Being the Jane Austen fan that I am, I see Jane Austen content quite a bit. And among the most common Jane Austen-related things I see, praise of Mr. Darcy is quite possibly the most common. I've seen numerous "I Heart Mr. Darcy" items, pictures of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy with any number of different captions, and so much more. He is, after all, the epitome of literary heroes, is he not?
He's handsome, he's rich, he's Mr. Darcy, and I've heard about his wet shirt too many times, but I want to say why Mr. Darcy really is a good man--and it has nothing to do with his looks or Andrew Davies's idea of manliness.
I suppose I should start at the beginning.
Mr. Darcy was a jerk. The first time I read P&P I was shocked at how this man--of whom I had heard so much that was positive--acted, and I wondered if I was mistaken. Perhaps it wasn't Mr. Darcy about whom I had heard so much raving. I was disgusted with him, and I agreed wholeheartedly with Elizabeth in all her feelings towards him. I wanted to slap him when he started showing attention to Elizabeth, and I silently cheered when Elizabeth still refused to even consider changing her opinions. I thought certainly Mr. Darcy would soon fade away, as such characters should.
Of course, I was wrong. But I was also right about how Mr. Darcy was at first.
No, he wasn't truly a jerk at heart, and he was, actually, a good man, but the way he acted--! His pride was too overbearing, and his manners were, obviously, terrible.
And the fact is, if he had remained the way he was in the beginning of the book, Elizabeth never would have married him. If he had remained how he was when he first proposed to her, she never would have accepted him at last.
The thing that makes Mr. Darcy a man worth loving is that he changed. And why?
Because he wanted to deserve the woman he loved.
As you may remember, there were two particular things that Elizabeth said that stayed with Mr. Darcy, which things prompted his change:
"Had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner." and
"You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it."
He began to realise--and care-- how he appeared to others and he began to have a desire to change.
Okay, hold on, Mr. Darcy (or Jane Austen, or whatever) said this all for me; let me quote:
"I was spoilt by my parents, who...allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own. Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you!! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled."
One of my very favourite parts in the book is at Pemberley when Mr. Darcy shows such civility--and gentlemanliness! As he told her:
"My object then," replied Darcy, "was to show you, by every civility in my power, that I was not so mean as to resent the past; and I hoped to obtain your forgiveness, to lessen your ill opinion, by letting you see that your reproofs had been attended to."
That is manliness. Manliness is not wearing a wet shirt (Mr. Darcy didn't, by the way. That was the one part in the movie where Colin Firth wasn't Mr. Darcy.) or being handsome, it is being willing to become better for the sake of those you love.
And that, my dear readers, is why Mr. Darcy is a man worth loving.