Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet by C. E. Brock (1895)
She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.
|Full name||Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy|
|Primary residence||Pemberley, near Lambton, Derbyshire|
|Romantic interest(s)||Elizabeth Bennet|
|Parents||Mr. Darcy and Lady Anne Darcy (née Fitzwilliam)|
Fitzwilliam Darcy, generally referred to as Mr. Darcy, is one of the two central characters in Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. He is an archetype of the aloof romantic hero, and a romantic interest of Elizabeth Bennet, the novel's protagonist. The story's narration is almost exclusively from Elizabeth's perspective; we get a one sided view of Darcy for much of the novel, but hints are given throughout that there is much more to his good character than meets the eye. The reader gets a healthy dose of dramatic irony as Elizabeth continually censures (with some prejudice) Mr. Darcy's character despite the aforementioned hints (via the narrative voice and other characters' observations) that Mr. Darcy is really a noble character at heart, albeit somewhat prideful. Usually referred to only as "Mr. Darcy" or "Darcy" by characters and the narrator, his first name is mentioned twice in the novel.
In the novel, Mr. Darcy is a wealthy gentleman with an income exceeding £10,000 a year, and the proprietor of Pemberley, a large estate in Derbyshire, England. Darcy first meets Elizabeth Bennet at a ball, where he slights her by refusing to dance with her, and by making rather demeaning remarks about her while she is within earshot. Gradually he becomes attracted to her and later attempts to court her while simultaneously struggling against his continued feelings of superiority. Ironically, Darcy disapproves when his friend Bingley develops a serious attachment to Elizabeth's elder sister Jane, and subtly persuades Bingley that Jane does not return his feelings (which Darcy honestly believes). He later explains this seeming hypocrisy by asserting "I was kinder to [Mr. Bingley] than to myself". Although he doesn't realize it, Elizabeth's discovery of Darcy's interference in Bingley and Jane's budding relationship, and Mr. Wickham's tale of how Darcy mistreated him, has caused her to dislike him intensely.
Eventually, Mr. Darcy declares his love for Elizabeth and offers her a proposal of marriage. He reminds her of the large gap in their social status. Elizabeth is offended and vehemently refuses him, expressing her reasons for disliking him, including her knowledge of his interference with Jane and Bingley and the account she received from Mr. Wickham of Darcy's alleged unfair treatment toward him. Insulted by Darcy's arrogant retorts, Elizabeth claims that the way by which he proposed to her prevented her from feeling concerns for him she "might have felt had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner". Darcy departs in anger and mortification and that night writes a letter to Elizabeth in which he defends his wounded honour, reveals the motives for his interference in Jane and Bingley's relationship, and gives a full account of his lifelong dealings with Wickham, who had attempted to seduce and elope with Darcy's younger sister, Georgiana, the previous summer.
Although initially angered by Elizabeth's vehement refusal and harsh criticism, Darcy is shocked to discover the reality of how his behaviour is perceived by others, particularly Elizabeth, and commits himself to re-evaluate his actions. A few months later, Darcy unexpectedly encounters Elizabeth when she is visiting his estate in Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. Elizabeth is first embarrassed to be discovered at Pemberley, having only visited on the belief that Darcy was absent; however, she is surprised to discover a marked change in Darcy's manner. Having responded to Elizabeth's criticism, Darcy is now determined to display the "gentlemanlike manner" she accused him of lacking and astonishes her with his kindness towards both her and her relations.
On discovering that Elizabeth's youngest sister Lydia, has fallen prey to and run off with Mr. Wickham, Darcy tracks them down and induces Wickham to marry Lydia, thus saving both Lydia and her family from social disgrace. Darcy's intervention was done not to win Elizabeth—he attempted to keep her from knowing of his involvement—but rather to ease her distress (the narrator hints through Mr. Bennet that Darcy's intervention to help Elizabeth may have cost him as much as a year's income: "Wickham's a fool if he takes [Lydia] with a farthing less than ten thousand pounds"). Darcy also felt partially responsible for failing to warn Elizabeth's family and the public of Wickham's true character.
