Every Girl Deserves A Mister Darcy

You will be hard pressed to find someone these days who married without love. Not that such couples don't exist especially where I come from, but most marriages result from months (if not years) of courtship and a gradual growth of mutual affection. This is why the romance in Jane Austen's books gives me a little wishful heartache. Meeting eligible men at grand balls, getting to know them while dancing, showing in gestures rather than words your partiality towards a person, and most importantly, falling in love after a few most formal interactions - how impossible and absurd this sounds today. And how very simple at the same time. 

I started my Jane Austen journey with Mansfield Park last month after this article caught my attention, because 1. I needed an audiobook to listen to during my hour-long commute to and from work, and all of Jane Austen's books are available for free through the Audiobooks app for iPhone, and 2. I work in a Neuroscience lab at Stanford and many of my co-workers study the representation of pain in the brain. The article mentioned above studies Jane Austen in the brain - close enough, right? 

After reading Mansfield Park and Pride and Prejudice, I think I know what sort of man Jane Austen would have married had that been in the cards for her. Serious and reserved to the point of being withdrawn, but kind and gentle at the same time - a kind of Edmund Bertram and Fitzwillian Darcy hybrid. Edmund in Mansfield Park is a much more lovable character throughout than Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Edmund's gentleness and propriety are in perfect proportions. He is self-effacing, responsible, and the best part - he has a ready smile. He makes mistakes and isn't afraid to admit his flaws and weaknesses. Mr. Darcy is his opposite at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice. While striking in appearance and regal in countenance (and with pockets full of cash), his pride immediately makes him unpleasant company. 

It's the change in Mr. Darcy that interests me. It's the simple act of falling in love - and not just any love - such ardent love that money, connections, society, propriety be damned, he does not let anything stand in the way of his object, which is to be married to Elizabeth Bennet. A girl inferior to him in the ranks of society, described as pretty but not beautiful, opinionated, and independent. 

Ah, to have an attachment so fierce as to change one's character - replace pride with humility, adopt civility instead of haughtiness, compromise friendships and connections for one person - is that true love? Is the biggest achievement in love to change someone for the better, or does the true meaning of this king of emotions reside in accepting your significant other just the way they are, no questions, no arguments? Is it possible to be consumed with love for someone who is fundamentally flawed? 

Whatever the case, the pull of Mr. Darcy's character lies in his quest for Elizabeth. He fights for her. That's what every girl should have - a man who is so certain of his love for her that he doesn't give a damn about anything else. There is nothing more romantic than such a story. 

Yes, every girl deserves a Mr. Darcy, but then when the fight is over, and the woman is won, and the marriage is done - that's when the haze of new love evaporates and you realize you still have the rest of your life to live. What happens then? Is love ever enough? Or does the story circle back and end like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet who have known no affection in their long conjugal years, because the decision to marry was made as rash youngsters and Mrs. Bennet's mind was so different from Mr. Bennet's that the ferocity of youthful affection simply wasn't enough to sustain a healthy marriage? 

Such are my thoughts when I listen to Karen Savage narrating Jane Austen's texts in the most entrancing yet soothing tones. Yes, every girl deserves a Mr. Darcy...but what happens next?