Blog PostsThe Real Reason Women Love Mr. Darcy

Whenever I engage in a discussion of the relative merits of Jane Austen as a writer, the conversation inevitably returns to the subject of Mr. Darcy. Even if I’m trying to talk about Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion – you know, one of Austen’s other novels – Mr. Darcy is always mentioned.  Usually, the person who brings up Mr. Darcy is the one who doesn’t like Austen, and his argument boils down to the same thing: “Austen is only popular because women think Mr. Darcy is hot.”

OF COURSE!  It all makes sense now!  Our admiration of Austen’s writing has nothing, nothing to do with the way she portrays a close, sisterly relationship in Sense and Sensibility, or the homage/satire on the Gothic novel in Northanger Abbey, or the mature story about love and forgiveness in Persuasion, or the hilarious original Mommie Dearest story in Lady Susan, or the pointed commentary on hypochondria and gossip in her unfinished Sanditon. It’s ALL ABOUT MR. DARCY.  “I watched Colin Firth crawl out of the lake and I jizzed! in! my pants!”

Right, okay.  I could – and possibly will – write an entire thesis praising the merits of Jane Austen, but that post is for another time.  For now, I’m going to entertain the idea that Mr. Darcy is the source of Austen’s popularity.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Mr. Darcy is the main reason women love Pride and Prejudice. I counter with, “If that is the case, what’s wrong with that?”

Seriously.  What’s wrong with loving Mr. Darcy?

In fact, what’s wrong with women wanting real men to be more like Mr. Darcy?

Some people would claim that there is something seriously wrong with that.  Not all of these people are men.  They assume we ladies can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality and we’re imposing unrealistic expectations on real-life men.

That would be true…except most people don’t understand the real reason women love Mr. Darcy.

It’s not the Colin Firth factor.  It’s not the handsome exterior.  It’s not the money.  It’s not even the way he swoops in to save the day and rescue Elizabeth’s stupid little sister and their family from shame.

No.  The real reason women love Mr. Darcy has to do with his powers of receptive language.  When Elizabeth tells him that he’s full of crap, he listens to her.

Every single woman I know has had the frustrating, circular conversation with her boyfriend/husband/significant other where she tries to express her feelings and explain what’s bothering her about their relationship.  And every single woman I know has had to deal with the frustrating aftermath as her partner refuses to understand, or genuinely doesn’t understand, why she’s upset.  Worse, he will often mansplain to her why her problem isn’t really a problem, how it isn’t that serious, how she’s overreacting/being emotional/being irrational…and then wonder why she’s even more frustrated and won’t talk to him.  Even the best of men do this.

Not Mr. Darcy.  His initial reaction, yes, is to assume that Elizabeth was angry because of her hurt pride, but she puts him in his place when she explains that she was truly put off by his “selfish disdain for the feelings of others.”  That cuts him to the quick.  The next time she sees him, he is considerably more pleasant and social than he was before, generous to her aunt and uncle and engaging them in conversation.  He makes an effort to make them feel comfortable, when he would have given no thought to their concerns before meeting Elizabeth.

At the end of the book, he acknowledges that he would never have changed his ways if not for “dearest, loveliest Elizabeth.”  He makes a comment about Mr. Bingley forgiving him, to which Elizabeth almost replies before checking herself because he “has not learned to laugh at himself yet.”  He has improved since the beginning of the story, but he can stand to develop a stronger sense of humor.

In short, we don’t love Mr. Darcy because he’s perfect.  We love him because he’s not perfect, he recognizes that he’s not perfect, and actually works on his imperfections in the name of self-improvement.

What would the world be like if everyone was a little more reflective, and thought a little more about how their behavior affects others?

I’ve heard men say that characters like Mr. Darcy and Edward Cullen (and I hate mentioning them in the same sentence, but they’re unfortunately lumped together too often) make women have unrealistic expectations of the men they date.  Isn’t that a convenient excuse for not trying harder to change?  It’s the Homer Simpson way: “Well EXCUSE ME for having ENORMOUS FLAWS that I DON’T WORK ON!”

