Monday, February 18, 2008
PBS Pride & Prejudice profile: Fitzwilliam Darcy
Our look at Pride and Prejudice's most beloved characters continues with a gander at one of the most adored male romantic leads of all time,Mr. Darcy. Few fictional men can truly hold a candle to him-a few of his equals include Rhett Butler,Mr. Rochester and Rick Blaine-while many actors do their best to portray him onscreen.
The most popular version of Mr. Darcy was brought to life by Colin Firth(who was enough of a good sport to play a modern day comedic Darcy type in both of the Bridget Jones movies)but let us examine the appeal of the character himself,apart from his thespian representatives but not without the assistance of their best known one.
When we and Elizabeth first met Darcy,he's a pretty cranky customer who seems to be in his best friend Bingley's words"determined to be displeased with the world and everyone in it." He stands about the Meryton ballroom,glowering over the whole room with his cloak of presumed superiority wrapped around him which only serves to make him stand out like a sore thumb. His rude refusal to dance with Lizzy is a harsh blow at first but our Miss Bennet is quick to pull out her best defensive weapon against such snobbery,a hearty good laugh at his foolishness:
As she gets to know him better,Darcy's favorable points,such as a ready wit and appreciation of quality,come to the surface but also his faults are more readily on display like his propensity to withhold his true feelings and then reveal them in a bluntly open way.
A great example of that is his first marriage proposal to Elizabeth in which he started off well by proclaiming his ardent love and then proceeded to insult Lizzie's whole family by bemoaning a connection with them. To paraphrase a line from Into The Woods,he was raised to be sincere,not charming.
Elizabeth's strong rejection of him truly rocks Darcy to the core,causing him to drop his protective emotional shields and reveal a few family secrets that he would rather not have the world at large talk about. Yet,he must swallow his pride in order to have her know the truth of the matter in regards to his dealings with Wickam,as well as bring Wickam's real nature to light:
His openness starts to regain Lizzie's respect and even she has to agree that however impolite his comments were about her relations,the man does have a point about their behavior in public,which certainly doesn't show the Bennets in the best light. Tho she is still rightfully angry about Darcy's part in convincing Bingley to drop Jane,he does confess to stooping so low as to hide the fact that Jane was in London from his friend(who later forgives him for such presumption),an action that he regrets:
This is only the beginning of Darcy's transformation;after some time apart,the two of them run into each other at Pemberley,Darcy's home turf,which serves as a place of rejuvenation for both Lizzie and Darcy. She is able to introduce him to her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner,proof that not all of her relatives are loud and silly while Darcy's home,property and testimonial of his good nature from his excellent housekeeper,Mrs. Reynolds,give Mr. Darcy a chance to remake a new first impression.
This rapid turn of Darcy's demeanor does him credit and further helps to heal his earlier breech with Elizabeth. It's clear that she is willing to rethink her whole position regarding him and that her being in his world is the best thing that could've happened to him. She makes Darcy want to be a better man:
His most shining moment is when Lizzie's silly sister Lydia nearly ruins her family's reputation(along with the chances of her sisters being able to marry respectable men)by running off and shacking up with Wickam,causing Darcy to spring into action to resolve the sorry situation.
Lizzy blames herself for not taking a more active role in exposing Wickam as a cad earlier and putting Lydia in check but Darcy finds himself more to be at fault and personally devotes himself to making things right. Seeing her in pain like that only motivates him to do all he can,regardless of any other consideration:
In the end,Darcy's more open and temperate nature clicks with Elizabeth's less cynical and snarky side,leading both of them to wedded bliss and hopefully a happy life together. The main reason that Pride and Prejudice is a classic love story is that change in perspective on life is given to Darcy and Lizzie equally,making them a stronger couple with an increased chance at domestic harmony than either of their kin have probably ever had.
And now a word about the lake scene(can't get away from a Darcy discussion without mentioning that!). While it's not in the book,that bit serves more of a purpose than just getting Mr. Darcy in a wet shirt. It's a picture perfect showcase of the character's need to loosen up his tightly wound internal nature and gain some relief from the heat of his thwarted passion for Lizzie(and he looks damn good,too. Hey,I'm not made of stone,folks!):
Next week brings the conclusion of P&P,which will be wrapped up here by taking a look at the Rest of the Best,some of my favorite and not so favorite supporting players in Jane Austen's masterpiece.
I'll do my best to give everyone their share of the conversation,especially Lady Catherine De Burgh. That is one woman who definitely refuses to be gainsayed and is not shy about saying so:
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