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Darcy vs. the modern girl

Penelope Vaxevanes │ prosiliomani@hotmail.com

The train goes fast into the night. Soon it will cross the border. I should be using the distraction-free time for work but instead I keep thinking about the therapeutic weekend I just had. A weekend that was filled with three things: food, sleep and endless discussions about guys.

It would seem that if you talk about the same guy for the better part of a year, you must have said everything there is to say about them… right? I mean, how much more can you analyse them? How much can their reactions change? But, in the world of girls, there will always be more angles, more signs, more arguments, more details that back up the one and only female truth or illusion… That there is a guy that deserves all the attention and brain power, the tears and pain and, more often than not, the heartache.

Why, you would ask? What drives girls to behave like this? What is it that makes them so stubborn, so blind? How can they afford to consume so much energy on one guy? I could be wrong, but my answer is: Fitzwilliam Darcy, literature’s most imperfectly perfect man and the dream of most girls and women around the world since Pride and Prejudiced was published in 1813.

Darcy1995Darcy is a tricky one. He is first introduced in Pride and Prejudice as a sort of anti-hero. He is so hard to like. You have a suspicion that he might be a good guy, but only because it is evident that he is the protagonist. He is so proud and arrogant that you, literally, want to slap him. And then he goes and does what is possibly the most obnoxious marriage proposal in the history of literature: your family sucks, your sister is a social-climbing whore, you are a barely acceptable choice, but I want to marry you. He is naturally turned down by the prejudiced Lizzie Bennet, and this is where the story starts, only to end with her falling in love with him (duh) and them getting married (double duh) after he saves her younger sister from social Siberia, saves her father from financial ruin and makes sure her older sister is happily married to his own best friend. Not bad, huh? A tough act to follow.

So this is a classic story from darcy 2the 19th century. Then why is the hero so popular today? Darcy often tops the polls as the favourite male literary character, followed almost always by the cosmopolitan James Bond. His name is always the answer to the question: Which literary hero would you want to marry? What is it that makes him so loved? What is it that makes women overlook all his faults: the arrogance, the pride, the disregard for people who do not come from his social background, and his abrupt and rude manners? Is it only that this is essentially a story about the ‘poor’ girl marrying the sought after rich bachelor? On the surface, yes it is. But there are millions of stories like that in literature, whose heroes are not as memorable or as influential.

Pride and Prejudice is a timeless love story set in the Georgian era. The main story is simple: Boy meets girl. Girl dislikes boy. Boy proves to girl that he is more than meets the eye. Girl realises boy is secretly awesome. They fall in love. The end. The set is a perfect add-on to the main story, with the colourful British countryside of the 19th century serving as the perfect background for social satire of the era.

Darcy2001But again, why do we care today? Why is Darcy universal even though he comes from a 19th century British masterpiece? And why is it that we can fit him into any culture and make him speak any language, and still we fall in love with him all over again? He must be literature’s embodiment of the male archetype. He is the Alpha-male who takes matters into his own hands, who takes care of women and family, who is a leader in society. He is the guy that all girls needed in the 19th century, but also the guy that 21st century emancipated girls claim they do not need but dream of every night.

And every time the 21st century, emancipated, modern girl obsesses over a guy that has shown no promise of being better than what he seems on the surface, she thinks that maybe, just maybe, if she waits, if she looks harder, if she forgives the little details she doesn’t like (or even the huge flaws), he might turn out to be another Darcy. Probably not the one that will put her in a carriage and take her to Pemberley, but maybe one that will try his best to make her happy.Or not. Jane Austen, the writer of Pride and Prejudice, never married. She was rumoured to have been in love with a poor fellow, who could not marry her because she did not have a dowry. Like her protagonist, Lizzie Bennet, she could not afford to marry for love. She had to marry for money. Lizzie was lucky. Jane was not. She later became engaged to a rich guy, but she broke the engagement off Darcy2005two days later because she could not marry someone she was not in love with. She convinced me and millions of other girls over the last 200 years that we should go for the one, for Mr. Darcy, but she never did. The guy she fell in love with eventually married the rich girl his uncle chose for him and Jane died a respected famous spinster.

If you liked Penelope’s article, also read Feature Story − The Home I Left, the Home I Found : A Vacation in Greece in the Middle of the Crisis

Penelope Vaxevanes, News Editor

penelope

Penelope is from Greece and has studied French Language and Literature in the Philosophic School of the University of Athens. She spent the first two Euroculture semesters in Goettingen and Krakow. She wants to make a career in Cultural diplomancy but so far, she enjoys avoiding writing an MA thesis while testing her alcohol consumption limits in Hamburg.

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