A haughty aristocrat who owns the Pemberley estate, Darcy has trouble seeing the value in those beneath his social standing. Still, the ladies love him. Last we checked, Facebook had over 400 groups containing the name "Mr. Darcy." A simple random sample of the titles: "I Refuse to Settle For Anything Less Than Mr. Darcy" "I'm Not Looking for Mr. Right, I'm Looking for Mr. Darcy," "I love Mr. Darcy enough to make Jane Austen uncomfortable." Wow. What's the deal with this guy, anyway?
What are the Pride and Prejudice boys up to while the girls are figuring out the whole marriage situation? Well, they've got some of their own growing up to do. Except, in their case, the main issue is how to be the right kind of man. Just as Elizabeth is kind of our symbol of old versus new reasons to get married, Darcy is our symbol of new thoughts about just what constitutes a gentleman in a time when the class system is becoming less rigid and more and more middle-class people are getting enough money to buy into the aristocracy.
Before any social mobility was possible – basically, in the 18th century – there was a pretty fixed idea about what a dude's gotta do to be considered part of the gentry. Basically? Be born into it. You didn't have to walk the walk or talk the talk very much; just carry the right DNA and you were automatically given elite status and considered way more awesome than everyone else.
Soon enough, though, at the turn of the 19th century, things started shifting. The aristocracy got all stressed that soon all it would take to claim blue blood was a fat wad of cash, and so the principles of good breeding and gentlemanly behavior started to be emphasized way more strenuously. Now, you couldn't just chalk up all your high status to your parentage. Instead, to be a true gentleman you had to think like a gentleman and act like a gentleman.
How does a gentleman think? Darcy has that part down pat. He's totally devoted to his sister, he cares about his estate and tenants, and is generally a pretty upstanding member of society.
As for acting like a gentleman? Let's just say that his outward appearance and manners aren't exactly up to snuff. We can't help but feel like, if we invited Mr. Darcy to our annual Christmas bash, he'd stand in the corner, refuse to speak to anyone, and silently judge our Santa hat. On the surface, the man is gloomy and proud. Check out how he's only in town for five minutes before all the Meryton peeps are disgusted with his fussy nonsense. Also, check out that horrible proposal he makes to Elizabeth, telling her that against all his better judgment he can't seem to shake off his love. Oh, brother.
As the novel goes on, we see him getting his act together more and more. He makes nice with Elizabeth's aunt and uncle, and generally pulls the stick out of his rear end. As the novel finishes, just as Elizabeth is ready to make the right marriage choice, Darcy becomes the right marriage partner.
OK, OK, we hear you. Marriage, shmarriage – enough already. Isn't there some other way to think about Darcy and the gang? Well, step right this way, folks, for a totally different approach to this character, and maybe even the whole novel. An approach that is all about…drum roll please…ways of communicating! (Shmoop overhyped that, didn't we? The drum roll was probably too much.)
But think about it: Darcy is terrible with the medium most people use to communicate with each other, also known as speech. He really just can't hack it. Either he is way too honest and insulting, or he can't fake small talk and comes off snooty, or else he is harsh and mocking – and that's with his friends! Dude is just kind of off in person. When he puts pen to paper, though? Well, for Pete's sake, that long amazing letter he writes to Elizabeth after the disastrous proposal actually gets her to fall in love with him. Now that's some mad skillz right there. Lots of other letters make it into the novel, but no one can hold a candle to Darcy. What does that say about him? Does he communicate in other ways? Does anyone else?Mr. Darcy Timeline