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The Character of Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice Undergoes Significant Reappraisal During the Course of the Novel. Explain How the Reader Is Positioned to Initially Dislike and Later Approve of Jane Austen's Hero.

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“Pride and Prejudice” Major Essay

The character of Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice undergoes significant reappraisal during the course of the novel. Explain how the reader is positioned to initially dislike and later approve of Jane Austen’s hero.

Literature is consumed with romantic heroes. Jane Eyre’s Mr Rochester, Juliet’s Romeo, Elizabeth Bennet’s Mr Darcy… the list is endless. The character of Fitzwilliam Darcy in Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, “Pride and Prejudice” is an example of one of the most well known romantic figures in Western society. Although not initially popular, Mr Darcy, a wealthy, handsome but arrogant gentleman, goes through significant reappraisal. High expectations, arrogance and pride initially position the reader to dislike Darcy, but as the novel progresses, events and circumstances transform the readers’ opinion of him.

The first event in which the reader is introduced to Darcy is the Meryton Ball. The news of newcomers attending the public ball creates great excitement within the Bennet family, especially concerning Mrs Bennet who sees this as an opportunity to marry off one of her five young daughters. “She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper… The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news” (pg 7). As the ball draws near, all the Bennet sisters wait in anticipation for the introduction of the presumably wealthy and handsome bachelors who are to arrive. When Mr Bingley and his quests make their entrance at the ball, one particular gentleman sparks great amounts of interest. “Mr Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year.” (pg 10) However, this admiration soon turns to distaste when people discover “him to be proud, above his company, and above being pleased” (pg 10), as well as this, Austen positions the reader to compare Darcy with Bingley, which only aids in the readers dislike of Darcy. The reader begins to dislike Darcy even more when we learn of his rejection of Elizabeth “she is handsome, but not enough to tempt me” (referring to Bingley’s suggestion that Darcy may want to dance with her)

Following the ball, Jane, the eldest of the Bennet sisters, is invited to dine with Catherine Bingley. Whilst travelling there she is caught in the rain and catches a bad cold and, much to Mrs Bennet’s delight, is forced to stay with the Bingleys for a longer period of time. “Jane had not been gone long before it rained hard… her mother was delighted. The rain continued all evening. Jane certainly could not go back.” (pg 27) Elizabeth, feeling sympathy for her sick sister, joins Jane at Netherfield, and once again the reader is introduced to Darcy. When Elizabeth ventures to the drawing room in the evening, the reader learns, through conversation in which Darcy partakes, of his high expectations of women. “I cannot boast of knowing more than half-a-dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished.” (pg 33) This is an unfavourable trait, especially with concern to Elizabeth who believes that women should not be judged by their ability to sing or play an instrument, but by their intelligence and ability to hold conversation. The following evening, a conversation over the virtues of accepting advice from friends is sparked between Elizabeth and Darcy, they both argue opposing points and as Elizabeth grows to dislike Darcy, the reader feels the same way. However, in this chapter the reader for the first time, realises the admiration and affection Darcy has began to develop for Elizabeth.

Once Jane recovers, Elizabeth insists on them leaving Netherfield immediately. Mr Bingley is devastated to see the women go, for he has began to grow increasingly fond of Jane. Mr Darcy on the other hand is quite relieved to see Elizabeth go because “she attracted him more than he liked.” (pg 49) The thought of being attracted to a woman of a lower social class obviously worries him and this positions the reader to dislike him even more, because of his pride. Austen has constructed the story so that initially the story is always in favour of Elizabeth. If anyone doesn’t like her, the reader immediately blames the other character.

As the story evolves, we are introduced to Wickham, a young, handsome member of the British army who is stationed in the nearby town of Meryton. “His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.” (pg 59) As the afternoon progresses Elizabeth, along with the reader grows to admire Wickham. When the party come across Bingley and Darcy, Elizabeth notices an exchange of cold glares. “Both changed colour, one looked white, the other red.” (pg 59) The reader immediately begins to question Darcy; we instantly think that the tension between the pair is the result of a fault of Darcy’s. Later on, Elizabeth learns that Wickham had planned to enter the ministry but was forced to join the militia because he lacked money. Darcy’s father, Wickham says, had intended to provide for him, but Darcy used a loophole in the will to keep the money for himself. Elizabeth accepts this story as true because she likes and trusts Wickham, she decides that Darcy was worse than originally imagined and deserves nothing but contempt. “How abominable! – I wonder that the very pride of this Mr Darcy has not made him just to you!” (pg 66) The reader is positioned to dislike Darcy because we believe that a good man has been cheated, and that Darcy is to blame.

