i just read a washington post article on romcoms aging poorly due to the pushiness (and oft-stalkery conduct) of the male characters therein, and it got me thinking about pride and prejudice, and specifically darcy saying, “one word from you will silence me on this subject forever.”
because, like, that’s the seldom-portrayed romantic dream in the patriarchal hellscape that is our world, isn’t it?
a dude being willing to say, “i understand if you don’t feel the same way about me, and i’ll leave you alone forever about this if my attention is unwanted.”
so simple, yet so wonderful in its basic human decency
and dudes to this day wonder why women still swoon over darcy
Note also: Elizabeth turns down Darcy’s first proposal, and in the process, accuses him of doing some stuff he did not do (and also some stuff he totally did).
The next day, he surprises her on her walk. He hands her a letter, asks that she read it, and then takes off.
When this happened to me after I had turned someone down IN REAL LIFE, the letter contained a passionate argument to the tune of “actually you’re wrong and you do like me and you should go out with me” and it was creepy af.
Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth starts with: “Be not alarmed, Madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments, or renewal of those offers, which were last night so disgusting to you”. He goes on to set the record straight about the stuff he didn’t do (as well as the stuff he did) which is *actually relevant* to Elizabeth. And he, as promised, doesn’t romance her further.
It’s totally bizarre that even now, this can be considered unusually great dude behaviour.
Darcy’s first proposal: “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
Darcy’s second proposal: “One word from you will silence me on this subject forever.”
His whole arc in the book is about learning to consider other people’s feelings and not just his own, but the fact that it’s expressed via who gets to talk and who is told to shut up is so, so telling. The first time around, he imposes his voice on her whether she wants it or not. The second time, he asks how she feels, and in exchange, offers her the gift of his silence.
And yeah, the fact that dudes still! have! not! learned! this! lesson! is exhausting.
I have never seen the Keira Knightley version of P&P because they cut a crucial line out of Elizabeth’s initial rejection. In the book, she smacks him down because of ‘your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain for the feelings of others’. The movie cut the selfish disdain, which is absolutely the most important part of the line. Arrogance and conceit? He already knew about those! He’d already had a conversation with her about pride, specifically his pride, and he was ready to go down with that ship.
But the selfish disdain? That was new information. That was the ‘oh shit’ moment that prompted the long letter, most of which boiled down to ‘look, I genuinely didn’t think it would hurt your sister’s feelings much and I am legit sorry about that but I love my friend and he doesn’t deserve your mother, okay, nobody deserves your mother especially not you and Jane who seem very nice and also here is the long and embarrassing story about why George Wickham’s feelings are not worth my concern or yours ever ever ever’. He may be a socially awkward idiot but he does care about people’s feelings and he wants her to know immediately that he is not the asshole she thinks he is in that regard.
And then they meet again and he practically turns himself inside out to prove that he listened and paid attention and he is being super considerate of the feelings of others at all times bc she was right and he was wrong and he is trying hard to be better about this. So he rescues Lydia not only for Elizabeth, but because he feels bad that he didn’t consider the further damage this asshole could do to other girls, he rescues Bingley and Jane’s romance because he wants to repair the hurt he caused both of them, and then he very humbly proposes again to Elizabeth, with appropriate concern about her feelings.
The entire second half of the book is ‘Darcy Is More Considerate Of Others Because He Got Called On His Behaviour And Actually Listened’ and that’s the core of his appeal. Not because he’s a jerk in part one (and I’ve seen so many guys use Darcy as an example of Women Love Jerks Not Nice Guys), but because when someone actually explains to the socially inept egg ‘you are being a jerk and hurting people’s feelings’ his response is ‘oh, shit, I didn’t mean to do that, I will work super hard at never doing that again’. And then he follows through and does work super hard at it and makes the change.
And that is why we all love Darcy.
as far as i remember they didn’t cut the selfish disdain? (i might misremember tho i gotta go look it up)
edit: she says it! they cut it for the trailer @elidyce