Why Women Love Mr. Darcy
Ok, the wet shirt scene made women swoon, but that's not the only reason. What makes this man the heartthrob of millions of women and the grudging hero of the many men whose significant other made them watch or read it? Could it be that the discriminating Jane Austen created a model of the perfect man she held out for in her own life?
Before you despair, her Mr. Darcy is a lot like many of us, a man not fond of idle talk, prone to saying the wrong thing and hopeless at comprehending the female species. Here is a man who goes from the most despised to the most desired by doing the unthinkable, he listens to the woman and is not afraid to change, all the while sticking to the principles of his character. With the help of some female Darcy fans I believe I have isolated ten of the very important character traits that Mr. Darcy used to win the heart of the one he loved as well as the hearts of generations of readers.
Ten Things That Women Love About Mr. Darcy
1. He is open and honest.
In the beginning, he is open and honest to a fault. Darcy despised the hypocrisy, shallowness and pretentious of the wealthy social class and said so. He also was open about his dislike of foolish and gossipy people like Elizabeth's mother. His first impression of Elizabeth was that she was not attractive and said so. He also gave his honest opinion to Bingley that Jane did not really care for him and was socially inferior to his station.This was not his finest hour.
When motivated by "Pride and Prejudice," being open and honest is less admirable than discretion and restraint. Darcy freely admits he does not have this filter.
“I should have judged better had I sought an introduction; but I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers… I certainly have not the talent which some people possess of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done."
In his drive to be open and honest, he delivers perhaps the worst proposal in literature and when Elizabeth understandably reproofs him, he reveals much about himself: `
`these offenses might have been overlooked, had not your pride been hurt by my honest confession of the scruples that had long prevented my forming any serious design. These bitter accusations might have been suppressed, had I with greater policy concealed my struggles, and flattered you... But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence..."
Elizabeth, also, openly admits she was wrong to be proud of her ability to size up Darcy and Wyckham so well. She calls herself:
“blind, partial, prejudiced, and absurd... Vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession [pride] and ignorance, and driven reason away where either were concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself.”
2. He is not defensive.
Even when Elizabeth was mistaken in the facts concerning him and criticized him harshly, he did not defend himself. This is one of the greatest, if not the greatest of Darcy's character traits. He chose to be silent. He chose to let his actions and true reputation surface eventually rather than be known as a person who makes excuses, blames others or fails to take responsibility for his actions and words. Granted he did hand her a letter of explanation, but it was respectfully and honestly delivered--without any defensive posture.
As she pronounced these words, Mr. Darcy changed colour; but the emotion was short, and he listened without attempting to interrupt her while she continued:
How many of us can listen without interrupting, especially when the facts are incorrect?
"And this," cried Darcy, as he walked with quick steps across the room,"is your opinion of me! This is the estimation in which you hold me! I thank you for explaining it so fully. My faults, according to this calculation, are heavy indeed!"
"You have said quite enough, madam. I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been. Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness."
Darcy has my utmost admiration for his restraint and gentlemanly response to what was a scathing and comprehensive tongue lashing given by Elizabeth just before he says these words. Consider just a sampling:
"From the very beginning--from the first moment, I may almost say--of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."
Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness? Folks, remove your hats--this is a gentleman we can learn from, even if we have said just the opposite in our own similar encounters.
3. He does not try to change her but likes her "just the way she is."
There were things about Elizabeth that were not entirely suited to a man of Darcy's position and she spoke her mind in a way that could have brought criticism and did from the social elite surrounding him. To his credit, even before he fell in love with her, he spoke about her from pride and prejudice, but did not give her advice nor did he try to get her to be different from the way she was.
Contrast this with the smarmy twit Mr. Collins who said: "... your wit and vivacity I think must be acceptable...especially when tempered with...silence and respect..."
It is the depth of her personality and her quick wit that both challenges and attracts Darcy to Elizabeth and rather than get her to tone it down so that she would not offend the social class, he decides that nothing else will do and chooses her over the frail and timid cousin his family wants him to marry.
4. He knows how to listen.
Men, as a rule, don't listen. On the rare occasions where we do listen to you trying to explain what is wrong with our relationship, we are either baffled or too stubborn to get it.
We then try to explain it away. We tell you there is no spoon, just don't think about it and it will go away. We downplay it's significance and we accuse you of being too sensitive or emotional. When we are at our worst, we give excuses and shift the blame to you.