Darcy then releases Mr. Bingley to return to Longbourn and woo Jane, accepting his misjudgement of her character. Accompanying his friend to Longbourn, Darcy proposes to Elizabeth again, who accepts his proposal.
Depictions in film and television
|1949||John Baragrey||Fitzwilliam Darcy||The Philco Television Playhouse||Season 1, Episode 17 - "Pride and Prejudice"|
|1952||Peter Cushing||Fitzwilliam Darcy||Pride and Prejudice|
|1958||Alan Badel||Fitzwilliam Darcy||Pride and Prejudice|
|Patrick Macnee||Mr. Darcy||General Motors Theatre||Episode - "Pride and Prejudice" (Originally aired on December 21).|
|1967||Lewis Fiander||Fitzwilliam Darcy||Pride and Prejudice|
|1980||David Rintoul||Fitzwilliam Darcy||Pride and Prejudice|
|1995||Colin Firth||Fitzwilliam Darcy||Pride and Prejudice||The adaptation and Colin Firth's portrayal of Fitzwilliam Darcy inspired Helen Fielding to write Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Colin Firth portrayed the character of Mark Darcy in all three film adaptations of Fielding's novels.|
|2008||Elliot Cowan||Fitzwilliam Darcy||Lost in Austen||A fantasy adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in which a modern woman trades places with Elizabeth Bennet.|
|2012-2013||Daniel Vincent Gordh||William Darcy||The Lizzie Bennet Diaries||A modern adaptation where the main character Lizzie tells the story of Pride and Prejudice through video blog format.|
|2013||Matthew Rhys||Fitzwilliam Darcy||Death Comes to Pemberley||A continuation based on P.D. James' book with the same name.|
|2013||Dallas Sauer||Mr. Darcy||Once Upon a Time in Wonderland|
Mr. Darcy is a proud and arrogant man, particularly to those that he considers of less social status. He apparently thinks he is better than the lower classes in both rank and connections so he does not wish to interact with them; we see evidence of this in Meryton - at all of the parties, he seemed to distance himself from the rest of the crowd because he does not think them as worthy acquaintances. At the dance, he does not wish to dance with any girl because they were all beneath him in class and beauty. He is honourable, friendly, and caring to those that are the same class as him. For example, his behaviour with Bingley is more than brotherly as he rescues him from a bad marriage and is constant companion at his side. Through Elizabeth, he learns to be less boastful and arrogant because he realizes that his actions have deeply affected others. This arrogance is seen in his first proposal to Elizabeth whereby he acts with more pride rather than in a loving manner.
Vivien Jones notes that Darcy's handsome appearance, wealth and original arrogance signify to the reader that he is the hero of a romance novel. Wickham's irresponsible elopement with Lydia allows Darcy to demonstrate that he now feels responsible for Wickham's continued bad behaviour by his silence - if he had made Wickham's bad character known, Lydia would have been safe. Darcy chooses to involve himself in arranging Lydia's marriage, despite the risk to his own reputation. Elizabeth dismisses at first as "intricate", through she adds that "intricate" men are at least "amusing".