And call me blunt or dismissive if you must, but in a world where women get plastic surgery on their vaginas to trim their labias, hoping they will make their ladyparts more attractive to men, I really, really don’t want to hear about the unrealistic expectations that we have for you.

Yes, gentlemen, you should be more like Mr. Darcy, in the sense that you should listen when a woman tells you she’s upset about your behavior.  You don’t have to agree with her in the end, but you have to show that her opinion matters to you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to decide which Austen purchase I would rather make: the “I’d rather be at Pemberley” T-shirt or the “My other car is a barouche” bumper sticker.

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32 Responses to The Real Reason Women Love Mr. Darcy

  1. kadja1 says:

    I loved this post! I’ll be back for more!

  2. caitmechanic says:

    Yes and yes! So true.

    My take on the subject (which I think meshes well with yours RE: listening, introspection):

  3. Jodi says:

    Love this! I do always want to point out to people who are Firth-fixated that most Austen lovers READ Pride and Prejudice before we ever watched it. Shocking to them, apparently. Who knew that listening was a special skill? 🙂

  4. hopefullyjoy says:

    read the book before seeing any movies:)
    pride and prejudice is the only austen book I’ve read.. I’m trying to find out which of the other novels might match it in romance, comic and character aspects..? perhaps you could give me some help..:)
    I liked the book before I knew how nice mr darcy became or how handsome colin firth was in the movie, but after those two things happened, I LOVED it. mr darcy is so amazing because he becomes a true gentleman, listens, and cares and loves elizabeth even when she rudely turns him away. (although yes, we know, his behavior was rude as well)
    YES to the men could at least try to improve themselves &unrealistic expectations thing.
    there should be so many more mr Darcy’s out there…..sigh<3

    • Lady T says:

      Ooh, I’m so glad you asked!

      If you’re looking for a great romance, I’d recommend Persuasion. The love story between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth is romantic and passionate and grown-up. For comedy, I think Emma and Northanger Abbey are the funniest of her novels. Emma has a lot of biting wit, and Northanger Abbey is a great parody of Gothic novels.

  5. Jerome says:

    I love Mr. Darcy. From a crabby man’s perspective, unfortunately, Elizabeth Bennetts are just as rare. Imagine a woman who even has the patience to put up with you when you’re that sullen out in society. Most chicks won’t go for a second date.

    • Ms. Demeanour says:

      A valid point Mr. Crabby Man! Few modern men and women are built on the lines of Mr. Darcy and Ms. Bennett. Perhaps that explains why so many relationships fail these days.

  6. jasha says:

    i actually love Mr. Darcy because he looked stern very reserve. The idea of someone whom you think is not capable of falling in love but did and was very reluctant and has been holding himself for quiet some times turns me on and makes me swoon every time! the way he looks at her and want to stop how he feels but wishes Lizzie feels the same thing too, the irony of it is so intense!

  7. Just Colin says:

    I love this post. You have a major point there because I do love him for his willingness to change to please Elizabeth whom he regarded as a very worthy prize. But I love him too for other things – how handsome he is, how insightful, how reserved and dignified, the way he dealt with Wickham, and a million other reasons.

  8. Vega says:

    Oh Mr. Darcy, how I ardently admire and love you, I won’t lie. Ever since I read Pride and Prejudice and saw Colin Firth as Darcy, oh if I could lift any man from the page to real life…. Any who, my love of Mr. Darcy is because he likes Lizzie for beingg strong-willed, opinionated and giving them freely, and challenging him on his ideas and personality. She doesn’t just interact pleasantly to appease others, she speaks her mind and is unmoved by others who are of a higher position than her. She doesn’t just do what a well-mannered woman should do, she’s exerts a freedom that the others don’t and that drives him crazy! Which in turn, drives me crazy!! On top of all that, he listens to what she says and respects her. As said above, his reserved and dignified nature and his quietly pining and brooding are quite sexy too. Often, men find being challenged mentally a turn off but not Darcy.

