Will Only Mr. Darcy Do?
The title of my newly released book is, “Only Mr. Darcy Will Do,” but is this true? Is Mr. Darcy the ultimate hero that everyone woman idolizes? Is he the one Jane Austen character that shines far brighter than any of the others? Is he really the only one who will do?
In a word, no. Having been in the Jane Austen community for about 10 years, I have been acquainted with women who have their own favorite Jane Austen hero, whether it be Henry Tilney or Colonel Fitzwilliam or Captain Wentworth and even Henry Crawford.
But it is true that the majority of women prefer Mr. Darcy. Why is that?
I think there are probably as many answers as there are women. I think it depends on whether you read the book first or saw one of the film adaptations. It isn’t an easy answer, because many women perceive Mr. Darcy differently.
For example, my introduction to “Pride and Prejudice” was in the 1995 film version with Colin Firth. To me, he is the ultimate Mr. Darcy. After watching the 6-hour film several times, I then read the book and readily pictured him as the man who fell ardently in love with Elizabeth Bennet.
In some ways I wish I could go back and read “Pride and Prejudice” first, just to see how my mental picture of Mr. Darcy might be different. But to this day, Colin Firth is still the way I imagine Mr. Darcy.
In 1995 the movie version starring Matthew McFayden in that role introduced a whole new group of women to “Pride and Prejudice” and Mr. Darcy. Before those two, there were Sir Lawrence Olivier and David Rintoul. Each put their own spin on the character of Mr. Darcy.
But putting aside the different Darcys we see portrayed in film, let me try to answer this question based on what Jane Austen gave us and what Elizabeth Bennet would have come to realize about him.
These are just a few of my thoughts, and there are obviously many, many more reasons why Mr. Darcy is so popular. Despite whether you prefer Mr. Firth, Mr. McFayden, or someone of your own imagining, we know these things to be true of Mr. Darcy. You might be surprised that I don’t include his wealth in this list, which is just an added benefit. J
1) Mr. Darcy is not perfect, but is willing to improve himself in essentials when confronted with his faults by someone he loves and admires. We see ‘evidence’ of those faults in the early part of the book: not associating with those he deems beneath him; making a insulting remark that Elizabeth overhears; and his biggest fault is interfering in Mr. Bingley’s relationship with Jane. He may have justified his actions to himself, but when Elizabeth points them out to him in her refusal, he realizes (after much soul-searching, I am sure) how right she is in her assessment and sets out to make amends. In addition, he goes about it without any assurance or any hope that Elizabeth will ever return his love.
2) Mr. Darcy is a man of integrity and generosity. Not only do we see Mr. Darcy change himself for the better, but we later in the book we see him for who he truly is. We see acts of kindness and even sacrifice on his part. We are given a glimpse into his relationship with his sister and see how much he cares for her and how much she trusts and depends on him. We hear from his housekeeper that he is the best Master and cares for those under him. And in what must have been a most dreadful act of sacrifice, we see him go after Wickham and Lydia so the Bennet family would not suffer the shame of the couple’s disgraceful behavior. He does it all in secret, so that Elizabeth would not find out. Again, he does this without any assurance or any hope that Elizabeth will ever return his love.
3) Mr. Darcy’s love was steadfast, enduring, and unconditional. Mr. Darcy was a man in the upper class of society who could virtually have had any woman he wanted to marry. He would also have been expected to marry a woman with good breeding, connections, fortune, and beauty. Elizabeth did not have a lot in her favor. Mr. Darcy initially did not think her handsome enough to tempt him (although he came to think her eyes were fine). She had parents and sisters who often behaved in a vulgar manner. She had virtually no fortune. In other words, she was just like you and me. But she obviously had something worth more to Darcy than any of the shallow qualities that society demanded one to have. And when that love was tested and even rejected, it endured, despite any assurance or any hope of it ever being reciprocated.
In Only Mr. Darcy Will Do, Elizabeth has to become a governess at her father’s death. When she is thrown into Mr. Darcy’s presence, she comes to see the man for who he really is. But now she is no longer in a position to expect him to renew his offer, and realizes what a grave mistake she made in initially refusing him. When it might just be too late, she comes to realize that for her that ‘only Mr. Darcy will do.’