Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813. Nearly 200 years later, the novel’s romantic lead, Mr. Darcy, still has a powerful effect on women.
What other character in literature has left such an indelible impression on so many generations of women? What other character has been honored with spin-offs, adaptations, Facebook groups, clothing lines, and, most recently, a namesake sex pheromone? There is definitely something about Darcy…
For girls of a younger generation, part of Mr. Darcy’s appeal is tied to Colin Firth’s celebrated portrayal in the 1995 BBC miniseries. But the very character, as written by Jane Austen, is imbued with certain qualities that have stood the test of time as the male ideal.
So what exactly is it about this stodgy, old-fashioned, 198-year-old man that still sets our hearts a-flutter? Oh Darcy, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways….
The “Diamond In The Rough” Thing
The reason that Darcy remains so popular to this day is that he embodies the archetype of finding a “diamond in the rough”: at first impression, he seems pompous, conceited and unfriendly. It is only the women in his life (Lizzie Bennet and his sister) who are able to bring out his more personable and caring side. (See also: Beauty and the Beast.)
The Being Good In A Crisis Thing
All anyone ever wants, in a lover, in a husband, in a partner, in a friend, is someone who is cool-headed, efficient, and calm in a crisis. When Elizabeth Bennett’s sister goes missing, Darcy wordlessly gets on his horse, goes to London and finds her.
The Not Being A Knight In Shining Armor Thing
Important to note that Darcy doesn’t rescue Elizabethor even help her in an effort to win her affection (he keeps his involvement a secret). He’s not trying to be gallant, and he’s not looking for a partner that’s weak or vulnerable. He truly sees Elizabeth as his equal.
The Ardently Loving And Admiring Thing
Darcy isn’t one to mince words or play games: He tells Elizabeth exactly what he feels about her. Because he loves her. Ardently. People don’t do anythingardently enough anymore, do they?
That Whole Witty Banter Thing
The BBC miniseries has a scene with Mr. Darcy fencing, but it is the verbal sparring he engages in with Elizabeth that reallyhas audiences sighing. They are perfectly matched in intellect–Elizabeth is more clever, Darcy more to-the-point. Together, it’s rhetorical fireworks.
The Whole Pemberly Thing
Look, if someone came along who acted exactly like Mr. Darcy but was broke, neither Lizzie Bennett nor the modern woman would turn him down. But the fact that you could, conceivably (for Jane Austen herself conceived it!) be married to the perfect companion and have a palace? Well, it’s no wonder Darcy is fiction. (And no wonder we’re still obsessed.)