Lit. Crit. (was: Re: More than you ever wanted to know (was Re: answers from Diana))

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Tue Jun 5 18:42:02 EDT 2001


On Tue, 5 Jun 2001 17:26:50 +0100, Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk wrote:

>>> (FWIW the JA I tried was Pride and Prejudice.  I found it very strange,
>>> since Fitzwilliam Darcy seemed to be two completely different people, and
>>> this ruined the book for me, despite much of it being excellent.

>To be more specific, we start the book with FD a stuck-up boor, who can't be
>bothered to make himself agreeable at a party, and doesn't want to admit that he
>fancies Elizabeth (or whatever her name is) simply because she's from the wrong
>sort of ancestry.
>
>Later on, he has turned into a charming host, taking a lot of trouble with his
>guests.
>
>These two sides to his personality come up throughout the book, but there's
>nothing that I could see to tell the readers why there are two aspects; nor
>could I really see how he transforms from one to the other, even though (iirc)
>we do get to observe the process at least once.

In my opinion, the really big change happens off stage.  Elizabeth doesn't
see Darcy from the time he hands her his enormous exculpatory letter, to her
visit to Pemberley with her aunt and uncle.  I remember this very well
because I also thought, the first time, that he'd suddenly changed into this
completely different person, and it was disconcerting.

It isn't until the end, when all is resolved, that he finally explains the
change he went through to Elizabeth (and by extension to the reader), but by
then the book is over.  We don't get to see the process the way we see
Elizabeth's change.  We're expected to accept his explanation, and his
actions in the third volume, as sufficient.

This reminds me of _Mansfield Park_ in which there is a gentleman who seems
to change his stripes, but doesn't really, and in that case we're expected
to take FANNY'S word for it that he hasn't changed.

Anyway.  This is not to explain away Philip's reaction, but to illustrate
the thought process I went through, because I also thought Darcy was
strangely two-sided on my first reading.  With later readings, having the
advantage of knowing how things turn out, I've picked up on tiny hints that
make it a more reasonable transformation--though it's also possible I'm
reading more into the book than is actually there on that same basis of
knowledge.

Melissa Proffitt
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