Soon after Elizabeth learns of Wickham’s misfortunes, a ball hosted by the Bingley’s is held at Netherfield. Elizabeth searches in vain for Wickham but discovers that he isn’t attending, even though he previously promised he would. Elizabeth finds herself dancing instead with Darcy, when she brings up the topic of Wickham “the effect was immediate”. Darcy reveals that “Mr Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his making friends – whenever he may be capable of retaining them is less certain.” (pg 74) The reader immediately senses Darcy’s unwillingness to talk of Wickham and, assumes that his silence on the issue is a sign of guilt. Along with the unsocial manner in which Darcy danced with Elizabeth, the reader’s dislike of Darcy is reinforced.

Soon after the Netherfield ball the Bingley party, along with Darcy depart Meryton. Jane is devastated because if the love she had developed for Mr Bingley. As time passes Jane slowly recovers, but Elizabeth feels great sympathy on behalf of her sister. When Elizabeth is invited to join Mr Collins at his new home in Hunsford, she willingly accepts. When she arrives, she along with Mr Collins and Charlotte are invited to Catherine De Bourgh’s mansion, and much to her surprise Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, an acquaintance, are staying with De Borough. “Elizabeth had heard soon after her arrival that Mr Darcy was expected there in a course of a few weeks.” (pg 133) Elizabeth then learns from Colonel Fitzwilliam that Darcy was the reason for the Bingleys quick and discreet departure from Netherfield. “What he told me was merely this: that he congratulated himself on having saved a friend from the inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage… I understand that there were some very strong objections against the lady.” (pg 145) This event because the climax of the readers dislike for Darcy, we have read they pain and sorrow Jane went through and thus can’t understand how Darcy could bring about such pain. Elizabeth argues that Mr Darcy had no right to do what he did, “I do not see what right Mr Darcy had to decide on the propriety of his friend’s inclinations, or why, upon his own judgement alone, he was to determine and direct in what manner that friend was to be happy.” (pg 145)

A few days later, still brooding over her resentment of Darcy, Elizabeth receives a visit from the gentleman himself. “To her utter amazement she saw Darcy walk into the room.” (pg 147) From there Darcy launches himself into a proclamation of his love for Elizabeth “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” (pg 147) Darcy then proceeds to ask Elizabeth’s hand in marriage which she promptly rejects. Darcy, angry and offended at his rejection enquires why she should turn him down. Elizabeth angrily retorts that and demands to know why he sabotaged Jane’s romance with Bingley, she repeats Wickham’s accusations and, declares that she thinks Darcy to be proud and selfish and that marriage with him would be unthinkable. “You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to take it.” (pg 150) When Darcy proposes, he does so in a way which is viewed by the reader like he is offering a favour, the mere fact that Elizabeth is so “below him” makes it unforeseeable that she should reject him. “His sense of her inferiority – of its being degradation – of the family obstacles which judgement had always opposed inclination.” (pg 148) Austen has constructed the scene to play out this way, so that the reader further dislikes Darcy because of his pride and ignorance.

Darcy’s proposal is the turning point of “Pride and Prejudice”. The following day, after Elizabeth’s rejection of the proposal, Darcy hands her a letter. Within the letter Darcy admits to breaking off Bingleys marriage to Jane, but defends himself, arguing that he did not believe that Jane’s attachment would result in heart break. As well as this, the letter states that Darcy did provide for Wickham after his fathers death, and the root of the problem lay in the attempt of Wickham to elope with Darcy’s sister in the hopes of obtaining her fortune. “I know not in what manner, under what form of falsehood he has imposed on you; but his success is not perhaps to be wandered at.” (pg 158) Elizabeth is deeply shocked at the content of the letter and saddened by the manner for which she previously acted. “How differently did everything now appear in which he was concerned... She grew absolutely ashamed of herself.” (pg 162) The reader realises that although Elizabeth is intelligent; even she gets it wrong sometimes. Our initial thoughts of Darcy are immediately transformed and we begin to look back at the past events with a different light. We begin to realise that although Darcy has made mistakes, he is a good man.

