Since this week happens to be Hero Week, it seems a perfect time to write my post in defense of *drumroll please*...
...Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Hero of Pride and Prejudice, owner of that gorgeous estate known as Pemberley, brother to Georgiana, nephew to Lady Catherine, enemy to George Wickham (boooo), husband to Elizabeth Bennet, Prince-Charming-alternate to many, yawn-inducer to others.
"Something I've noticed about [Mr. Darcy]," my dear friend Melody said recently, "is that you either 'get it' or you don't." There are, in my humble opinion, three kinds of people where Mr. Darcy is concerned. There are the staunch Mr. Darcy fans (of which I am one-- but not of the most rabid sort), there are those who honestly don't care about Jane Austen (they don't know what they're missing) and finally there is the apathetic, eh-Mr.-Darcy's-kinda-boring-but-I-don't-hate-him crowd. (And if you're a member of the crowd that only likes Pride and Prejudice because of Colin Firth in a wet shirt, please take your business elsewhere. Not to be rude, but... um... that's not what this is about.) I congratulate the first group on their excellent taste, pity the second group and am aiming this post right at the third group. Listen up, Third Group.
In the course of my extensive blog reading (I have to improve my mind, you know), I have come across several major misconceptions concerning one Fitzwilliam Darcy, and with your kind permission (or without it) I will now refute each one to the best of my ability in my best higgledy-piggledy fashion (i.e., with neither rhyme nor reason, and in no real order whatsoever).
First of all, Mr. Darcy is not some idle rich guy who does nothing but sit around in his fancy house and go swimming in his fancy lake and give orders to the servants and go to balls to glare at people. He's one of the most responsible gentleman to be found in literature. He's not the type to twiddle his thumbs and let everyone else do what needs to be done, nor is he afraid to do unpleasant business. He obeys his father's posthumous instructions pertaining to Mr. Wickham, even though he can't stand the sight of Not-Gorgeous George. And when Wickham the Wicked tries to elope with his little sister Georgiana, he steps in and takes things in hand... and then does the same thing all over again for Elizabeth's wayward sister Lydia, putting his own reputation on the line for the sake of the woman he loves.
Second, Mr. Darcy is not incapable of smiling. Now, I am as much of a fan of the A&E Pride and Prejudice miniseries as anyone (P&P95Forever!) but though that adaptation was practically perfect in every way, Colin Firth's portrayal of Mr. Darcy was lacking in just one teeny respect: his smile. In the book, Mr. Darcy smiles. Repeatedly. See chapter eleven:
"And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody," [said Elizabeth.]Colin Firth doesn't smile until the end-- that's the movie's fault. The book has no such defect.
"And yours," he replied, with a smile, "is wilfully to misunderstand them."
That reminds me of another misconception. It seems to me that there is a wild idea flying around the blogosphere, something about a fellow by the name of Matthew Macfadyen? Has anybody heard of this? He's an extremely talented actor and did a fabulous portrayal of Arthur Clennam in Little Dorrit, but he is not Mr. Darcy. If you want to see an accurate representation of the character Jane Austen created (not the character created by Focus Features), bearing in mind that no actor can do a perfectly perfect job of interpreting such an iconic character, then by all means watch P&P 1995. I'm no drooling Colin Firth fan, but I do think he does a fantastic job.
Moving on to the all-important sense of humor. Sadly, Mr. Darcy does not possess as much of this quality as some other Jane Austen heroes (think Henry Tilney or Mr. Knightley) but he does have a sense of humor. Really. You just have to look for it. He's not, perhaps, as hilarious as Mr. Tilney, but he has a dry wit that jumps off the page at you at the most unexpected moments. "A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment." (True? True.) Mr. Darcy also knows how to put Miss Bingley in her place (with all of us cheering him on, naturally. Boo to Caroline Binglebop.) "Yes, but that was only when I first knew her, for it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance." And really, nothing can match the amazing-ness of his "WHAT?!" in P&P95. 'Nuff said.
