Thursday, August 06, 2009

Pride and Prejudice: Darcy's Ardent Love

Colin Firth as Darcy
Ardently in Love with Elizabeth
(Image from Wikipedia)

I've been using my time alone to work on an article about love and resentment in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and I've been trying to understand why Fitzwilliam Darcy falls in love with Elizabeth Bennet even though he considers her his social inferior:
As we know from the novel, although Darcy initially has no interest in Elizabeth and even deplores her inferior social status, he soon begins to notice her attractive features, especially the way in which her face is "rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes," the "light and pleasing" aspect of her figure, and the "easy playfulness" of her manners (26). From this series of closely spaced moments of recognition, Darcy discovers to his surprise that he is attracted. He begins "to wish to know more of her" and therefore starts to attend "to her conversation with others" (26). He will certainly come to note that she enjoys reading, for in his presence, she turns down a card game in favor of a book (40), and in a conversation that soon follows, Darcy maintains that for a woman to be truly accomplished, she must demonstrate "improvement of her mind by extensive reading" (43). He also enjoys conversation (27-28), attends to hers, as already noted (26), and obviously delights in her conversational art, as evidenced by his smiles at her verbal adroitness (49, 63, 102, 197, et passim). Elizabeth's attractiveness for him is thus both physical and intellectual, and already at an early meeting, due to the "mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner," he finds himself never "so bewitched by any woman as he was by her" and realizes that he could "be in some danger" if he were not careful, yet he continues to admire the "colour and shape, and the eyelashes, so remarkably fine," of her eyes (56-7) and also later pardons her friendship with the despised Wickham due to his own "tolerably powerful feeling towards her" (105). He regularly attempts, however, to maintain emotional distance from her because of her social inferiority, as when he scarcely speaks "ten words to her through the whole of" a day (66) or when he adopts "a colder voice" in her presence (201), but despite his best efforts to resist her charms, he falls ever more deeply in love with her through each subsequent meeting, as he confesses to her in his initial proposal of marriage:
"In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." (211)
His was a genuine struggle between an elevated pride and an overwhelming love, for when he finally approached her to propose, "he came towards her in an agitated manner" (211) but expressed himself eloquently in "representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavors, he had found impossible to conquer" (212).
I'll need to rework and strengthen this passage, but I think that it hits on the principle reasons that Darcy falls for Elizabeth despite his elevated pride even as it prepares for the subsequent struggle between Darcy's continued love for and roused resentment at Elizabeth.

By the way, all citations are from the Cambridge Edition of Pride and Prejudice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), an annotated, scholarly text edited by Pat Rogers, and I appreciate Google Books for making this sort of research possible for me.

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At 5:05 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Peregrine, I received your comment despite the deletion, so if you want to make the inquiry about your nephew to my email, just do a Google search of my full name ("Horace Jeffery Hodges"), and ask again.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:14 PM, Blogger Happuch said...

Mr. Hodges
I was wondering about the progress of your writing on Austen's Pride and Prejudice as you mentioned it before.
I should re-read it again. This post reminded me of that Darcy's
struggle not to fall in love with Elizabeth was my favorite part.

Min Young Hahn.

At 6:31 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hello Ms. Min Young Hahn. Good to hear from you again. I finished my article this Saturday morning -- actually, yesterday, but I proofread it and added an abstract this morning.

Jeffery Hodges

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