Sunday, July 08, 2012

Mr Darcy - proud? amiable? disagreeable? handsome?

I am sorry for my recent silence, I have been away, so here is another essay from my school work which I have converted into a blog post :)

It is clear that in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ there are many contrasting views on the character of Mr. Darcy, which present themselves in many different ways through the story. 

I think that there are three main ways in which contrasting views are presented; through the different opinions of him in different places, for example in Hartfordshire compared with Derbyshire, Elizabeth’s dramatically altering opinion of Darcy as the story develops, and through comparing the opinions of different characters, for example Wickham and Bingley’s views.

Firstly, Hartfordshire vs. Derbyshire.
In Meryton (Hartforshire), Darcy is very quickly “discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased”, even though just before that he was thought a handsome young man, infinitely superior to his friend - nothing to do with wealth I'm sure! Whereas the general opinion in Derbyshire is quite the opposite.  This is where the housekeeper comes in and plays a very important role!
She says “He is the best landlord, and the best master” completely contradictory of the opinion in Meryton! He is considered in Derbyshire to be a very good man who is liked by all his tenets and all his acquaintances! How opposite to the Darcy we met in Meryton! 
She goes on further to say “I have never had a cross word from him in my life, and I have known him ever since he was four years old.”  I think this is a very valid, and interesting point.  The opinion of Darcy in Meryton is formed based on first impressions.  After just one evening, it is decided that he is proud because that’s how his behaviour has been interpreted - “he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity.”  This harsh judgement is perhaps a little unfair! His behaviour could have been misunderstood!  Darcy first met with the residents at Meryton at a Meryton assembly - new and unfamiliar territory for him - and he would have known nobody beyond his own party.  So, he could have acted like that as he was uncomfortable among strangers and felt left out.  He even says himself that “Ixz\ certainly have not the talent which some people possess, of conversing easily with those I have never seen before.” (Bless!) 
Another reason, not helping to improve the opinion of him, is down to the insufferable Wickham! He begins to tell people about his past experiences with him - which are all a lie, or if not a lie, they are all... reversed! Wickham is prejudice against Darcy anyway making the judgement of him again, unfair and unreliable - poor Darcy! He doesn't do well in Meryton!
But, in Derbyshire, he has lived there all his life so the people living there would know his true character, like the housekeeper says about knowing him since he was four. So, I think the view of his character is more reliable in Derbyshire as they have not based their judgement of him on a very short acquaintance. 

Also, in Derbyshire, he is likely to feel more relaxed as it is his own environment which he is used to and where he is not a stranger.  Austen has presented two general opinions of Darcy differing in different places. This just shows how first impressions aren’t everything!  Also, the fact that we don’t hear about these high praises of Darcy until later in the story follows how Lizzie’s opinion changes as the book develops.  So, when Lizzie visits Pemberley, where she discovers the truth about Darcy’s character from the housekeeper, it reinstates Lizzie’s changing opinion, and showing it from another angle, informing us that Lizzie’s new opinion isn’t merely based on Lizzie’s own observations but from a reliable source that would be considered un-bias, how could the housekeeper know of the general view of his character in Meryton? She doesn't!

Of course, the most obvious contrast of opinions of Darcy’s character is that of Elizabeth’s.  Lizzie is very prejudice towards Darcy for the first half of the book, but for latter part, her opinion begins to change. 

Lizzie’s prejudice of Darcy is based on three things. 

1. The incident at the Meryton ball.  When Darcy was approached by Bingley in the hope to make him dance, Bingley suggests Lizzie as a desirable partner stating that she “is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable”, however Darcy will not yield to Bingley’s wishes, saying in reply “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”  Unfortunately, Lizzie was near enough at the time to be able to hear this remark! (Whoopsy daisy Darcy!)  Therefore, it leaves Lizzie against Darcy from the earliest moments of their acquaintance - I think I would be pretty annoyed!