  9. Frankie says:

    His brooding intensity is so sexy and his words are blinding. Elizabeth speaks her mind and he listens… We all want that Mr Darcy to come and admire us from a distance and then declare his love in a breathtaking way using words to take our hearts and keep them forever. As soon as you close the book, you unravel the story a second time in your head, mulling things over, hearing his voice, telling you ” I love you. Most ardently. Please do me the honor of accepting my hand.” And you know he’s there and you’ve fallen. Darcy listens like a real man and he’s willing to give up all his respect for Lizzie (beautiful right?). The irony of it all is that he’s not real to teach all men alive these things.

  10. Shahrzad says:

    Mansplane :)) i loved this word! I’m gonna use it from now on xx

  11. no no no…terrible post. Let me show you ladies why you are ALL wrong. It is pretty safe to assume that women love Mr. Darcy because he loves Elizabeth Bennett for who she is, correct? By this we mean he tells her how he feels, but doesn’t try to change her. However, Elizabeth Bennett DOES NOT LOVE DARCY FOR WHO HE IS!!!!! GET THAT THROUGH YOUR SKULLS!!! She will only accept an improved version of Darcy. In essence, she is a hypocrite. What this means is that I cannot respect Darcy as a man for allowing a girl to change his character, however flawed it may be, when she does not reciprocate that behavior of change. Bingley was by far the most genuine & “agreeable” of Austen characters. Furthermore, the view of love that Elizabeth has with Darcy is dare I say it, more unhealthy than that of Lydia & Wickham. Elizabeth Bennett found herself hating Darcy and then just loving him in an instant, and immediately runs into his arms witho no caution other than the predisposition. She trusts him because he is honest–honesty is important–it allows people to be themselves–but character is far more important than honesty in itself–a man who is like Darcy is bound to be controlling, aggressive, mean-spirited, and possibly even abusive–and women think that their Eliza Bennett duty is to discover that man’s tortured spirit to figure out to change him–WHICH NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER WORKS!!! Ok, I’m done

    • Theresa Basile says:

      Well. That was well-expressed and not at all ranty or contradictory.

        • Also, he doesn’t really listen to her that much. Perhaps a little on his character, but when proposing the first time, he is told he is the last man she would marry. He DID NOT listen–he proudly then took advantage of her younger sister’s naievity and tried to buy Elizabeth Bennett’s love…another strike for him. I do not respect this man or the pedestal women put this man on. At all. A rich Mr. Darcy giving money does not show generosity, it only shows manipulation.

          • Theresa Basile says:

            Except that he didn’t even want the Gardiners or Lydia to TELL Elizabeth that he helped out at all. Lydia let that detail slip, and Elizabeth pressed her aunt until Mrs. Gardiner told her what happened.

            If you have to leave out key details of the story to support your argument, then your argument is weak.

    • Theresa Basile says:

      Shorter version of your “arguments”:

      “Darcy is a wuss for letting a woman change him!” “Darcy is also controlling and abusive and can never be changed!” “Darcy is at least honest!”

      You cannot have all of those. Pick one.

      As for Elizabeth, this is from the actual text regarding her change in opinion of Darcy:

      “She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both: by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved; and from his judgement, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance.”

      Your arguments miss the entire point of the story to fit your own agenda, and on top of that, you began extremely rudely, saying this was a “terrible post” and condescending to explain to “you ladies” why we’re all wrong.

      I’d compare you to Mr. Collins given your condescending tone with the “you ladies,” but if you entirely missed the point on Darcy and Elizabeth, I can’t imagine you understood the point of his character either.