A period of time goes by, and Elizabeth takes up an offer to go on a trip with her relatives, the Gardiners. On the way to their destination, the Gardiners suggest a stop at Pemberley (Darcy’s home) to visit the grounds. Elizabeth feels she has no business visiting Pemberley and is afraid to happen upon Darcy, but the Gardiners insist on going. “To Pemberley, therefore, they were to go.” (pg 187) As Elizabeth tours around the Pemberley estate, the house keeper describes Darcy in very favourable terms “he was always the sweetest natured, most generous boy in the world.” (pg 190) The reader begins to get a true insight into Darcy’s real character by the ones who know him best. “What praise is more valuable than an intelligent servant?” (pg 192) As Elizabeth begins to leave she meets Darcy, who is completely surprised by her presence. Mr Darcy recovers, and invites her to dinner to meet his sister, Ms Darcy. During the meeting between Elizabeth and Ms Darcy, Elizabeth realises the true love and concern Darcy shows for his young sister. As a woman of five sisters Elizabeth can really connect with Darcy’s affection and again the reader is reminded of Darcy’s true nature.

Although a number of circumstances ease our dislike of Darcy, it isn’t until the event in which Lydia runs off to London with Wickham, till we realise the true extent of Darcys love for Elizabeth. When Elizabeth receives news of Lydia’s disappearance, Darcy immediately comes to her rescue, offering help and advice, blaming the whole incident on himself. “When I consider that I may have prevented it… I am grieved indeed – shocked.” (pg 213) The public disgrace of an unmarried young women eloping with another man would have been unspeakable. The only way such a scandal could be fixed would be for the eloped couple to marry. It later surfaces that Darcy paid Wickham to marry Lydia, so inevitably Wickham received the fortune he always desired. The generosity in which Darcy extended is immeasurable, and the discreetness in which he conducted the arrangement even more so.

Another act in which Darcy proves his love for Elizabeth is when he openly defies Lady Catherine De Borough. It had been a long standing engagement that eventually Darcy would marry Miss De Borough, thus tying the two family estates together. “My daughter and my nephew are formed for each other. They are descended on the maternal side, from the same noble line; and, on the fathers’, from respectable, honourable, and ancient, though untitled families.” (pg 274) However, when Darcy proclaims his love and refuses to marry Miss De Borough he goes against everything his upbringing has taught him to believe. When Catherine De Borough confronts Elizabeth about Darcy’s proposal, the reader feels admiration for Darcy. He has stood up for who and what he believes in – a trait much admired.

The reader, along with Elizabeth, doesn’t realise the debt owed to Darcy until the end of the novel when Darcy and Mr Bingley return to Netherfield. Darcy encourages the relationship between Jane and Mr Bingley by admitting he was previously wrong, and had judged Jane’s character incorrectly. Jane and Bingley soon rekindle their past love for each other “How much the beauty of her sister rekindled the admiration of her former lover.” (pg 259) The reader now thoroughly likes and approves of Darcy, and completely believes he is a good man. The reader is finally persuaded that Darcy is the romantic hero of “Pride and Prejudice” when he proposes to Elizabeth and she accepts. All this confirms our beliefs because even though he was been rejected once already, his character has been greatly misjudged, and he stands at great social disgrace for marrying a women of a lower class, he still loves her unconditionally.

The character of Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, “Pride and Prejudice” goes through significant reappraisal during the course of the novel. This is mainly due to the reader’s perception of him. Initially we are positioned to dislike him, because of his arrogance, pride, treatment of Wickham, and high expectations of women. Later on however, we begin to like and admire him due to his persistence in their relationship, aiding Lydia and Wickham, disobeying Catherine De Borough and his total love for Elizabeth. Eventually the reader realises that Mr Darcy is in fact the true romantic hero of “Pride and Prejudice”.

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