If given the chance, I would be more than happy to take up residence in Pemberly.
For many readers of Jane Austen, Pemberly occupies many of our fantasy worlds. When I think of Pemberly, I see the large green lawn. I hear Jennifer Ehle gasp as she sees the majesty of this large estate, and Pemberly truly is as grand. But perhaps, we adore Pemberly because of its chief resident–Mr. Darcy. Who doesn’t swoon at the thought of Colin Firth diving into the murky waters of Pemberly? His white shirt dripping and miraculously still white after his swim cause many a heart to flutter with excitement. Even reading the original work, I loved Darcy more fervently. Darcy still inspires us to write sequels to the novel whether as a vampyre or zombie food or a simple retelling from the story from his perspective.
But why Darcy?
Didn’t Jane Austen write wonderfully handsome, romantic men besides Darcy? Why not Colonel Brandon? What not Mr. Knightley? Each of her novels, we meet another man who conjures up romantic felicities, but none of them capture us quite like Darcy. While I adore Colin Firth as Darcy, I really don’t think he is the only reason we adore Mr. Darcy. There must be something deeper, more enduring than just a handsome man emerging from a lake drenched.
As lovers of all thing Austen, we have become obsessed with what I like to call The Darcy Effect. We elevate Darcy to mythical status, but this isn’t due entirely to his inherent worthiness as a gentleman. Part of the Darcy effect involves us forgetting some sour points of Darcy’s character. We have to admit that most of the novel Darcy was a pompous prick. He calls Elizabeth only tolerable, makes snide remarks about the country folk, and reserves his manners for people that he deems worthy. In short, he is a total ass.
In order for Darcy to become our favorite Austen man, he had to encounter a strong woman who would expose his flaws and move him toward self-improvement.
Another part of The Darcy Effect is how Darcy evolves throughout the novel. The impetus for his change is Elizabeth. I would argue that we would put Darcy in the category of Wickham or Willoughby if not for the redemptive acts of Elizabeth. She forces him to see his faults, his pride. We see Darcy morph after his rejection, and he chooses to allow his love for Elizabeth to change him. This change makes him into the Darcy we adore. His manners soften, and his pride vanishes. But he never would have changed if Elizabeth had not rejected him, called him out for his arrogance, and disgraced him both publicly and privately.
What do you think? Why do we love Darcy so much?
Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and David Robert Wright