I also really love Darcy's interaction with his sister Georgiana. Their relationship inspired two principal characters in the novel I'm writing right now, but of course that's not the only reason I like them. It's evident that Georgiana adores her big brother-- and she has good reason. He may be cold and unfriendly to people he has never met before (after all, he has not that talent of conversing easily with strangers) but with his sister, he's gentle, caring, affectionate and generous.
I abhor awkward moments in real life, but I get a fiendish delight out of awkward moments in books or movies (the poor characters in my novel... how they do suffer...). I'm not always a fan of superfluous movie scenes (generally being the first one to squawk, "THAT WASN'T IN THE BOOK!") but I have to applaud Andrew Davies for his wonderful addition to Elizabeth's Pemberley visit, commonly known as The Famous Lake Scene. I'm not talking about the swimming sequence here--don't quite understand all the hype about that--but instead I'm referring to Darcy and Elizabeth's unexpected meeting after Darcy's impromptu bath. (My comments are italicized, in brackets.)
"Miss Bennet! Uh..." [My brother loves to quote those lines]
"I did not expect to see you, sir. We understood all the family were from home, or we should never have presumed..."
"Er, I returned a day early. Excuse me; your parents are in good health?"
"Er, yes. They are very well. I thank you, sir."
"I'm, um, glad to hear it... how long have you been in this part of the country?"
"But two days, sir."
"And where are you staying?"
"At the inn at Lambton."
"Ohyesocourse. [This is spoken as one word, haha.] Um, well, I've just arrived myself. [You said that before...] Um... and your parents are in good health? And... and ALL your sisters?" [You said THAT before too...]
This is the part of the movie where you really begin to like Mr. Darcy, I think. You can't help liking someone you feel sorry for, and I definitely feel sorry for him in that scene. (I feel sorry for Lizzy, too, but I liked her from the beginning.)
Lest you begin to think that this guy is some angelic being who never does anything wrong, let me enlighten you. Mr. Darcy is proud. (See title of novel.) He's arrogant. He's prejudiced (see title again) against people he believes are beneath him. He's also socially awkward and often misunderstood, but let's not make him out to be some poor pitiful version of Bashful. Mr. Darcy has issues. He's not perfect. But in all honesty, who wants a perfect hero? Not this far-from-perfect girl, that's for sure.
What I really love about Mr. Darcy is his character transformation. The theme song from Beauty and the Beast comes to mind when I think of his relationship with Elizabeth. "Bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong..." Mr. Darcy may have begun as a selfish being who rudely snubbed young women without dancing partners (she is tolerable, I suppose...) but he changes drastically... and we get to know him a little better.
Now, for all those of you who say that Darcy's first proposal was unromantic-- well, I agree with you. "In vain I have struggled, it will not do, my feelings will not be repressed, you must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you" sounds quite nice, but not when it's followed up by, "In declaring myself thus, I am fully aware that I will be going expressly against the wishes of my family, my friends, and, I hardly need add, my own better judgment." Um, yes. That's the way to any girl's heart: tell her that you know you're making a mistake by proposing to her. Indubitably.
But for all those of you who say that the second proposal was also unromantic... well, there I have to disagree. Strongly. "Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! … You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased."
Perhaps I've convinced you by now, perhaps I haven't. In the end, it really doesn't matter to me, because writing this post has served its purpose for me-- reminding me all over again how much I like and admire Mr. Darcy, and that Pride and Prejudice is the best book ever.
Oh, and also? His name is not Fitzwilliam. Okay, the book might say his name is Fitzwilliam, but we do not call him that. Nor do we call him Fitzy or Will. The name is Darcy, gals. With or without the Mr., whatever floats your boat, but not Fitzwilliam. Actually, now that I think about it, I have a better idea-- who's in favor of changing his name to Cordelius? It's so much more romantical, you know.