      • a). Just because someone is ranty or passionate or rude-does not mean he is wrong.
        b). If I am condescending, I would resemble Beginner Darcy; Collins wasn’t really condescending–he was just an idiot who couldn’t keep his mouth shut..-that I would own.
        c). I never said Darcy was abusive. I said a man who is like Darcy is all of the negative things (to be more accurate, a man women think is like Mr. Darcy), and yes, I have known a great number of women who defend their abusive man as “misunderstood”, like Mr. Darcy!)
        d). I am not really all that much like Collins, or really any character. To start, they are exaggerated fictional characters. I have no desire for riches & I absolutely can’t stand women like Lady Catherine. If I were to be bluntly honest with you, I would find myself to be a less permiscuous version of Wickham (I know, I’m not doing anything to help myself here).
        e). I don’t have any agendas other than to express that I really didn’t like this article, and I disagree with you; and yes, I admit it was done rather rudely. I am sorry for this–When I find myself very angry about a book and my opinions, sometimes things just happen. But one comment on a blog airing my opinion is hardly an agenda.
        f). A man can be honest, abusive, and a wuss. Think Scutt Farkas from A Christmas Story. It is almost like a defense mechanism-I would liken his beginning character to the school bully. This is precisely why I can’t stand him, even if he does change. To me, it comes off as an act, not a desire of love. It is true that my opinion is likely influenced by my own past experience or that of those I call friends. What I mean is I have seen too many men who act like Mr. Darcy, PRETEND to be nice and change themselves, for the sake of a girl, who buys it, and then once their innocence is lost, he returns to his beginner Darcy nature, as his goal has been achieved. In essence, I view Mr. Darcy as deceitful, an actor, a pretender.
        g). I am not the only person who shares these regards. Some of the greatest writers of all-time share these sentiments, including Mark Twain, DH Lawrence, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, & Ralph Waldo Emerson.

        • Theresa Basile says:

          It is true that my opinion is likely influenced by my own past experience or that of those I call friends.

          And there we have it.

          When you have arguments based on things that actually happened in the book and can quote the text to support said argument rather than basing assumptions on your own life, and can express your opinions in a polite manner, I’d be happy to discuss it further.

          But I’m not holding my breath.

          • Well, I find it very hard to interpret any book objectively, for anybody. I would think that even your analysis is at least somewhat influenced by your opinions of either men you know, or your expectation of what men should be like. This is why when movies come out based on books, there are often six or seven renditions of it. This is why when a movie even holds a wonderful account of the book, we still have two or more very large groups that contend it was done poorly or well. It is extremely difficult to read the tone of a book the correct way. Even still, it is still unclear as to if Darcy actually changed at all, or if he simply did not change, and Lizzy misunderstood his character. There are two very large groups that contend either way. It is very difficult for me to take someone’s analysis as more than opinion, because I have a hard time believing it is possible to do such a thing, at least in terms of a fictional book. Of course, there always picky things to analyze, like grammar and spelling, but in literary classics this is rarely a thing to debate; so it almost always comes down to the story; story is something I believe anybody can analyze objectively, other than things like, does it have an introduction, a plot, a climax, and a conclusion/ending. There were even differences in the director’s portrayals on the screen of both the BBC version and the Knightley movie. I don’t mean to say I won’t debate, I just can’t view comments as subjective, but that is my own flaw perhaps.

          • Theresa Basile says:

            Okay, now that you’re being nice, I’ll engage.

            I would think that even your analysis is at least somewhat influenced by your opinions of either men you know, or your expectation of what men should be like.

            That’s fair. Pure objectivity is impossible.

            Even still, it is still unclear as to if Darcy actually changed at all, or if he simply did not change, and Lizzy misunderstood his character.

            That depends. Are you trying to argue that Austen’s intentions are ambiguous regarding Darcy’s change in character, or that the story she wrote is unrealistic?

            If you’re arguing that his character growth is unrealistic and you see that as a flaw in Austen’s writing, then that’s subjective and something to discuss. But the novel is not ambiguous about the fact that he DOES show genuine growth. The last chapter emphasizes their happiness as a couple and their compatibility.

          • sorry, I meant to say in that comment at the end that “I don’t believe anybody can analyze a story objectively”, and “I just can’t view comments as objective” not subjective.

