Character Study: Mr Darcy of Pride and Prejudice

The son of a wealthy, well-established family and the master of the great estate of Pemberley, Darcy is Elizabeth’s male counterpart. 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. Indeed, his haughtiness makes him initially bungle his courtship. When he proposes to her, for instance, 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, when he rescues Lydia and the entire Bennet family from disgrace, and when he goes against the wishes of his haughty aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, by continuing to pursue Elizabeth. Darcy proves himself worthy of Elizabeth, and she ends up repenting her earlier, overly harsh judgment of him.

Introduced in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as a tall, handsome, superior aristocrat, Darcy experiences a change in personality and character. In order to change his existent views on money and marriage, Darcy needed to feel something, to fall in love. Despite his importance, when the reader first meets him at the Meryton ball, Darcy’s arrogance becomes clear when he is seen by the Meryton gossips. His feelings of superiority to the people of the town lead Mr. Darcy to be judged as a man with a repulsive and cruel personality, ‘she is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me’, he is heard slighting Elizabeth which then leads to a common opinion among both the other characters and the reader that he is pompous and not worth the effort of conversation.
The women, who had found him briskly attractive at first glance, deemed him a man unworthy of marriage because he offered no positive qualities other than wealth. Not only did Darcy refuse to dance with Elizabeth, but he makes it clear that no woman in the room other than Jane was worthy or met his standards of a suitable partner stating that, “there is not another woman in this room, whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with”, as with the context of the book he uses dialogue appropriate to the period such as when he says ‘stand up with’ as opposed to ‘dance with’. In the beginning of the novel, Mr. Darcy is only concerned with the wealth and social standing of the people in the town. Because of their lesser social rank, he feels they are un-deserving of his presence and refuses to communicate with them. As the novel progresses, Darcy becomes more and more fond of Elizabeth, whom the reader perceives as a clever but slightly arrogant woman with an unconventional outlook.
Mr Darcy’s relationship with Elizabeth changes constantly throughout the book as neither knows whether they are attracted to the other. Elizabeth’s view of Mr Darcy was first formed at the first ball; he was decided to be “the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and everyone hoped he would never come there again“. There at the ball Mr Bingley advised Mr Darcy, as he was standing all alone, to dance with Miss Elizabeth and wished to introduce her but Mr Darcy said, “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me”. This offends Elizabeth to the point of which she maintain a bad opinion of him for many weeks until he proves he can be kind and pleasant person.
Mr Bingley while being Mr Darcy’s closest and possibly only friend is also his complete opposite as he is cheerful, easygoing and seems to be pleased with everything he sees where Darcy is critical of everything in sight as soon as he arrives in Meryton. This sets up a strange pattern as the sisters Elizabeth and Jane have the same contrast and as Austen says in the book ‘a good marriage consists of two people who are of similar mind and talents’ so it seems Elizabeth and Darcy as well as Jane and Bingley were set up to be together from the beginning. This connection becomes more apparent later in the book as Mr Darcy acknowledges to Miss Bingley that Elizabeth is ‘pretty and has fine eyes’ he then goes on to propose to her and when she refuses he realises that the way he acts leads to everyone disliking him. However, as the story progresses, Mr Darcy returns to his estate where Elizabeth sees how he dotes upon his younger sister Georgiana a gentle, shy young woman who appears to be very delicate.
Darcy’s relationship with Miss Bingley is awkward if not embarrassing as she is attracted to him and yet he barely notices her as he is focused on Elizabeth throughout almost all of the novel. In fact, he entrusts how he feels about Elizabeth to Caroline as he obviously doesn’t see her as a romantic opportunity, mearly as a friend or acquaintance. Mr Darcy’s relationship with Mr Wickham is much more volatile as there is conflict left over from when Mr Wickham tried to seduce and elope with Mr Darcy’s younger sister, Georgiana, who is very vulnerable. However, this is not what Wickham told everyone else including Elizabeth. He told everyone that he had been cheated by Darcy because of a bequest by Darcy’s late father which helps further Elizabeths dislike of him.
Mr Darcy represents many aspects of the novel but a strong opinion is that he represents pride as is clearly shown at the Meryton ball when he insults or declines every woman there especially Elizabeth ‘not handsome enough to tempt me’ whom he later regrets insulting which could be Austen’s way of telling the reader the dangers of pride and vanity which Darcy learns throughout the book. As another representation of Darcy is that he is one of the many aspects of change throughout the book as his entire personality changes as well as quite significantly changing his attitude toward lower classes. This also shows how Austen has used the title to describe Darcy’s personality and then had him lose these things to become a better, more acceptable person.
Darcy is the most fluid and changed character in the novel and as such he is one of the main character’s and could certainly be viewed as the most interesting and centred example of the novel’s main ideals. As with all other characters in this book, his goal is to get married but he has the highest standards as he makes clear from the first time the readers meet him at the ball, ‘there is not another woman in the room, whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with’ but with his prejudice towards everyone at the ball so absolute, he is blind to anyone whom he may have an attraction towards.
It seems that the Meryton gossips were wrong with there judgement and were more prejudiced than Fitzwilliam Darcy ever was.