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|Darcy's emotional state (mostly imaginary, LONG)
Written by Stephanie
(5/3/2010 7:12 p.m.)
I think we can all agree that there are different kinds of love. Several people have posted about Darcy being so in love that he had to propose, that he ignored evidence of Elizabeth's indifference because love is blind, that his passion forced him into crossing boundaries that he had previously set himself.
Jane Austen does not often delve deeply into the male mind in Pride and Prejudice; she seldom even covers the topmost thoughts, hopes, fears, and plans of any of them. So we have to guess what Darcy was feeling the night of the proposal. This posting is mostly my guess work.
By the time Darcy leaves Hertfordshire, he enjoys Elizabeth's intelligence and playfulness, he finds her pleasing to look at, and enjoys her piano-playing. He is concerned that she might have discerned his admiration, so to HIM, it must seem as if some hints of it slipped out. We know from Elizabeth's thoughts that she knows nothing of this, but Darcy acts to prevent any raised hopes. Very gentlemanly, since he fully intends to avoid following up on his attraction. I would say that this is not love: attraction and admiration can lead to love, but they are merely the first ingredients in an age-old recipe. It needs care and cooking to form true love from this.
Then he meets her again at Rosings Park. He does not at first seek her out, but when she is in company with him, he looks at her a great deal, paying enough attention to her dialogue with Colonel Fitzwilliam, that Lady Catherine stops her own topics to try to join theirs. Then he walks away from Lady Catherine to enjoy Elizabeth's playing, and (perhaps) engage her in conversation.
Did he join her out of jealousy that her wit was being bestowed on the Colonel? And did his visits to the parsonage that started the next day come about because Elizabeth teased him about practicing his social skills? I think both are very likely.
He puts off one departure from Rosings, possibly because he is arguing with himself about Elizabeth. I think he still sees himself as someday marrying someone of rank and fortune, but he dislikes seeing Elizabeth's smiles granted to his cousin, and enjoys her animated speeches. He can not join her in vivacity, however, because of the battles his self-image are having with the attraction that becomes stronger with each visit. But every time Elizabeth says anything that he can construe as encouragement, he acts on it; it is therefore likely that he wants to believe her attracted to him, despite the problems that it would entail if it were so, and that he is not planning to ever ask for her hand.
Perhaps he is not thinking of marriage possibilities now, just of enjoying her company. She wants him to practice being social? Then he will try. She walks here often? Then he will walk here, too. She thinks 'near to one's family' and 'far' are relative terms? Perhaps she would entertain a non-local suitor when she removes to a home of her own. Maybe he even thinks her talking to the Colonel is a way of getting Darcy's attention, through jealousy, or showing off her lively mind to good advantage.
His second removal date draws near; perhaps he knows that his cousin was walking with Elizabeth earlier that day, and is slightly jealous. Perhaps he is simply wondering if he could forget her after he goes - she intrigues him more than he likes! Would leaving her behind be for the best? He can try to decide when he sees her tonight...
Then Elizabeth's friends arrive without her. She is ill with a headache, unable to attend. Darcy perhaps startles himself with how disappointed and vexed he is. He realizes that if he can not see her tonight, he will end up putting off the departure again, in order to be in her company once more. He is disgusted with himself: how has he let it get this far?
But he is also honest with himself when faced with this proof. It HAS gotten so far. So, he has to make the best of it. Still in emotional turmoil over the disarray of his former plans, he goes to Hunsford parsonage, finds her alone, and blurts out the proposal he tried to form on the way over. His misgivings tumble out with the compliments, but he does not realize it at first. According to Elizabeth, he expects a favourable answer.
Darcy is certainly proposing because of admiration of Elizabeth. Possibly jealousy has some impact, too, especially in the parts that seem sudden to Elizabeth. But is it love? Knowing more of Elizabeth at this point that Darcy does, we can see that he missed some nuances of her mind, character, and opinions by a mile. Can you love someone without seeing the real them?
Then she refuses him. He is actively angry, but tries to control it. When he can speak, he chooses cutting words - not surprising, whether or not he was expecting a 'yes,' since his first question is to ask why her rejection is so uncivil. She then lists, not very calm herself, three reasons for her rejection; his unappealing manners, his interference in Jane's happiness, and his atrocious behavior to Wickham. Though surprised by all to a varying extent, he responds with the most confrontational attitude to the accusation of causing harm to Wickham's prospects - jealousy, again? Does he think that Wickham has made his way into the heart that Darcy thought he would be gaining tonight?
By now, he might realize his mistake in regaling her with her inferior connections, but he is far too angry to retreat, if so. Darcy turns her accusations back on her in turn, by saying that she would have accepted him had he been less honest; she is really responding out of hurt pride, and he goes so far as to practically boast about his honesty as if it were a point in his favour.
His responses to her answer proves that he is most moved by the accusation of not acting the gentleman. His pride is obviously tied up in the image he has of himself AS a gentleman, and THAT is what finally makes his hurt pride and anger subside enough that he can end the rencontre with a modicum of the manners she finds so lacking.
Darcy leaves in great emotion, but is a broken heart any part of his discomfort? We can not truly know, but, in my opinion, he was looking at Elizabeth, not as a helpmeet in his life, but as an ornament to it. That is why he did not try harder to make himself agreeable to her, even when so caught in her attraction he could not stay away from her or keep his eyes from her. That is also why he was so bothered by her connections. Had he only wanted someone who would accept the value he was offering and who would never embarrass him in public, he could have chosen Caroline Bingley, or, likely, a dozen others. He wanted more, but still had not named what that 'more' was to himself, even when he was in the middle of proposing. Had he seen Elizabeth as an individual worth SHARING his life with, worth allowing her to alter his life, rather than an adjunct to enhance his perfect life as it already stood, he would have seen clues on both sides of the 'does-she-like-me' equation.
I think Darcy, at this point, does NOT know what selfless, generous love is, though the possessive, passionate kind might indeed been his.
Thanks for reading so far. What do you all think of my guesses? How probably are they?
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