          • Ok, let’s try. Ok,so my first argument: Mr. Darcy is condescending, a wuss, and controlling. To me, I find this in his friendship with Bingley. At the first ball, he calls Lizzy tolerable-condescending. He is a wuss, because he calls Jane the handsomest girl in the room, but it is Bingley who makes the first move. Not only this, but he does not speak or dance with anyone at the ball. You don’t have to like someone to talk to them, or even dance with them. When I say that he is not confident here, I mean he does not interact with people confidently. He is very reserved. A confident condescending man would have either left, or talked down to every girl at the ball (that might be an exaggeration). I say he is controlling because he makes the end decisions for Bingley. I think if he really respected Bingley, Darcy would let Bingley make his own choices and trust him. I wouldn’t say Darcy is fully controlling, but I sensed he was that type and then when he swayed Bingley, that is how I intrepreted it.

            One of my other grievances is that I don’t believe Lizzy deserved the reformed Darcy. While Darcy worked on his character, I’m not so sure I read anything about Lizzy improving her character. She wasn’t perfect, and I never really noticed any improvements. I do recall Darcy saying she willfully misunderstands people, but I don’t ever see her change that about herself outside of Darcy, which wasn’t an intentional change. To me, I think this shouts that Darcy, if changed to so great a man, could have done better. But, I may have missed something here.

          • Theresa Basile says:

            He is a wuss, because he calls Jane the handsomest girl in the room, but it is Bingley who makes the first move.

            That’s really not an example of “wussiness.” He acknowledges that Jane is very attractive, but he says there is no other woman other than the Bingley sisters who it would not be a PUNISHMENT to dance with. He’s basically saying that Jane is the most attractive person in a group he finds entirely undesirable, which is an extremely back-handed compliment, and he intends it to be so.

            I say he is controlling because he makes the end decisions for Bingley. I think if he really respected Bingley, Darcy would let Bingley make his own choices and trust him.

            Yes, that is true. Which is why, near the end of the story, Darcy admits to Bingley that he kept Jane’s presence in London a secret from him and admits that he was wrong.

            How is that not proof of a change in character – that a man as proud and vain as Darcy can admit to being wrong?

            While Darcy worked on his character, I’m not so sure I read anything about Lizzy improving her character. She wasn’t perfect, and I never really noticed any improvements.

            This may be the result of the limited role of women in Regency society. There’s not much Elizabeth can DO to prove that she’s changed. Darcy can chase after Wickham and gives a ton of money to a man he justifiably hates, but Elizabeth doesn’t have much she can do other than speak through her inner monologue. And that’s exactly what she does, when she realizes how foolish she was to judge people just on appearances and their manners.

  12. Well, he admits to being wrong, but admitting and changing are two different things. I would say that parts of Darcy’s character changed, and parts of his character did not change–rather, he used them for evil, and then for good, but that is not a change of character, only how he uses it. For example, he constantly intervenes in the affairs of others. First, breaking up Bingley & Jane (viewed as evil) then the Wickham wedding (viewed as good). To me, this suggests he is someone who needs to fix everything, which people just cannot do realistically, and generally cause more bad than good. Second, Lizzy refers to Darcy like this. “he is not proud, he is as stubborn as I am!” I have always viewed stubbornness to be a subrealm of pride, but certainly not opposites. To me, this suggests that Darcy does not give up. Again, this can used for good or evil. So, yes, he did certainly work on his character, but I don’t think it was quite as improved as we might think. I guess a better way to put it is perhaps his character changed, but not his tendencies? I’m at a loss for the correct wording here. Besides this, I think where my hatred is stemming from is simply the fact that there are men who women don’t NEED to change so drastically. This is the problem I think I drastically have: there are plenty of men who listen, who are not a jerk; and women do not fall in love with them; thus when women swoon over Darcy, I tend to let my view be that they love the fact Lizzy turned a bad boy into a gentleman, not the fact that Darcy listened. I do think people can change, but certainly not that quick, and certainly not as the result of 2 or 3 encounters with a pretty face–I think love takes far more time to convince a man to change truly. in regards to their manners, I do think Elizabeth Bennett was completely right to judge based on manners, but not so much on appearance–take our beginning introductions, for example. You were right to call me out, that’s not a bad thing.
    Yes, Lizzy admitted to her flaw, but again, admitting and changing are two very different things.
    One separate grievance is that it is very apparent that Elizabeth Bennett’s emotions were influenced by Darcy’s wealth, and it is at his estate where her heart was changed so much . For one, when Mrs. Gardiner says, “perhaps his estate does improve your opinion of him,” to which Lizzy replies “perhaps a little.” and saying “this is what i could have been mistress of!” While the entire book was trying to make us think Lizzy was not interested in money, it became very clear right then and there that it did matter to her more than the book let on. (I do realize that her heart was changed by other factors, but I hated the fact that it became so apparent at such a wealthy setting).

