Ah, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. So proud, so prejudiced. Also, he’s attractively rich. Portrayed on screen by a succession of handsome actors (most famously Laurence Olivier, Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen), Mr Darcy has become an iconic romantic hero. It’s difficult to pinpoint what his appeal is. If you ignore the films, TV and chick lit novels, focusing on the character in Jane Austen’s book (first published in 1813), he does not seem a particularly likeable character. The romantic tension comes from the conflict between him and Elizabeth Bennet. At first she really dislikes him because he won’t dance with her at a country ball: ‘she is tolerable, but not pretty enough to tempt me.’ He’s a snob, albeit under the influence of his aunt, the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and his best friend’s sister, Caroline Bingley.
During the course of the novel, various obstacles are in the way of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth, until they finally forgive each other and recognise their love. Elizabeth is lucky to marry for love and money. She’s won the lottery, as it were. All the power rests on Mr Darcy, however. He’s the one with the ancestral seat, the income of £10,000 a year, the connections, while Elizabeth has a small dowry and ‘fine eyes’. It’s a version of the classic fairytale trope of a Prince Charming sweeping a pretty but penniless girl off her feet and riding off into the sunset.
Mr Darcy is a more interesting character than his best mate, the jolly and simplistic Mr Bingley. There are mysteries going on inside Mr Darcy’s head. He’s an intellectual by comparison. That’s something he has in common with Elizabeth. They both have the same kind of brainpower, which makes them equals and explains why they have the potential to clash. The novel of course does not go beyond their marriage (although there have been various sequels by other authors) but you can imagine that the relationship would be happy – the couple actually being in love – although rocky because of their temperaments.
Are you a Darcy devotee? Or are you fed up of the Darcy domination?