And ladies this is the real reason you love Mr. Darcy. He listens, without interrupting, to Lizzie's caustic indictment. He understands what she is saying and it affects him deeply. He doesn't put the blame on her even when her facts are totally false.
He listens, he is courteous, he is a gentleman and he takes it to heart. Later we will see that he is also willing to change based on her input.
Right here we will pause to let all you ladies still your beating, if not melted, hearts.
5. He knows how to apologize.
When Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy are talking about the girls of Meryton, Mr Darcy says something about Elizabeth that she overhears and cannot forget for most of the novel: ‘She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me’' ----Ouch! This alone would put him on her "least wanted" list, but he soon easily tops this one.
Darcy mistakes Lizzie's sister Jane's feelings for Bingley and advises him to avoid pursuing her and Elizabeth confronts him about it.
Do you deny that you separated a young couple who loved each other, exposing your friend to censure of the world for caprice and my sister to derision for disappointed hopes, involving them both in misery of the acutest kind?
Mr. Darcy listens to her eloquent description of his disregard for other's feelings and happiness and when he learns the truth about Jane's real feelings, he feels remorse and remedies the situation.
Mr. Darcy looked startled, to say the least. After a short pause, he answered, "I thank you, Miss. Bennet, for your apology. Though it was not needed, I accept." He took a breath. "Our conversation last spring, if I may call it that," he said, smiling a little into her nervous face, "taught me more about my faults and pride than I would care to admit. That I was prideful and conceited at times has been brought to my attention, and these past months I have tried to become more agreeable to those around me. I hope that you can forgive my abominable behavior from my past actions."
6. He is not afraid to change.
As the previous paragraph demonstrates, the man who was despised for his pride and conceit demonstrates humility and a willingness to become a better man.
I asked a lady sitting in a table next to me at a restaurant why women love Mr. Darcy (the Colin Firth version.) When I mentioned his name, her eyes went all dreamy and a smile came to her face. "Because he is vulnerable." She said wistfully.
Ladies, you don't care that Darcy is flawed, in fact, his awkwardness in his obvious infatuation, his bumbling of his words and repetition of conversation when he sees Elizabeth at his estate, his misjudged attempts at social interaction and meddling are all mildly charming because he is so vulnerable and innocent and you can change him!
Yes he insulted you. Yes he wrecked your sister's happiness. Yes he says your mother and sisters act like poor white trash. None of that really matters because he's crazy about you and he's handsome and he's rich and most importantly you can work with him because he listens to you. When you tell him he is being a jerk, he has a “selfish disdain for the feelings of others.” and he is the last person on earth you would consider marrying, he actually is sorry and you can tell he wants to take all your constructive criticism to heart and begin to be more like you want him to be.
Never before have women met a man who thrives so well under criticism. Mirroring a persons faults to him is universally condemned by every relationship therapist on the planet and yet here is a gentleman that does not get angry at criticism. He does not zap her back. He does not crawl into his silent box and sulk. He does the unthinkable--he gets right to work on self-improvement and does not give up on the relationship. Wow. No wonder women swoon at the mention of his name.
When they meet at Pemberly, he is a changed man. He engages her aunt and uncle in conversation, offers his ponds and equipment for fishing, invites them to a party and while he is awkward at it, he is pleasant to Elizabeth and extremely hospitable.
At the end of the novel we see to what extent he has been willing to change. “Such I was, from eight to eight-and-twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased."
7. He defends her publicly.
When there is the gossipy, catty conversation going on in which Miss Bingley criticizes Elizabeth's looks, Darcy quickly cuts in with his unashamed admiration for her. "...it is many months since I have considered her one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance."
Caroline accuses Elizabeth of deliberately walking to Netherfield in order to make a scene and when she hints that perhaps the walk has lessened Darcy's estimation of Elizabeth's "fine eyes," he casually replies, "Not at all, they were brightened by the exercise."
Nothing--let me repeat it--nothing is more impressive to the object of your affection than for you to defend her in public. Especially if it gets back to her from her friends and not from you.
8. He does something extraordinary and he is quiet about it.
I'll have to say that after watching the BBC version I wanted to be like Mr. Darcy. Not the rich part, although I wouldn't mind a gigantic parcel of land and multiple mansions. I wasn't even impressed with his position and power. What impressed me was the way he handled Elizabeth's missing sister situation.
