Rude, gloomy and a depressive. Is this the Darcy you know (and love)?

August 27, 2018

 

Just been rereading Sebastian Faulks' take on Mr Darcy in his Faulks on Fiction (BBC Books). There's an abridged version below, courtesy of The Guardian. He reckons Darcy marries Lizzy to make up for the lack of a happy-go-lucky companion in Bingley and because she will be his "lifelong supply of Prozac in an Empire-line dress". Disturbing stuff to Darcy (and Colin Firth) fans, but a good read. Faulks makes some good points. Do you agree?

 

 

 

Sebastian Faulks on Mr Darcy

 

Mr Darcy may not be the first depressive to feature in an English novel, but he is almost certainly the first to be a romantic lead. This is a man without shame, whose shamelessness is made worse by the fact that he has intermittent access to good judgment. When he is without it, however, he is a manipulative, hypocritical, self-centred depressive, aware of some of his faults but unapologetic for them – bound by arrogance to ignore them because they are his, and therefore, by his definition, not really faults at all.

In her response to his second proposal, Elizabeth says brightly: "You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure."

Darcy's reply makes clear who he is – a man suffering from chronic depression, dwelling on the past, but unable to take responsibility for his own actions: "Painful recollections will intrude, which cannot, which ought not be repelled," he says; and it is the most revealing thing he says in the whole novel. He goes on to correct the servant, Mrs Reynolds's, account of his character and to confirm the darker views of Bingley and Fitzwilliam; but alas, for all he has learned from Elizabeth, he still cannot take responsibility for himself.

He blames his dead parents for "spoiling" him; he will not see that his character and actions have been for some years his own to shape. He is unhappy about himself, critical even, but is locked in a spiral with thoughts that "cannot, ought not to be repelled". He has, furthermore, no interests; he doesn't do anything. He will lend his fishing rods to Mr Gardiner but doesn't contemplate joining in the sport. In modern therapeutic terms, he needs to understand his own emotions more deeply, get to know himself, take exercise to release endorphins, abandon the protective persona ("beneath me") he has adopted and forgive himself for what he is and has been. There is much to forgive, much "work" to be done, and it is the sadness of the book that we suspect he will never be able to do it. When Elizabeth asks him why he was so silent on his last visit, when all seemed set fair between them, he says he was "embarrassed". Even she, all of whose defences are down as she heads for the altar, cannot let this go: "But tell me, what did you come to Netherfield for?" she asks in exasperated fondness. "Was it merely to ride to Longbourn and be embarrassed?"

It will be hard for her to accept that in her husband the lack of vital energy that underlies depression will always dominate the intermittent bursts of activity, the little upswings that punctuate his melancholy. All that Darcy can do now is marry Elizabeth, his lifelong Prozac in an Empire-line dress: dear, busy, middle-class Lizzy with her wit and common sense, who will be good at sex, kind to his sister and will laugh at his aunt. It is more, really, than he deserves for his single outburst of politeness and his periodic financial largesse.

Sebastian Faulks is the author of Faulks on Fiction (BBC Books)

This is an excerpt of a longer piece in The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jan/26/pride-prejudice-200th-anniversary

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