Ah, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Widely regarded as one of the swooniest fictional heroes in literary history, he’s often overlooked as someone who fits in the category of Straight-Up Good Guy. When people think of Darcy, it’s usually in context of his dark, intense, broody personality and rarely for the warm qualities that shine through his actions.
He’s not a sociable person, and that’s not necessarily because he hates people. The people he likes, he likes and loves very fiercely; but he has a very small circle around him, and there are very few people he’s willing to allow to step inside that circle. He has an outer circle that includes the friends and families of his loved ones, but there’s a large difference between the first circle and the second. Anyone outside the second circle is beyond his notice or care. He has better things to do.
I feel Darcy accidentally dug himself into this hole by virtue of being a doer, not a speaker. In fact, he’s terrible at speaking much of the time – there are things he wants to say and convey, but what comes out is the Regency equivalent of ‘Uh…’sup.’ Little wonder, then, that the man prefers to keep his mouth shut. Darcy is often hailed as being ‘suave,’ which makes me laugh; as Darcy is one of the least-‘suave’ characters in fiction.
He’s an awkward conversationalist and feels uncomfortable at parties. In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, he stands in the corner and pretends to be texting the entire time – which, let’s face it, is basically what he did in the novel minus the cell phone. His first proposal to Lizzie is a complete disaster, in which he basically goes “I LOVE YOU IN SPITE OF MYSELF PLEASE SAY YOU LOVE ME BACK,” and Lizzie says “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
Darcy doesn’t give up – he’s determined to have his say – but instead he takes to a format he can work with, and writes a letter instead. The letter Lizzie reads is far more eloquent and well thought-out than his proposal, and we feel Lizzie begins to grasp the different sides of Darcy here. He thinks and feels much, but is terrible at conveying said thoughts and feelings.
That does not, however, stop him from being honest. Darcy is a very blunt person, when he does speak; and it has earned him a reputation as being nasty and arrogant. You know you’re getting in your own way when people stop caring about your annual income. Darcy loathes deceit (possibly he loathes it more, now, after his past with Wickham) and has a penchant for making blunt remarks that, wittingly or not, throw others off-balance.
For example, when Caroline Bingley coyly tells Darcy she knows what he’s thinking about a tedious party, he tells her that, on the contrary, “I’ve been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.” Hoping the remark is directed toward her, she replies, “May I ask whose the eyes, that inspire these affections?” “Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s,” he replies, unfazed. Later on, when Caroline hints that Elizabeth’s long, muddy walk may have had an adverse effect on her ‘fine eyes,’ he replies casually, “Not at all; they were brightened by the exercise.”
Darcy is a compelling character not because he is innately aloof and icy, but because he is innately warm and caring and has difficulty putting his feelings into words. Instead he chooses to act, occasionally to the detriment of those he leaves in his hurried wake. He’s so desperate to help Elizabeth that he leaves her thinking he wants nothing to do with her – when in fact he’s throwing everything he has to try and help her by finding Lydia and Wickham.
People think he is proud because he isn’t gregarious, but we see his true humility when he asks Elizabeth’s uncle to take the credit for fixing the family’s desperate situation. We also see it, more subtly, in various moments before this – such as his confession that he doesn’t possess the talent for conversing easily with others. It takes Elizabeth a long while to see what Bingley, Georgiana, and a few others know about Darcy – that he is not harsh but honest, not proud but humble, not silent but bad with words.
So here’s to Fitzwilliam Darcy – the original straight-up good guy, and the most awkward romantic hero in history.
My Favorite Versions of Darcy:
Darcy in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Darcy in BBC’s Pride and Prejudice miniseries
Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Honorary FOURTH place goes to Sir Laurence Olivier, despite the awkward American Civil War-era setting and all that weirdness.