2. One word, Wickham!  Lizzie makes a new acquaintance in Wickham, who, when he learns that she is acquainted with Darcy, relates a terrible story (yeah... wasn't it terrible, for Darcy, not you!) to Lizzie about the previous events which have passed between Wickham and Darcy.  It didn't help that Lizzie was quite keen on Wickham, and wouldn't you be more inclined to believe a handsome, agreeable man, than a proud, disagreeable one!

3. Finally, poor Jane and poor Bingley!  She discovers, not long before Darcy proposes, not a great moment for Lizzie to find out for Darcy, that it was Darcy who separated her sister and Bingley!  I think, unfortunately, I agree with Lizzie when she says "do you think that any consideration would tempt me to accept the man, who has been the means of ruining, perhaps forever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?” 

Austen presents Lizzie's opinion very clearly - VERY clearly - through comments made by Lizzie about Darcy, or even to Darcy!  For example, when she is talking to Wickham about Darcy she says “I have spent four days in the same house with him, and I think him very disagreeable.”  Because 4 days is long enough to get to know a person Lizzie...

When she is dancing with Darcy at the Netherfield ball, she is determined to tease him and make him feel as uncomfortable as possible, to Darcy's despair! An example of this is when she says, sarcastically, “He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship,". 

One of the most important quotes showing just how much she really does dislike Darcy is in her refusal, and strangely enough, this is one of my favourite quotes...
“From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that ground-work of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”  (Ohhhhhhh.... ;) ) Well, this resolution wasn't kept as she does marry him, so clearly her opinion must change from the one stated here!

These views and very strong opinions against Darcy are hugely contrasting to what she begins to feel when she reads the letter given to her after the proposal.  The letter plays a very important part in starting to alter Lizzie’s view on Darcy as it informs her of the true past between Wickham and Darcy. (Ha ha Wickham!) This makes her feel very embarrassed about ever blaming Darcy for any cruelty towards Wickham and for being so deceived in Wickham’s character - see Lizzie? First impression are not everything!   She says later when talking to Jane about the matter, “One has got all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it” as she realises and accepts that she has allowed herself to be blinded by prejudice. 

The next point which assists in the altering opinion of Darcy is during her visit to Pemberley with the Gardiners.  When they first see the house and are shown all its natural beauties it is “at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!”  Also, when they unexpectedly meet Darcy at Pemberley it is then when she sees how altered Darcy’s character really is.  This change is presented mainly through Darcy’s actions towards others.  How gentlemanly he seems when “she heard Mr. Darcy invite him, with the greatest civility, to fish there as often as he chose while he continued in the neighbourhood”.  Very shocking behaviour on Darcy's part as the Gardiners live in Cheapside!  He is also surprisingly civil towards Lizzie herself and even wishes her to meet his sister!  After her behaviour towards him at their last meeting she wouldn’t expect him to talk to her at all let alone want to introduce her to his sister! She would expect him to be her greatest enemy!

After both these revelations, her opinion is already extremely different and two of the three prejudices having being thus removed, the only one remaining is the one regarding Jane and Bingley.
Shortly after this meeting, there is a letter from Jane informing Lizzie of Lydia’s elopement with Wickham and the next turning point in Lizzie’s feelings is as a result of this.  It is when Lizzie discovers that it was in fact Darcy who discovered Lydia and Wickham in London, made Wickham marry her, paid off all his debts and paid for his commission.  Lizzie is so shocked by this news, that it “threw Elizabeth into a flutter of spirits”! This was not one of Lizzie's prejudices, but this was just an extra one ;)

And finally, the last problem is removed, as Jane and Bingley are engaged, further fixing Lizzie's new opinion of Darcy!  “That is to say, you had given your permission. I guessed as much.” Lizzie is pleased that he 'allowed' his friend to marry Jane even with her low connections and embarrassing family (which was always a little bit hypocritical given that he proposed to Lizzie, Jane's sister, with the same connections and family...) It pleases Lizzie also pleases her that “Darcy was delighted with their engagement” as it shows that he really was pleased with the match, and that Darcy was now thinking more about his friends and Jane’s happiness over social class and what would be considered 'correct' in society. 

