Fitzwilliam Darcy is one of the central characters in Jane Austen's second novel, Pride and Prejudice. For the first half of the novel he plays the role of an antagonist but eventually becomes one of the leading protagonists of the story next to Elizabeth Bennet. Mr. Darcy is introduced as the close friend of Mr. Bingley who rents out Netherfield house in the Bennet's neighbourhood.
He is the owner of his estate (Pemberley in Derbyshire) and joint guardian of his younger sister, Georgiana, with his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. He is also the nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and intended (supposedly) for marriage with Lady Catherine's daughter, Anne de Bourgh. Mr. Darcy is twenty-eight years of age during the novel and while his full name is mentioned within the book, albeit only twice, Fitzwilliam Darcy is never referred to by his first name.
Mr. Darcy is a wealthy gentleman with an income exceeding £10,000 a year, and the proprietor of Pemberley, a large estate in Derbyshire, England. Darcy slights Elizabeth Bennet at their first meeting, but then is attracted to her, and later attempts to court her while simultaneously struggling against his continued feelings of superiority. Ironically, Darcy disapproves when his friend Bingley develops a serious attachment to Elizabeth's elder sister Jane, and subtly persuades Bingley that Jane does not return his feelings (which he honestly believes). He later explains this seeming hypocrisy by asserting "I was kinder to Mr. Bingley than to myself". Although he doesn't realize it, Elizabeth's discovery of Darcy's interference in Bingley and Jane's budding relationship, and Mr. Wickham's tale of how Darcy mistreated him, has caused her to dislike him intensely.Eventually Mr. Darcy declares his love for Elizabeth, and offers her a proposal of marriage, yet expressing his ardent love, he reminds her of the large gap in their social status. Elizabeth is offended and vehemently refuses him, expressing her reasons for disliking him, including her knowledge of his interference with Jane and Bingley and the account she received from Mr Wickham of Darcy's alleged unfair treatment toward him. Insulted by Darcy's arrogant retorts, Elizabeth claims that the way by which he proposed to her prevented her from feeling concerns for him she "might have felt had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner". Darcy departs in anger and mortification and that night writes a letter to Elizabeth in which he defends his wounded honour, reveals the motives for his interference in Jane and Bingley's relationship, and gives a full account of his lifelong dealings with Wickham, who attempted to seduce and elope with Darcy's younger sister, Georgiana, the previous summer.
Although initially angered by Elizabeth's vehement refusal and harsh criticism, Darcy is shocked to discover the reality of how his behaviour is perceived by others, particularly Elizabeth, and commits himself to re-evaluate his actions. A few months later, Darcy unexpectedly encounters Elizabeth when she is visiting his estate in Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. Elizabeth is first embarrassed to be discovered at Pemberley, having only visited on the belief that Darcy was absent, however she is surprised to discover a marked change in Darcy's manner. Having responded to Elizabeth's criticism, Darcy is now determined to display the "gentlemanlike manner" she accused him of lacking and astonishes her with his kindness towards both her and her relations.On discovering that Elizabeth's youngest sister Lydia, has fallen prey to and run off with Mr Wickham, Darcy tracks them down and induces Wickham to marry Lydia, thus saving both Lydia and her family from social disgrace. Darcy's intervention was done not to win Elizabeth—he attempted to keep her from knowing of his involvement—but rather to ease her distress (the narrator hints that Darcy's intervention to help Elizabeth may have cost him as much as a year's income). Darcy also felt himself partially responsible in failing to warn Elizabeth's family and the public of Wickham's true character. His behavior contrasts sharply with that of another Jane Austen character, Mr. Crawford from Mansfield Park. Mr. Crawford attempts to obligate Fanny Price to him by securing one of her fondest hopes, a naval officer's commission for her brother, immediately before proposing to her, which commission costs Crawford essentially nothing.
Darcy then releases Mr. Bingley to return to Longbourn and woo Jane, accepting his misjudgement of her character. Accompanying his friend to Longbourn, Darcy proposes to Elizabeth again, who accepts him. The couple reflect on their mistakes made, and Darcy thanks Elizabeth for showing him the error or his ways: "By you, I was properly humbled".
Darcy in Meryton is depicted as cold and aloof, a man with a large sense of personal pride that frequently expresses itself as arrogance. His distant manner and apparent contempt for those around him earns the disdain of Elizabeth and many others, particularly in light of the claims of the charming George Wickham—that he was wronged by Darcy. But it is eventually revealed that these first impressions are erroneous; that is, Darcy's seemingly arrogant character masks a sincerely generous and upright nature, and it is Darcy, in fact, who was wronged, by Wickham—whose own character is revealed to be untrustworthy and duplicitous. Even Darcy's interference between Jane and Bingley is explained as being motivated by genuine concern for his friend rather than of malicious intent; although, on re-examining his behaviour, Darcy acknowledges that his interference was harmful and wrong.
Darcy is a bit of a snob, but has good principles (which in the end triumph over his snobbery). Almost immediately after his introduction, his manners disgust the people of Meryton as they show he is proud, inconsiderate and uninterested in them. The narrator describes him as being clever but that he was also "haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his manners, though well bred, were not inviting," making it perhaps not surprising that he "was continually giving offense." In spite of all of this he does have some good qualities beyond well bred but uninviting manners, he is a conscientuous landlord who takes care of his tenants and does good among the poor, takes care of his sister and is helpful towards his friends, as well as the ability to forgive those he cares about.
Usually referred asEdit
- Darcy - This is what the narrator calls him, as well as his friends Bingley and Colonel Fitzwilliam.
- Mr. Darcy - Following his father's death, people who are not entitled or privileged to call him Darcy or by some other name. Before his father's death he might have been Mr. Darcy in circumstances where his father was not present or where it was obvious that his father was not being referred to, he might also have been called young Mr. Darcy.
- Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy- Before Darcy's father died, this would have been the primary way for people who weren't friends or family to address Darcy as he was not the most important Mr. Darcy around. Following his father's death, not so much though still if you wanted to distinguish him from another past Mr. Darcy it might be used.
- Master Fitzwilliam / Master Darcy - It is likely that Darcy was called this by servants and other people who were not close enough or did not hold enough social clout to use his first name when he was a young child. It is possible that some might still use it.
- The master/your master/my master - this is in reference to his position as the owner of Pemberley Estate or as his position as a servant's employer.
Depictions in film and televisionEdit
- 1938: Andrew Osborn
- 1952: Peter Curshing
- 1940: Laurence Olivier
- 1967: Lewis Fiander
- 1980: David Rintoul
- 1995:Colin Firth
- 2005: Matthew Macfadyen
- 2008: Elliot Cowen
- 2012-2013: Daniel Vincent Gordh