Monday, June 2, 2008

I refuse to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy: Some Daly ramblings

A couple of nights ago, my sister and I were surfing the world of Facebook and happened upon a group entitled “I refuse to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy.” For those readers who are not on the up-and-up of Facebook lingo, a ‘group’ is a Facebook aspect that is sort of a social network within the social network that is Facebook. A group usually consists of a particular statement (such as “I refuse to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy”) of which subscribers of Facebook can become members, by a mere click of the mouse, should they assent to the statement. Think of it as another way for members of Facebook to ‘express’ themselves, their views, their aspirations, and whatever.

But I digress…

Being that we, my sister and I, are fans of Jane Austen and her literary masterpiece “Pride and Prejudice,” we naturally were tickled by our discovery of this group and were even more amused to find that there were more than 11,000 members of this group. That is right, Gentle Readers, 11,000 members. To be exact, 11,912 members. But that is not entirely the point that I am trying to make. As these few days have passed since my first seeing the group and its description:

“Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley…the embodiment of all that is manly, chivalrous, and right in the world - I know that I can never go back. I can never settle. I will wait for a man that I can bewitch - body and soul - and I refuse to settle for anything less than my own personal Mr. Darcy”

I have not been able to help myself from wondering at the existence of this group and what it means for the greater society of women being represented by this group. Do all of these member-women desire a life partner who is Darcy-esque in the sense of the Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen (the two most popular and swooned-over motion picture portrayers of Mr. Darcy)? Or do these women hope that the Mr. Darcy of the pages of “Pride and Prejudice” will materialize on their front door step? Or is it something else?

My dwelling upon this stems from my having recently finished reading Sarah Emsley’s “Jane Austen’s Philosophy of the Virtues.” In her book, Emsley examines Austen’s use of literature, particularly character development, as an exploration of the traditional (theological and cardinal) virtues (charity, patience, hope, fortitude, justice, to name a few). While Austen’s novels are often stories of tested love that ends in a happily-ever-after for its heroine, Emsley argues that Austen’s works can be counted as members in the larger project of philosophical exploration of the virtues and the development and practice thereof. [Such a thesis might ring familiar to some Rover writers and readers as it comes almost directly from the pages of Notre Dame’s own Alasdair MacIntyre’s “After Virtue”, where MacIntyre names Austen the last great follower of virtue ethics, and indeed Emsley does credit MacIntyre and his study of moral theory in “After Virtue” as the basis for her own examination of Austen’s virtue ethics.]

To avoid boring you too much with the details of Emsley’s book, I will cut to the chase of my critique of the aforementioned Facebook group but in light of my having read Emsley. I think it is necessary to state that as much as women-fans would like to think of him as “the embodiment of all that is manly, chivalrous, and right in the world,” Mr. Darcy is a flawed character. I mean, hello? Austen’s title of “Pride and Prejudice” is just as descriptive of Darcy as it is of the novel’s heroine, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. However, what makes Darcy such an admirable and desireable literary character is his earnest pursuit of virtuous reform following Elizabeth Bennet’s chastising refusal of his marriage proposal so that he might become more well rounded in possession of the virtues and thus worthy of her love. In this sense, Darcy should be the sought after ideal and it is good that the 11,912 women recognize it: a woman ought not to settle for a man who is not dedicated to pursuit of the virtues, the true, the good and the beautiful. Woman should not hope for the fairy tale romance froufrou, but rather the virtuousness Mr. Darcy represents. I only hope that the 11,912 and more women who yearn for their Mr. Darcy recognize this as well.

That women should expect men to be virtuous and upright is true, however the road runs two ways. Women cannot settle for their own mediocrity, either. Women too must seek to be virtuous so that we can deserve to “bewitch body and soul” our Darcy. Such an opinion must also have been held by Ms. Austen herself as she portrayed Elizabeth Bennet, who would be Darcy’s wife, as needing her own fair-share of betterment in virtue. Indeed, at the end of “Pride and Prejudice”, Austen describes the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth a “marriage of equals” because each partner would both challenge and support the other in continued personal, moral and virtuous development, as well as other life pursuits.

[[Being that I am also a big fan of John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”, I will put in a plug for this magnificent work here. While I won’t say much out of fear of being repetitive and too long-winded, I will say that much of my present opining regarding man and woman’s pursuit of virtue is also, and more eloquently and instructively discussed in this collection of papal audiences.]]

So, in conclusion, I do not seek by way of this blog post to disparage the members of Facebook’s group “I refuse to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy” nor the group itself. Rather, I just want to put another point of view out there for the consideration of anyone who ever hoped for Mr. Right, a Knight in Shining Armour (or Reynold's Wrap), or Mr. Darcy.

Suggested Reading:
[1] Jane Austen, “Pride and Prejudice”.
[2] Sarah Emsley, “Jane Austen’s Philosophy of the Virtues”.
[3] Alasdair MacIntyre, “After Virtue: A Study of Moral Theory”.
[4] John Paul II, “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body”


Octavia Ratiu said...

I proudly claim membership to said Facebook group. In fact, here's a direct quote from my Facebook page: "My ideal man is a unique mix of Mr. Darcy and Jim Halpert."

I have seen the BBC version of P&P probably about 50 times and finally read the book not too long ago (although since the series followed the book to a T, I concluded that my reading it was rather unecessary). I can't vouch for the other 11,911 women, but as for me, I fell in love with the idea of Darcy almost immediately--faults and all. And faults they are indeed...his worst perhaps being, as he tells Lizzy towards the end, that, "I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit." Who wouldn't jump at the chance to bag a man whose biggest turnoff is a little cockiness? (Although, I think a good dose of Jim's humility would do our Darcy some good! Just throwing that out there.)

Good "ramblings," I enjoyed this take on Darcy since it didn't ultimately boil down to how gorgeous Colin Firth is. Hope you laid aside your reservations and joined the group!

Darragh said...

however, Colin Firth really, really helps the cause of Mr. Darcy