The 18th century had been a time of "Cult of Courtesy", a time that prized delicacy, refinement and exaggerated politeness above all, leading in the words of the British writer Adam Nicolson that "...wide swathes of English 18th century life become fragile and dainty, in a way that no age in England, before or since, has managed...In some ways, natural human dignity had been sacrificed on the altar of a kind of rococo politeness....Acceptable behavior had become toy-like and it was not long before the anti-heroic fashion for a delicate sensibility ran out of control. Manliness, or even the ability to survive had in fact almost entirely deserted those [who] were suffering from the cult of sensibility". In the 18th century idea, a man was expected above all to be pleasant and pleasing, and so it was better for a man to lie rather say anything which might offend. By the early 19th century, a tougher, more brooding version of masculinity was starting to come into the vogue and the character of Mr. Darcy exemplified the trend. Nicolson described the differences between Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy as follows: "Mr. Bingley is a[n] 18th century man: handsome, young, agreeable, delightful, fond of dancing, gentlemanlike, pleasant, easy, unaffected and not entirely in control of his own destiny. Darcy is fine, tall, handsome, noble, proud, forbidding, disagreeable and subject to no control but his own...Darcy is a 19th century man, manliness itself, uncompromising, dark and sexy. And it is Darcy, of course, whom the novel ends up loving". The character of Mr. Darcy very much reflected the changing standards of English masculinity as unlike the heroes of the 18th century with their excessive politeness and unwillingness to offend, Mr. Darcy says whatever he likes, which showed his authenticity and honesty, which were the most important attributes for a man in the new Romantic age. Even after Mr. Darcy apologizes to Miss Bennet for his brusque rudeness, his honesty meant that change of heart was sincere, and not the polished words of a follower of the cult of sensibility. More broadly, the character of Mr. Darcy showed the emergence of a new type of rawer masculinity that could not tolerate the foppish, superficial values of the previous century. Nicolson called Darcy "the template on which the severe and unbending model of Victorian manliness is founded". Nicolson concluded that: "The implication of the novel is that there is something better than politeness and that the merely civil is inadequate...Darcy is 'silent, grave and indifferent', words in this new moral universe which signal pure approval". Nicolson further argued that a character like Mr. Darcy reflected changes in British life as the Romantic age was a time when "What mattered was authentic, self-generated worth". In this regard, the novel says "Of this she was perfectly unaware;-to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable no where, and who had not thought her handsome enought to dance with".
The British cultural critic Robert Irvine described the appeal of Mr. Darcy to women as that of an "absolute and unconditioned male need for a woman". Irvine argued that this was a female "fantasy" that was only possible in a context of general powerlessness on the part of women. At the time of the French Revolution where elites all over Europe felt threatened, there was a tendency in British literature to glorify the aristocratic and gentry classes as the personification of British values and in contrast to the French who guillotined their old elite to create the grasping, vulgar new elite of Napoleonic France, for the British middle class or "middling sort" as Austen called them to emulate the landed elite, which however retained its social superiority. The character of Mr. Darcy reflected this trend. When Mr. Bingley suggests that he might like to one day build an estate like Pemberley, he is informed by Mr. Darcy that it is not the estate itself, but rather what it contains, its cultural heritage like the family library that makes Pemberley special as Mr. Bingley cannot be the heir to a family library built up over generations like the one Mr. Darcy is the heir to. In this way, Austen suggests that there is more to Mr. Darcy than the proud and sneering man at the Meryton assembly, that there is a deepness to him as people like him are custodians of the national culture. Irvine argued that for someone like Darcy who lives about half of the year in London, which is a glittering and far-away place for people of Meryton, this proves his social superiority as his "London manners" are described variously in the novel as "fashionable" and "elegant". Irving argued that the union of Bennet and Darcy at the end of the novel was meant by Austen as a symbol of the union of the national and regional elites in England, forging together a united nation. One scholar Rachel Brownstein noted of all the Austen romances that of Darcy and Elizabeth is the only one where the couple began as complete strangers at the beginning of the book, making Pride and Prejudice the most romantic of the Austen novels.
