Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the brooding lead in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is one, if not the best, of literature’s great leading men. His many characteristics—his brutal honesty, manliness, and overall mysterious charm—have endeared him to readers for nearly 200 years, including me. Discussing Mr. Darcy had become a favorite pastime, and my friends have found humor in calling me “Mrs. Darcy.” However, a chance encounter with a horrible novel about a woman who nearly misses out on love because of her infatuation with Darcy led me to question my ongoing love affair.
Yes, he is a wonderful character and the story of his relationship with Elizabeth will always be a favorite. The idea of a man who appears disagreeable and cold, but is secretly passionate, falling in love with a playful, whimsical woman is one that many women can relate to and love to imagine for themselves. However, time spent imagining is also time spent in another world separate from the present, and it can prevent someone from truly experiencing the world he or she lives in.
Imagination is gift that every person possesses, even though some may have it in spades and others have the bare minimum. I doubt anyone remembers being taught how to imagine; it is instinctive, sparked by a sudden idea or a curiosity and consciously encouraged to bloom or wither away. A trip to the beach or the perfect wedding is suddenly within our grasp, and we enjoy spending time living another life. It never seems to last long, though, and while some may think it is because we are called back to the “real world” by responsibilities and obligations, I believe it is something more. The real world is just that, real and tangible, and as pleasant as the imaginings are, we long to touch and feel and immerse ourselves in the lives we lead.
Why, then, do people allow themselves to be caught up in an idea or a fantasy? Perhaps it is because, as much as we need to be a part of life and just exist, the pain, fear, and often overwhelming pressure we feel on us makes us want to give it all up for a while. The world we live in is imperfect and often disappoints, but the world of our imagination is exactly as we wish it to be. The fantasy becomes intertwined with reality because it allows us to cope, to pretend that there is something in this life that will not harm us or let us down, will not break us. This thought brought forth a startling but necessary question: had I allowed myself to become so caught up in the idea of a Mr. Darcy in order to keep myself from feeling the seemingly unavoidable heartache or letdown?
And with that question, in a matter of seconds, the image of Mr. Darcy, built upon over three years of reading, discussing, and imagining, began to die. Mr. Darcy was my paperback version of Mr. Right, and therein laid the problem. The man was created by a woman, so of course he would embody many of the characteristics women sought after and still seek after. Even his flaws were tolerable, if not fixable, and what woman wouldn’t want that? But he has, for almost 200 years now, remained unchanged.
He is the same yesterday as he will be tomorrow, and no matter how many times I read and reread his story, he will never do something different or new. His life has been literally written out for him. No man could really live up to that, and the more I consider it, the more I realize that I wouldn’t want someone to try. Creating an image for others to live up to inevitably leads to failure as no one can live up to the standards set by another person, particularly a fictional one, and in turn, we fail by continually perpetuating our own belief that we are destined for disappointment.
And so I bury Mr. Darcy, or rather the idea of him. May he rest in peace, and may I consider each man independently and not against one who never really existed.Maggie McLinden is a junior from Louisville, Ohio, majoring in Integrated
Language Arts/English Education.