Last updated on August 25th, 2020 at 09:12 am
Ask any girl who has just set down the book of Pride and Prejudice what she thinks about Darcy and most of them will reply that they have been swept off their feet by this wonderful creation of Austen. He is the good-looking, wealthy and intelligent hero of the novel and one of the most intricate characters penned by his author.
Pride and Prejudice in Darcy:
Pride certainly is the pre-dominant characteristic of Mr. Darcy. On his very first appearance he makes himself highly unpopular, for he is discovered to be excruciatingly arrogant and above being pleased. In Chapter 3 he refuses to dance with Elizabeth and comments: “She is tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me”. Another instance of his pride comes to the fore when he tells Elizabeth: “My good opinion once lost is lost forever”.
His pride that stems of out of his superiority of intellect, his noble ancestry and enormous wealth prejudices him strongly against Elizabeth’s family and her low connections. Darcy’s is actually a social prejudice – a variant of the conventional snobbery of the aristocratic class. Although “he had never been bewitched by any woman as he was by her”, Darcy feels it beneath his dignity to admit to his love for her. Neither can he allow Bingley, his friend to marry Elizabeth’s sister, Jane and tries his best to separate the lovers. Even when he can repress his feelings no longer and does propose to Elizabeth ‘he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than on pride.” In fact his customary arrogance deepens into what amounts to insolence during the proposal in which he explains to her the various family obstacles he has had to over-come and the degradation this marriage will be for him. He is considerably humbled when he is rejected without ceremony and Elizabeth’s words “had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner” and her criticism of his conceit and ‘selfish disdain of the feelings of others’ affect him deeply. Elizabeth’s refusal initiates a process of introspection and self criticism and he emerges as a man whose pride has been humbled. This is revealed in the way he welcomes the Gardiners at his estate and also by his long explanatory speech to Elizabeth towards the end of the novel where he apologizes to her for his pride and insolence. In this speech we can trace his pride to his faulty upbringing as his parents had taught him right values but had somehow encouraged him to garner pride in his personality. The greatest proof of this development is in his remaining firm in his choice of Elizabeth even after Lydia’s and Wickham’s dishonorable elopement which draws from Elizabeth the acknowledgement – “indeed he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable.”
His integrity of character:
Darcy appears to be a man of principle. There lies beneath all of his actions conformity with high standards of conduct and there is never any duplicity about him. In his proposal to Elizabeth he does not hide the struggle he has undergone before he is finally persuaded to profess his love. His love for Elizabeth remains unflinching in spite of all odds.
A dependable friend, a loving brother, a considerate master:
Darcy’s relationship with Bingley, Georgina and his tenants give a certain completeness to his character. This truth is amply reflected in Elizabeth’s realization: “as a brother, a landlord, a master… how many people’s happiness were in his guardianship”. To Bingley he is an esteemed friend for he has the highest opinion of his judgment and places firm reliance on the strength of his regard. To Georgiana he is a very loving brother always eager to fulfill every desire of hers. To his servants “he is the best master and the best that ever lived.”
Some of the critics feel that Darcy’s transformation in the second half of the novel looks most implausible. They declare him as one of Austen’s serious failures. However there are a lot of critics who feel that Darcy’s character is coherent and in one piece and whatever inconsistencies we find are only apparent. Had Darcy changed over-night, the portrayal of his character would have been unconvincing but he changes very gradually. If we are not conscious of this change all the time, it is because we are looking at him through Elizabeth’s eyes; who being prejudiced ignores his positive attributes in the first half of the novel.
Darcy is indeed a fine example of Jane Austen’s art of characterization and we forgive him for all his faults and love him for being the great person and the amazing lover that he is to Elizabeth.