Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mr. Darcy: Literature's Most Swoon-Worthy Jerk

Like any good book nerd with a beating heart, I’ve had a long-standing relationship with Fitzwilliam Darcy. I’ve daydreamed about redecorating Pemberley, justified his awkward proposal and swooned over his on-screen portrayals again and again. (If your mind immediately went to Colin Firth in the lake, congratulations! Your Thursday just got a little better.) Sure, I know he’s not quite perfect, but the minute someone else points out his flaws, I immediately become defensive. Okay, he’s a snob, but he’s got reasons! No, he’s not exactly rude, he’s just uncomfortable in social situations! Fortunately, since most people I know love the man as much as I do, these arguments are few and far between, but with this week’s 200th birthday of Pride and Prejudice, I have to stop and wonder: Has Darcy given us a lifelong affection for jerks?

Let’s think about the Netherfield Ball for a minute. We all love that moment, right? He comes in with his adorbs friend Bingley and Bingley’s snotty sisters. He’s tall, gorgeous and doesn’t talk to anyone but his own party. He dances only with Caroline and Mrs. Hurst and ignores everyone else. And then—rudest of all rude—he not only brushes off but outright insults our girl Elizabeth. (In his defense, he didn’t know she could hear…but there I am covering for him again.) In any given situation, a real-life encounter with someone like this should lead us to think, “What a jerk”…but would we? Or would we be intrigued and find him completely mysterious and want to dig to the bottom of his haughty heart to find out what kind of incredible soul he must be concealing? I'm going to guess the latter, and why wouldn’t we feel that way? Jane Austen tells us it can be true, and Jane Austen would never lie.

Because of that moment, because of our first encounter with Mr. Darcy, we want to believe that all rude guys can have a heart like his. Maybe they’re all harboring some inner pain. Maybe they all have little sisters at home that they’re just trying to protect against cads like Wickham. Maybe they’re just bored by the world around them and are waiting for feisty, well-read heroines with muddied petticoats to break through the door and wake them up. Underneath, maybe they’re just waiting to quietly save our Lydias and protect our family names because they would do anything in the world to spare us from pain. Maybe they’re just waiting to confess how ardently they love us.

 Or, you know, they could just be jerks.

The truth of it is, the Darcy I love—the Darcy we all love—would probably not be quite so perfect after the honeymoon was over. I mean, aside from the fact that no one wears fluffy blouses and shiny boots anymore, can you imagine what he’d be like if you had the girls over for a Sex and the City marathon? And you know he’d never want to hang out and play Scrabble with your family, and you’d get into spats about how his family is no walk in the park either. (Hello, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.) He’d never understand why you have the entire series of The Simple Life on DVD or agree to see the latest Josh Duhamel movie with you, and I don’t want to assume here, but I’m going to guess he wouldn’t be too thrilled if you left shoes and purses all over the bedroom floor.

The good news for us is that Darcy isn’t real. He can stay every bit as wonderful as we’ve always known him to be, because he remains at a good distance, right on the page. We can safely pine away despite his rude rebuffs; after all, his fickle tendencies are Elizabeth’s problem, not ours.

So join me in wishing the dashing Darcy a very happy 200thbirthday, and if you have a favorite Darcy moment, discuss below!

And if you just need a general pick me up: You’re welcome.



  1. Sigh! You are just too talented for words!!!! And sigh again because -- well, I LOVE DARCY, too! And this goes along with my "type" - jerks!!! :) I love this blog! I've missed it terribly!!!!!! It certainly did brighten up my Thursday!

  2. Everything you say is true. Now Mark Darcy on the other hand...yum.