After all these events, proving to Lizzie that Darcy really isn't as bad as first thought, Lizzie was happy to accept his second marriage proposal.  Lizzie’s contrasting opinions of Darcy are a very important to the story, well, they make the story!

The other way in which Austen presents contrasting opinions of Darcy’s character is through comparisons of views held by different characters. 

A good example would Elizabeth's opinion vs. Caroline Bingley’s, whose views are quite the opposite.  Lizzie and Caroline are two of the main woman in ‘Pride and Prejudice’.  Lizzie is from a lower social class than Darcy, and Caroline is from an equal class and one of the main themes in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is social status, so to have a opinion from each is important, and interesting. Also, it is fair to say that Caroline is after Darcy!  And her attempts to impress him aren't the most subtle; for example when Darcy is writing a letter to his sister is says how Caroline sat, watching him, commenting on “his hand-writing, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter.”  It also says how when Darcy was reading a book, she also began reading a book “which she had only chosen because it was the second volume of his.”  Lizzie, however, is quite the contrary and does not care for or want his good opinion, and she is the one who Darcy is after!  She says how she is “determined” to hate him, because of her prejudice, but unfortunately for her, she believes he does not think any better of her than she does of him! So Caroline is trying her hardest to think highly of Darcy’s character and for him to think well of her, whereas Lizzie is trying her hardest to dislike his character and for him to dislike her. 

The other, more prominent reason why their views contrast is again linked to Wickham; Lizzie knows nothing of the truth, but Caroline at least knows something. Up to this point, we don't really like Caroline because of her manner towards Lizzie!  This means that when Caroline approaches Lizzie and says “Let me recommend you, however, as a friend, not to give implicit confidence to all his assertions; for as to Mr. Darcy's using him ill, it is perfectly false; for, on the contrary, he has been always remarkably kind to him, though George Wickham has treated Mr. Darcy, in a most infamous manner”, warning her that Wickham is not to be trusted, Lizzie, and likely us, won't really believe her.  As Caroline then adds “I do not know the particulars”, Lizzie doubts the story even more, as it all sounds a bit vague, and when talking to Jane shortly after about the conversation passed between them, she believes that “this account then is what he has received from Mr. Darcy.”  She is referring directly to Bingley here, but it is likely that she believes Bingley, Caroline and all his acquaintances would have had the account from Darcy and therefore believe his explanation so she does not believe Caroline’s story at all!

Next up, the Bennets vs. the Gardiners.  The Bennet family, excluding Lizzie and Jane, see Darcy only during his time in Meryton, predominantly when they first come to the neighbourhood. Therefore, their opinion of Darcy is bad.  But, I guess it is understandable why they take this opinion.  For Mrs. Bennet, Darcy, having insulted one of her daughters, is nothing more that a very disagreeable man! Who could insult her beautiful daughters? Unfortunately, she is not reserved in letting her feelings be known, even to Darcy.  Shortly after the Meryton assembly she tells Lizzie that another time “I would not dance with him, if I were you,” and when she is visiting Jane at Netherfield and are enquiring whether Bingley is planning to stay in the country, she says, when offended by his apparent dislike of the country, ““But that gentleman,” looking at Darcy, “seemed to think the country was nothing at all.””  Mr. Bennet is likely to dislike Darcy for the same reason, as Lizzie is his favourite daughter, but as well as this, the family is likely to follow the general opinion held in Meryton which is bad. 

