back home again, and Lizzie doesn't see Darcy again until, I believe, they are both at Rosings Park. Mr. Darcy makes his odious marriage proposal, which is quite rude. If he had proposed any other way, however, I don't think it would have made logical sense.
At the time, he was still getting over his pride (by the way, there's an interesting article out there somewhere about how the Bennets are actual gentry, while Darcy just has a lot of money and no title - or something like that. They're really on the same level of society as each other ["He is a gentleman, and I am a gentleman's daughter"], only Darcy has got lots of money, and the Bennet's don't). It was logical in his brain to say how disadvantageous the match was for him. He thought, because he was so rich, Lizzie would accept him on that. She, of course, had all sorts of prejudices towards him, and wouldn't accept a thing he said. She tells him how rude he sounds ("If you had behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner") and he goes off to rethink some things.
Of course, he gives her the letter explaining about Wickham, among other things... and then they drift apart again, until a few months later, when Lizzie visits Pemberley.

At Pemberley, she sees Mr. Darcy transformed. He has, no doubt, thought a lot about what she said to him. He's realized some of his faults, and he's working to correct them. Like I said earlier, this is not an easy thing to do! We all wish we were perfect, and try to put on the front of being perfect. When people admonish us, it hurts, we lash back. But a strong person will learn from the comments of others and become a better person because of it. Pride and Prejudice is an excellent literary example of this. That's why I love it - and all of Jane Austen - so much: THE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! OH, the character development is brilliant.
Thinking about the things Lizzie has said to him isn't the only factor changing Darcy's attitude. He's also in his own environment. He's at home, where's he comfortable. He was raised here, he knows every nook and cranny ("What's a cranny? Are my nooks dirtier than my crannies?"). Plus he's got his sister around, and his best friend. Of course he's going to be more relaxed. I'm more relaxed when I'm in a familiar place, with familiar people.

Then the drama with Lydia comes out... Elizabeth reveals all and is sure that when Darcy leaves her, it will be the last time they ever see each other. All hope for herself and for Jane and Bingley has left Lizzie and she goes home, distraught.
But Mr. Darcy doesn't leave in disgust. He's genuinely concerned for Elizabeth. And when he hears the particulars of Lydia's case, his mind whirs into motion. You can almost see the gears working. And then he's up and away and, as we learn later, to London, to seek out the escapees. He pays off Wickham and makes him marry Lydia.

And finally - finally! - after his aunt's disagreeable visit to the Bennet homestead, Elizabeth gives him reason to hope as he's never hoped before... And he comes, and it's awkward, and he leaves. And then he comes again and Lizzie is made to walk out with him. Kitty comes along but it soon deposited at the Lucas' to call on Maria. Lizzie and Darcy are alone together and he makes his second proposal. She accepts! Huzzah!
The next day, to give Jane and Bingley some time alone, Lizzie and Darcy are made to walk out again (Mrs. Bennet is very apologetic to Lizzie, but says that she entertained him so well the day before...) which suits them just fine. They talk about lots of things and when they come back for dinner, Mr. Darcy asks Mr. Bennet for Lizzie's hand in marriage.
Mr. Bennet makes sure that's what Lizzie really wants, and they are married!

So there you have it. As you can see, my original misconceptions about Darcy were totally wrong. He behaves like a gentleman throughout the entire book - and when he's not acting gentlemanly (ahem, a certain proposal and some comments towards a certain someone at the beginning of the book) he's certainly acting very human, and we shouldn't judge him for that. We all say things we don't mean, or that are taken out of context, and we all need to let go of our pride and our prejudices sometimes in order to judge things for what they really are.

For a book primarily about romance, there are a lot of deeper things going on once you get passed the surface. Not only thing to think about and apply to one's own life, but also things to apply to one's writing life. Looking at just Mr. Darcy's character gave me so much more insight into him, and the book! I think that could be a valuable tool for writers rewriting books. Reading through a rough draft focusing on only one character - writing down opinions, skills, inflection in the voice, and traits and characteristics both physical and personality-wise, could be so much more influential than writing down those things at the beginning of the book and trying desperately to stay within those perimeters (we all know how well that works). Instead of strictly staying with who you want the character to be, you can find out who the character really is.

There is my long post on Mr. Darcy! Maybe next I should re-read Sense and Sensibility, focusing only on Edward Ferris. I've never understood him or liked him much. Maybe a character study would help with that!

Live long and prosper.

1 comment:

  1. I love this story. My favorite thing about Darcy is (as you have discovered through your character study, which I highly enjoyed) that he is so extraordinarily the opposite of Lizzie's first opinion of him. For as much as she sees him as a "bad guy" he is twice the "good guy" in reality.

    He kind of reminds me a bit of Severus Snape in that regard. For every moment that Harry thinks Snape is evil, he is completely misjudging him. Darcy, of course, isn't in any way a tragic figure, so they are definitely different. But when it comes to the main character's opinion of both Darcy and Snape, there are a lot of similarities.

    I have yet to read Sense and Sensibility, but I love the movie version with Alan Rickman. Edward Ferris confuses me in that movie rather a lot... I think I have to read the book for more clarity on the subject. I may have to put it on my May "Nightstand Books" list!