He didn't posture or debate or puzzle over what to do, he simply got on his horse, rode to London, found her, figured out how to make it work, took sole financial responsibility and swore everyone to secrecy about his part in it. He wouldn't let Elizabeth's father pay him back, didn't want him to tell Elizabeth, and he had to listen to the air head mother malign him and instead praise a relation who had nothing to do with her daughter Lydia's salvation.
This strong character trait of Darcy's that allows Wickham, Mrs. Bennett and even Elizabeth to falsely accuse him without defending himself while he works quietly to show his real integrity by his actions is formidable and for women, it is irresistible.
As a forum commentator said, "He's strong, silent, yet sensitive, he'll give time and money just to get your attention, and he'll change for you."
9. He can be engaging.
Another forum commentator said, "He doesn't know how to express himself, and that's endearing. Before he ever tells Lizzie he likes her, he's super awkward to the point of being rude despite the fact that he really likes her. When he finally gets his act together at the end and properly tells Lizzie that he's always held out hope that she might be "generous enough to trifle" with him, I melt into a puddle of my own smitten-ness."
Darcy doesn't know how to express his feelings for Elizabeth, but that endears him to women. He is the antithesis of a slick, pick-up artist. Even when he likes her he can't help sounding awkward and a times, rude and insensitive. He is the quintessential strong, silent type.
What disarms Elizabeth is that when he begins to interact with her, he is quick, witty and pleasantly conversant. It's as if he only needs an equally interesting woman to bring out his inner eloquence.
At the Netherfield Ball, Lizzie agrees to dance with Mr. Darcy and she discovers that they are alike in their delight in using their wit and humor to make a point. She finds in him a worthy partner in scintillating dialogue.
“It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy – I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”
He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said. "Very well. That reply will do for the present. Perhaps by and by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones. But now we may be silent.”
“Do you talk by rule, then, while you are dancing?”
“Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together; and yet for the advantage of some, conversation ought to be so arranged, as that they may have the trouble of saying as little as possible.”
“Are you consulting your own feelings in the present case, or do you imagine that you are gratifying mine?”
“Both,” replied Elizabeth archly; “for I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb.”
“This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure,” said he. “How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say. You think it a faithful portrait undoubtedly."
Darcy says what he thinks and makes his point cleanly, laced with humor. When he verbally spars with Elizabeth, he is actually sparring with the clever voice of the formidable Jane Austen who undoubtedly sees herself in the independent and loquacious Lizzie.
10. He has a private reputation of kindness and goodness.
We learn from Mrs Reynolds, his housekeeper, who has known him since he was a small boy that he is far from being an intimidating tyrant. She describes him as being good-natured, sweet-tempered and generous-hearted.
"If your master would marry, you might see more of him."
......."Yes, sir; but I do not know when that will be. I do not know who is good enough for him."
.......Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner smiled. Elizabeth could not help saying, "It is very much to his credit, I am sure, that you should think so."
......."I say no more than the truth, and everybody will say that knows him," replied the other. Elizabeth thought this was going pretty far; and she listened with increasing astonishment as the housekeeper added, "I have never known a cross word from him in my life, and I have known him ever since he was four years old."
Elizabeth and Darcy find what is difficult to find in a relationship--they share a love of conversation with each other and while they are very different, each completes the other. He offers her stability and strength, she helps him to laugh at himself and the world. He offers her passion and loyalty, she offers him devotion and a lively wit.
Together they become a formidable couple--a lively, independent girl sticks to her principles and gets the guy and a private, impassioned bumbler sticks to his principles, but modifies himself to get the girl. May each of us be as passionate and as sensible as Mr. Darcy.
The producers wanted Darcy to leap in naked, but BBC thought it would not be proper for a Jane Austen costume drama. They then suggested that he jump in with just his underwear, but that was not historically correct. Finally, they decided he would leap in fully clothed but without his waistcoat and overcoat.
"Nobody had the slightest inkling that Colin Firth, wearing a lightweight cotton voile shirt with his nipples showing underneath, would have such an effect." ~ Mr Langton, Daily Mail
"I've watched this scene 100+times too! And still can't explain why we find a man nearly fully clothed...who has just taken a dip in the lake...and is sopping wet...so incredibly handsome and sexy!!?? But he is...and we know why....don't we ladies?" ~ Commenter to the above video