Friday, February 01, 2008

The Allure of Mr. Darcy

Jane Austen's most popular hero has inspired the daydreams of single women for over a century. Young women even gather together in groups for "Girls' Night" to "marathon" the viewing of the BBC's Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. Six hours watching a British made-for-TV movie obviously means something by way of devotion. But just what is it about Mr. Darcy that makes women swoon, albeit figuratively? I'm going to hazard a few guesses.

First, Darcy is commendable in that he places happiness before status. He is willing to consider love of more import than logic. This romantic sensibility alone is enough to make a woman sigh.

As well, Darcy reveres Elizabeth Bennett for the things we like best about her - her wit, intelligence, candor, and grace. Most women would like to be thought of as having such virtues. In essence, we'd all like to
be Elizabeth Bennett, with her strength of character and critical nature (as opposed to her sister, Jane, who "likes everyone too easily" and is something of a pushover). Moreover, we'd like to be admired (by a Mr. Darcy) for those same qualities, and not in spite of them.

It is not only how Darcy views Elizabeth that draws our approval, however, but the way he treats her. He demonstrates great respect for her, defends her character to others, is completely honest with her about his feelings and does not play games with her, and makes personal sacrifices for her benefit and that of her family (without being asked).

Finally, Darcy exhibits character traits that modern stereotypes claim men lack. He is willing to admit when he is wrong, and to take steps to correct his errors. He seeks justice without seeking to claim recognition for himself at the same time. He is humble without being the slightest bit weak. He is kind to all, regardless of economy or social standing, and demonstrates compassion without sentimentality. This enmeshing of dignity and humility personified by Darcy is awe-inspiring.

Darcy is all things - loyal friend, caring brother, fierce protector, ardent lover. He is the Full Monty.

Men ought to be required to read
Pride and Prejudice, if only to receive an education in the virutes of the highly desirable man. A man wishing to be proactive in developing his character ought to seek out the novel of his own accord. Women who are unfamiliar with Pride and Prejudice (I hope there are very few of them) may do the same in order to receive some guidance about what their standards ought to be. At the very least, watch the movie. And if you can't handle six hours of the BBC, try the Keira Knightley version.

Good luck, guys.