Separating Fact from Fiction

September 30th, 2004 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

If you are to poll women about men in fiction (which you don’t have to do, because, helpfully, this has already been done), you will find, not surprisingly, a large number of votes for Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. Cherry Potter, writing for the Guardian, thinks this confuses modern men — and perhaps modern women.

We doubt women are mislead, but we feel it incumbent upon us to explain life as we know it: there is reality and there is fiction. Reality often involves verbal faux pas and laundry. Fiction involves verbal faux pas intentionally and laundry if it’s funny (or otherwise critical to the plot). Reality often features jerks of men who should be left on the side of the road to be eaten by wild animals; fiction shows the ideal of humanity. That maybe we’re redeemable.

It takes only a cursory reading of “Dear Abby” to understand that buying into the fictional model of humanity is folly. We simply are not as good as we think we are.

Mr. Darcy is a fictional character. Women (and men, presumably) who read Pride and Prejudice comprehend this. He is as flawed as his literary counterpart, Elizabeth Bennett. Both characters (because this is fiction) discover the layers of the other’s personality through a series of events. Whether or not Jane Austen had first-hand knowledge of marriage isn’t the point — it’s not the happy ending that matters (okay, it does matter because we like to know that people aren’t living forever in misery), but the growth of the characters. Around Darcy and Elizabeth are many characters who can’t rise above their misery because they can’t be bothered to self-reflect. But even Caroline Bingley has an elevation of awareness; whether or not it lasts is left to the imagination of readers. We prefer to think of her suffering for her sins, but we’ve never claimed to be nice.

Darcy is a fantasy much in the way airbrushed models are a fantasy. Real life isn’t quite as neatly plotted. Women love Darcy, the character, for many reasons. He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s mysterious…and, in his own way, he asks for directions.

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1 response so far ↓

  • Kate Rothwell // Oct 1, 2004 at 4:25 am

    we like him because he he has loads of cash and because he can say “oops, I was wrong. I am so, so sorry. Let me change my behavior just to please you. And oh my, you have such fine eyes!” Only in purdier phrases. And because in our fevered brains we all have Colin Firth saying those phrases.