As Mr. Darcy approaches Elizabeth’s hand for a dance, it’s not just her heart that bounces off in astonishment, the hearts of the women around the world also starts dancing in joy! It was one of the favorite scenes in the BBC television version of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Delighted by the series, I also read the book it is based on. It was my very first encounter with Jane Austen and her majestic world of honor and love.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is one of English fiction’s top romantic heroes. If we say so, it’s Austen’s best evaluated and realized male character as he displays all the worst and the best qualities of gentlemen of the upper class.
In Pride and Prejudice, even the arrogant and manly Mr. Darcy who initially disliked Elizabeth, allows himself to learn her character. The reason why they both are deeply in love with each other is that each character lets the other improve and learn. Jane Austen’s books are centered around strong female characters that go from satirical to romance entertainingly depicting love and enchantment, but Mr. Darcy is an exception.
The reason why Pride and Prejudice tells a story rather different than Austen’s other work is that the book not just explores the strong female characters, it’s the only work by Austen that focuses more on the male character. For instance, when Mr. Darcy accepts Elizabeth’s refusal politely and naturally helps Elizabeth learn of her love for him.
“You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.”
In the time when Pride and Prejudice are set, being a gentleman has a special meaning.
Mr. Darcy arrives in Meryton with Mr. Bingley who has rented the Netherfield. The duo happens to attend the local public ball and it is where our leads are introduced to one another. In the late 18th century, the opinions of ladies are matched if the man reached their expectations of being a gentleman. While Mr. Bingley’s communal opinion was more divine as he was polite, social, and attentive, Mr. Darcy’s pride and reserved behavior gets a thumb down. Darcy who comes from a gentlemen’s class is remarked rude and highly reserved despite his thousands of pounds each year. It seems that manners were important to females in the late 18th century.
The first impression of Darcy was quite well with everyone speaking about his good fortune and masculinity, but by the end of the night, their opinions change. It is believed that a man’s masculinity was more judged by his manner and the way he presents himself, that was the reason why Mr. Collins and even Mr. Wickam seemed more attractive to ladies than Mr. Darcy. Though he was handsome, rich, masculine, and careful, his reserved and upright rude behavior changed people’s perspective of him.
Austen’s work usually holds opinionated strong female characters who have their own point of view. As the female character is more explored and developed throughout the novel, very less development could be seen in male characters. However, Mr. Darcy is an exception as the book still focuses on female progress, Austen takes parallel progress where the male lead develops his emotional verdict throughout the time. As Mr. Darcy struggles to accept his feelings for Elizabeth to either forget her or secure her, his character analysis could be termed as continually developing throughout the novel.
The readers see Mr. Darcy through the eyes of Elizabeth, for whom he is a snob at first because he refuses to dance with a lady, he seems not attractive enough to tempt him. But throughout the novel, the readers can see the change in him as his honesty and his willingness to think independently eventually alters his personality. Though he remains reserved till the end of the novel, he becomes more outspoken about his feelings and emotions. He is regarded as one of the best male characters by Austen to his ability to develop constantly and change his mind and opinions as he experiences love for the very first time. He ain’t static like most of the male characters by her.
But as we dwell more into the novel, we realize that Darcy’s arrogance comes from his teachings as his parents were proud of being at the top of their gentry class. They were fortunate, wealthy, and socially respected. And it is his upbringing that makes his though so narrow-minded and insecure. However, his feelings for Elizabeth and her firm refusal of his proposal change him in more than just one way. It was the very first time that Darcy reflected on his behavior towards others and admits that he ain’t anything his parents taught him to be.
By the end of the novel, we could see a great transformation in Darcy as he exhibits his positive qualities in a more general way and agrees to marry into a family that he believed to be at the lowest of the gentry class- all because of love. Not just this, he also does right to what he has done wrong and goes beyond his boundaries to express his love for Elizabeth in all the way a gentleman should. That is the reason why Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice becomes the most masculine, praised, and attractive male of the time.