For some time now I have been under the same romanticized illusion that many a lonely literary lass has been under: the illusion that life would be bliss if I only had a Mr. Darcy of my own.
I am sure that even since its birth 200 years ago, Miss Austen’s acclaimed novel Pride & Prejudice has been fueling the fantasies of desperate young ladies. I think this longing is sharper for contemporary audiences because, as the years go by, the Mr. Darcy character becomes less and less like any real man in our society.
But let’s get real. Mr. Darcy is not all we crack him up to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore Pride & Prejudice and worship Darzibeth to no end. You don’t need to have read the book to get it—the 2008 movie gets the feels across pretty darn well (I’ve never seen the 6 hour BBC miniseries because ain’t nobody got time for that).
Ever since I saw the movie in middle school, I envisioned myself having a handsome young suitor confess his love to me in the rain. Ever since actually reading the book in high school, I swoon at the very mention of Mr. Darcy’s name. I’ve read it three times. And now—just now—have I had a realization, a catharsis of life-altering proportions.
Mr. Darcy is not that different from the guys we encounter in our everyday lives: he’s just another douchebag.
The reason an angelic glow surrounds Darcy’s name in the bookish female lexicon is because we are blinded by the happy ending in the novel. It is easy to laugh off the silly things people do in the past when the present is giddy and the future is bright.
But the fact is, many of us have dealt with guys who behaved similarly to Darcy – we just didn’t have the same happy ending Elizabeth Bennet got. Mr. Darcy had to knowingly undergo some characteristic changes to earn her love.
Let’s do some bullet points. The first thing Darcy does is make a snide remark about Eliza not being good enough to dance with. This is rather straightforward: sometimes dudes are shallow. (I’m not saying some girls aren’t too). Sometimes you try to flirt with a guy and you get nothing, and soon after you see him chatting up some other chick that is more [insert insecurity] than you, and you have one of those exasperated “Really?” moments. Rather than get weepy about it, Elizabeth just decides to have a “well, eff you man, your loss” attitude about it.
The second thing Darcy does is get awkward and quiet around Elizabeth. In a culture that has fully recognized the rampant presence of awkwardness—heightened by the matter of impersonal media inhibiting our social skills, but that’s a whole different topic—we can all relate to having to deal with an exceptionally awkward person. You have probably been in a social setting where you see a cute guy—usually tall, kind of brooding—try to strike up a conversation, but he is weird and quiet, so you give up. Then someone says to you, “He’s a great guy once you get to know him—he’s just shy.” Is he though? I think to myself. Is he not actually just stuck up? Or is he not just painfully awkward all of the time? Why is silence so flattering on Mr. Darcy?
Thirdly: the surprise confession of love. This one may be a little rarer in real life, but I assure you it happens. My personal version is a friend, almost like a brother to me, whom I knew had had a crush on me since middle school, but chose Valentine’s Day of our senior year of high school to send me three multi-paragraph long text messages declaring his lasting affections for me. I had to shut him down, as did Elizabeth to Darcy.
Even some of the most desperate females out there have had to deal with a he-likes-me-but-I-don’t-like-him situation. The out-of-the-blue confession is a real kicker, and I’ve seen them happen to other girls. Just as my friend had shown no evidence of pursuing me romantically since he sent me a secret admirer candy gram in eighth grade, Darcy had barely had so much as a complete conversation with Elizabeth when he ardently dropped the love-bomb.
So now we understand that Darcy has been developing a crush of Eliza for quite some time now, but he never showed any indications of this. This kind of stuff happens plenty. Young fellas have a habit of being too shy or awkward or scared of rejection to go through the typical routes of flirtation, but because they keep building up the crush they count on the “grand gesture” of a sudden confession to win over the object of their affection. (Never mind a complete lack of chemistry or compatibility, all girls really care about are romantic gestures, right?)
They do not seem to have a firm grasp of what outcome they expect from this confession, but are cranky nonetheless when the gal turns them down.
So essentially, Mr. Darcy is just a dude who made a shallow comment about a girl, was super quiet and awkward around a girl, and then randomly declared affection out of nowhere for her and was put-out when she did not react positively based on their previous un-romantic interactions. When his actions are broken down like so, Mr. Darcy does the same kinds of weird things many young—nay, immature—guys today do all the time.
To be clear, I still love Pride & Prejudice and will probably reread it a fourth time in the near future after watching Keira Knightley get her happily ever after. But ladies, if you are so bent on “finding a Mr. Darcy,” I assure you, he will not be hard to find. I’m just not sure I would advise it.