Irvine argued that Bennet for Darcy not despite their differences in income level, but because of the class divide as Bennet contemplates the glories of Pemberley. Against the interpretation that Pride and Prejudice is primarily a novel about class, the American scholar Susan Morgan argued the novel is about character, stating Mr. Wickham may not be as wealthy as Darcy, but his commission in the militia would have made an eminently respectable man to marry in Regency England. Morgan wrote through Darcy is rich, he does not represent "society" and Bennet "individualism" as some would have it, as Darcy is reserved, vain, and quasi-isolated from society. Morgan argued that Austen's message in Pride and Prejudice is that one should marry for love rather than money as Wickham disqualifies himself as a potential groom owing to his bad character, not his income. Morgan observed that for most of the novel Darcy loves Bennet in spite of himself while she loathes him and when she does come to return his feelings, Austen writes it was because of "a motive within her of good will which could not be overlooked. It was gratitude-Gratitude, not merely for having loved her once, but for loving her still well enough, to forgive all the petulance and acrimony of her manner in rejecting him, and all the unjust accusations accompanying her rejection". Morgan argued that the growth of Bennet's feelings for Darcy are sign of her intellectual growth, as she comes to understand that freedom means the freedom to appreciate and understand the value of love. In this sense, Darcy by seeking to improve himself, by ignoring repeated slights and insults, and by paying off Wickham's debts to rescue Lydia from her ill-conceived marriage just to impress her, proves himself worthy of Bennet's love. Morgan wrote that the gratitude that Austen meant for Bennet feels for Darcy "...is a gratitude that, despite all the obstacles which realism can provide, despite time, conventions, and misunderstanding, despite her wrongs and his own limitations, Mr. Darcy can see Elizabeth honestly and can love her as well." One critic, Wilbur Cross, wrote at first Darcy displays outrageous arrogance to Elizabeth, but the novel ends with an "almost pitiable humiliation of Darcy", which was a testament to the power of women to tame men.
Cultural influence and legacy
The character of Fitzwilliam Darcy has appeared in and inspired numerous works. Both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet feature as part of science fiction author Philip Jose Farmer's fictional 'Wold Newton family', which links numerous literary characters (such as Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes) via an interconnected family tree of people and events. According to Farmer's works, both were exposed to radiation from a meteorite that struck Wold Newton in Yorkshire in the 1790s (a documented event). This allowed them to be the ancestors of many other famous literary characters, some of whom possessed unusual or even superhuman gifts and abilities. Numerous re-imaginings of the original work written from the perspective of Mr. Darcy have also been published, among them American writer Pamela Aidan's Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, and English author Janet Aylmer's successful novel Darcy's Story published in the UK (ISBN 9780952821021) and later in the United States (ISBN 9780061148705).
Helen Fielding has admitted she "pillaged her plot" for Bridget Jones's Diary from Pride and Prejudice. In Bridget Jones's Diary and its sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Bridget Jones is constantly mentioning the 1995 BBC adaptation and repeatedly watches the scene in the fourth episode where Darcy (Colin Firth) emerges from a pond wearing a wet white shirt, and refers to the Darcy and Elizabeth of the TV series as "my chosen representatives in the field of shagging, or, rather, courtship". When in The Edge of Reason Bridget becomes a journalist, she is flown to Italy where she is to interview Firth about his (then upcoming) film Fever Pitch, but finds herself only asking him questions about Mr. Darcy and the filming of the "pond scene". This scene was shot but not included in the film adaptation of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. This scene can be seen in the DVD's extra features. Colin Firth's "pond scene" made it into Channel 4's Top 100 TV Moments. Colin Firth has found it hard to shake off the Darcy image, and he thought that playing Bridget Jones’s Mark Darcy, a character inspired by the other Darcy, would both ridicule and liberate him once and for all from the iconic character.
Darcy's status as a romantic hero transcends literature. In 2010 a protein sex pheromone in male mouse urine, that is sexually attractive to female mice, was named Darcin in honour of the character.
On 9 July 2013, a 12-foot (3.7 m) fibreglass statue of the figure of Mr. Darcy emerging from the water was installed in the Serpentine Lake of London's Hyde Park for a promotion of British television's UKTV channel. Modelled on actor Colin Firth who played the role in the 1995 BBC miniseries, the statue will make the rounds of several English lakes before its final installation in Lyme Park, a location where the programme was partly filmed and already a pilgrimage site for Pride and Prejudice fans.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pride and Prejudice.|
- Pride and Prejudice. Chapters 25 and 35.
- Pride and Prejudice. Chapter 59.
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