The Gardiners on the other hand, hold quite a different view.  The Gardiners first met Darcy at Pemberley during their tour of Derbyshire with Lizzie.  Darcy’s character is at this point in the story very different to how the Bennets knew it to be in Meryton.  It does not correspond to the opinion and views that they had heard about from Mrs. Benet and residents in Meryton.  Mrs. Gardiner even said herself that “This fine account of him is not quite consistent with his behaviour to our poor friend.”  Darcy is by this point very changed and a lot more civil hence why the Gardiners are confused about the fine account from the housekeeper and their first impression of Darcy when they meet him!  This excellent opinion is further increased when they are invited to Pemberley and Mr. Gardiner to fish. They are surprised by this behaviour, and Mrs Gardiner says “From what we have seen of him, I really should not have thought that he could have behaved in so cruel a way by anybody.” 

The opinions are very different and the contrasts are based on first impressions.  The opinion held by the Bennets is mainly based on a first impression, as is with the Gardiners opinion.  This is very important as, of course, first impressions is a major theme in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and even more so, as ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was originally going to be called ‘First Impressions’.

Another important one would be Wickham vs. Bingley's opinion.  Both are close to Darcy and know him well as Bingley is a good friend of Darcy’s and Wickham was once close to him as they spent all their childhood together. 

It is clear that Bingley thinks highly of Darcy and vice versa whereas Wickham definitely does not.  He even goes as far as to tell Lizzie about his past with Darcy, on a very slight of an acquaintance (which always seemed strange to me), and shortly after this he informs many in Meryton on the same topic!  This account spread by Wickham is discovered to be false, which contrasts to Bingley as Bingley was always loyal to his friend, believing Darcy in the matter of his connections with Wickham.  Austen has presented here two people, both who are or have been close to Darcy, one who has remained loyal to him and the other who has not, holding contrasting views on his character because of this. 

Another opinion would be Jane and Lizzie’s slightly differing views on Darcy. Jane and Lizzie are an important contrast as they are two of the major character in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and they are the two older sisters in the Bennet family.  Also, they are the closest of all characters, I think, sharing all their opinion and feelings more openly with each other than with any other characters. Jane has such a disposition which means she does not want to think badly of anyone, consequently she does not think, or doesn’t want to think, Darcy so very bad as Lizzie does on such short an acquaintance.  She is also more inclined to believe in what she has heard from Bingley, who she has known for longer, about the past between Wickham and Darcy.  She is also not as deceived in Wickham’s character or able to believe Wickham so intently after so short an acquaintance, unlike Lizzie. Lizzie is very much the opposite, being totally deceived in Wickham’s character, because of her partiality towards him and prejudice against Darcy, and she believes Bingley to have been imposed upon by Darcy as they are good friends. She also believes that Jane is partial toward Bingley which is why she is inclined to think Bingley a more reliable source. 

A final contrast would be Wickham vs. Collins’s view.  These two characters are an interesting contrast as they are presented as the two other possible partners for Lizzie in ‘Pride and Prejudice’.  Collins makes an offer of marriage to Lizzie and it is hinted that it could have been an eventuality between Lizzie and Wickham, had there not been the problem of money.  As I have already said before, Wickham is clearly against Darcy.  However, it is hard to interpret Collins’s real feelings about Darcy as they are not clearly stated however he cannot be against Darcy, mainly, because Darcy is the nephew of Lady Catherine de Bough, his "esteemed patroness", and of course he never wants to upset her Ladyship and is always trying his best to please her!  It is also interesting as these views are the opinion of Lizzie's almost husbands about Lizzie's eventual husband!

These are the ways in which I think Austen mainly presents the contrasting views on Darcy’s character and they are a very important part of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as they highlight many of the major themes such as first impressions and social status.  Also, as we are rarely informed about Darcy’s true feelings and thoughts throughout the book, especially at the beginning, these contrasting views presented how they are, through others views and opinions, provoke us to think about who Darcy really is, I mean, "I hear such different accounts of you as to puzzle me exceedingly." 

Your affectionate friend,

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  1. I really enjoyed reading this! :)
    Darcy is one of my favorite fictional guys! I never get tired of discussing him, his character, and the different ways he's perceived & often misunderstood. Jane Austen was, indeed, a genius! :)

    1. Thank you!
      I am glad you enjoyed reading it :D It was fun to write actually!
      She was a genius!

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