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Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy

Quick Facts

Him: Fitzwilliam Darcy, wealthy owner of Pemberley House

Her: Elizabeth Bennet, romantic young woman in search of a husband

Setting: England, early 19th century

 

Background

Elizabeth Bennet is the second of five daughters and, based on tradition at the time, is unable to inherit her father’s huge tracts of land – he has no sons and his estate must pass to a male heir. The urgency of this truth leads her mother to suggest a marriage of economic convenience, which Fitzwilliam Darcy would certainly fit, but Elizabeth wishes to marry for love and refuses to settle down until she’s found it (rebuffing a proposal from William Collins, her mother’s favorite, in the process).

Story

Upon first glance, this is the kind of story most people believe is reserved for fiction, forgetting that it would only be believable if there were echoes of truth behind it. When the protagonists first meet, Elizabeth Bennet finds Mr. Darcy repellent: he is arrogant and insulting, worthy of the resentment she holds due to his initial snub of her.

Over a period of a few months, she finds no reason for her opinion to change. From her perspective, several of his actions are worthy of reproof – and she tells him so forcefully during an encounter at his aunt’s home in Kent. Darcy, taken aback by her comments, answers her point by point in a letter and describes the nature of his intentions. She acknowledges what he has said, yet still finds him unworthy of her trust.

On a visit to his home with her aunt and uncle, her eyes are opened toward a new estimation of Darcy: he is generous and kind, inviting Elizabeth and her family in for dinner. Though she feels this is a great moment to connect with him further, their meeting is cut short by news from home – news her sister is about to elope. The revelation that it was, in fact, Darcy who financed the negotiation of their marriage sets Elizabeth’s heart afire.

Darcy’s aunt, attempting to spoil the party, advises Elizabeth to avoid marrying Darcy in no uncertain terms. Elizabeth turns the reproach aside. Angry that she has been denied, the aunt then returns to Darcy and describes Elizabeth’s “unladylike” behavior – something Darcy believes shows Elizabeth has had a change of heart. He heads for her home at Longbourn and proposes to her, which she joyfully accepts.

Reputation

After nearly two centuries in print, Elizabeth remains one of literature’s favorite characters – and her romance with Darcy continues to take its place in popular culture thanks to scores of references in books and film. Ultimately, this famous love story is about the steadfast desire of one person to make love the central characteristic of her marriage – and the ability to hold out for it despite the target of her affection’s seeming ambivalence (and, at one point, her disdain for him).

For most, it is the supreme tale of a relationship coming to fruition because of a love so deep it cannot be denied and, for that reason, it will be a favorite of hopeless romantics until the end of time.



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