I have recently started re-reading Pride and Prejudice, and one of the many wonderful things about this book is that no matter how many times you read it, you always find something new.
I am probably well behind the times on this, I have no doubt there are loads of people who would read this and say “dur! obviously!”, but bear with me, because I have one minute of believing myself to be a literary genius and I want to make the most of it.
Although Darcy’s manners are continually pointed out as being aloof, arrogant, haughty, and generally not a fun guy to be around, Jane Austen makes a point of telling us early in the book that:
“Bingley was endeared to Darcy by the easiness, openness, and ductility of his temper, though no disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own,”
and again a short time later:
“in spite of [Darcy’s] asserting that [Elizabeth’s] manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.”
Is it not odd that a man who is so sure of his own worth as to be above being pleased by anyone who does not meet his lofty standards should be specifically drawn to these people because of their more informal, easy manners? And the people in question are not casual acquaintances, they are his closest friend and his future wife. Is this another clue from Austen that there is more to Darcy’s lack of social skills than mere pride and arrogance?
It is also, to me at least, odd that the people who share his apparent fastidiousness are Miss Bingley and Lady Catherine, yet he does not appear to do more than tolerate their company. He certainly shows a marked preference for talking to Elizabeth or Bingley above these two. Anyway, I haven’t got all that far on this reading yet, so I may be eating these words later.
I just thought it was interesting that it was not Bingley’s wealth and fashionable habits that endear him to Darcy, or Elizabeth’s intelligence, but the complete opposite of his own manners. Is there a possibility that he is, even deep down, hoping to acquire some of their ‘easy and unaffected’ manners rather than his usual attitude? It will be interesting to go through the rest of the book with this question in mind.