Character of Fitzwilliam Darcy

Fitzwilliam Darcy, generally referred to as Mr. Darcy, is one of the two central characters in Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. He is an archetype of the aloof romantic hero, and a romantic interest of Elizabeth Bennet, the novel's protagonist. The story's narration is almost exclusively from Elizabeth Bennet perspective; she is portrayed as the sympathetic figure, and Darcy hardly so until the later chapters of the novel—as knowledge and ironic events are revealed to Elizabeth. Usually referred to only as "Mr. Darcy" or "Darcy" by characters and the narrator, his first name is mentioned only twice in the novel.

The son of a wealthy, well-established family and the master of the great estate of Pemberley, Darcy exhibits all the good and bad qualities of the ideal English aristocrat — snobbish and arrogant, he is also completely honest and sure of himself. Darcy is not actually a titled nobleman, but he is one of the wealthiest members of the landed gentry — the same legal class that Elizabeth's much poorer family belongs to. While Darcy's sense of social superiority offends people, it also promotes some of his better traits. As Wickham notes in his sly assessment, "His pride never deserts him; but with the rich, he is liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational, honorable, and perhaps agreeable — allowing for fortune and figure."

The narrator relates Elizabeth’s point of view of events more often than Darcy’s, so Elizabeth often seems a more sympathetic figure. The reader eventually realizes, however, that Darcy is her ideal match. Intelligent and forthright, he too has a tendency to judge too hastily and harshly, and his high birth and wealth make him overly proud and overly conscious of his social status. This leads him to a general prejudice for all those below his social status. Indeed, his haughtiness makes him initially bungle his courtship. Darcy’s refusal to dance with Elizabeth leads her to be prejudiced against him. Even when he proposes to her, he dwells more on how unsuitable a match she is than on her charms, beauty, or anything else complimentary. Her rejection of his advances builds a kind of humility in him. Darcy demonstrates his continued devotion to Elizabeth, in spite of his distaste for her low connections.

Elizabeth, due to her strong personality and remarks, was the only one who was able to break through Darcy’s pride and alter his perspective back to reality. His lesson is complete when he is totally humbled by Elizabeth’s rejection of his proposal and realizes his misplaced pride in the woman whom he loves. This excessive love for  Elizabeth cures Darcy and humbling himself he completely sheds his pride. Elizabeth’s moment of self-awakening comes on receiving of Darcy’s letter. Learning the truth about Wickham, she realizes her own blindness and prejudice in judging Darcy and Wickham on mere first impressions. At Pemberely, she learns about Darcy’s austerity of manner.

Darcy’s role in Lydia Wickham episode proves that he has completely shed his pride, otherwise he would not have assented to get involved in Bennet’s disgrace and have for his brother-in-law, the man, he most despises. Elizabeth’s recognition that, “Darcy was exactly the man who, in disposition and talent, would most suit her”, suggests that her initial prejudice against him is dissolved and the time is now ripe for them to get married.

It is, in fact, his ideal of nobility that makes Darcy truly change in the novel. When Elizabeth flatly turns down his marriage proposal and tells him that it was ungentlemanly, Darcy is startled into realizing just how arrogant and assuming he has been. He reflects later on why he was that way: "I was spoiled by my parents, who though good themselves . . .  to think meanly of all the rest of the world." Darcy's humbling makes him more sensitive to what other people feel. In the end, he is willing to marry into a family with three silly daughters, an embarrassing mother, and Wickham as a brother-in-law. It may be that he becomes more easygoing about other people's faults because he is now aware of his own.

Last modified: Tuesday, 20 February 2018, 12:53 AM