    This might be the best way to sum up what I’m trying to argue: Every last time I read about Darcy, all I keep thinking about what he does is this: Man, this guy knows every trick in the book. For the story’s sake, it’s probably not intended to be this way, I absolutely believe Austen believed in this character and probably loved this character. Let’s take our Lydia & Wickham example. Ok, yes, he paid for the wedding, and told Lydia not to tell Lizzy. When you tell a child to not do something, that’s the first thing they do. Although it is not written this way, I viewed it as Darcy knowing exactly what he was doing to get back with Elizabeth. (let me put it this way: if I truly love a girl, and she says back off, I would leave her alone, but if an opportunity to pay her debt arose, I would, but I would want her to know it was me, but not think that I did it for her; if I don’t say anything, then that’s true; once I say don’t tell her, I know you’re going to tell her, and all of a sudden I look better). Austen probably did intend to write Darcy as a much reformed man, but all I kept thinking, the entire time was, “man, he’s got her hook, line, & sinker.” I suppose, it is very, very possible that men basically pretend to be Darcy more so than Darcy putting on the act, so the real question is, do men pretend to be Darcy to manipulate women, or was Austen/Bennett just fooled by another man acting like what she wanted?

    This question becomes more problematic because there are plenty of stories where the man does this act like a jerk, and change to a nice guy routine, even long before the Darcy character came about. The first one that comes to mind is Much Ado About Nothing, written by Shakespeare, centuries before Austen’s novels. What this leads me to believe is that men have been doing this act for milennia–which is why it is so hard to view one as realistic

    so yes, I do think the fact of his being unrealistic is a problem, because I don’t think it’s the fact that he listens that women are drawn to–I really do think it his drastic change from a bad boy to a gentleman that draws women in,

    • Theresa Basile says:

      So, it seems like your entire argument is based on a pretty insulting stereotype of women – that we love bad boys, or men that are bad for us, instead of so-called “good” guys (i.e. guys that other guys approve of). Thus, I’m not interested in discussing this further.

  13. ashram12 says:

    I just finished reading Pride and Prejudice a few days ago, and felt like reading more about people’s opinion on the book. There’s something I’ve noticed about many men, is that they often rag on the male leads of romantic novels. It’s a mixture of “women have unrealistic expectations” and “women are irrational, they don’t really know what they want” etc… It annoys me to no end because I don’t see any women rag on whatever fictional figures men are attracted to, but I digress.
    I think the attraction to Mr. Darcy works on a few levels, but to keep it simple, it’s his morals and honesty that makes him “sexy”. Mr. Darcy is a guy you can depend on despite the fact that he’s quiet and not charming (as opposed to Wickham). The fact that he’s rich and handsome doesn’t hurt obviously, but he’s not the only rich and handsome guy in the book, so that can’t be the only reason why he’s so attractive.
    And to the previous comments about the book being hypocritical because Elizabeth doesn’t change while Darcy is forced to change to please her is incorrect. Darcy was always a thoughtful and decent guy, as his maid and friends attest, but his social awkwardness and pride gives people a really bad impression of him. At the core, Darcy hasn’t changed all that much, he just needs to curb his pride so people can see what kind of man he really is. Elizabeth on the other hand learns not to judge people’s characters on first impressions.

  14. Paul M says:

    Part of the popularity of Mr Darcy may be because there are so many men who identify with the character. Those of us who are reserved and socially awkward can take pleasure in the way Mr Darcy is said to have these traits and yet still gets the girl.. We might be Mr Collins from your perspective but we are Mr Darcy from ours, except for the huge piles of cash and the tight trousers.

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