I love all things Austen, and I especially love Pride and Prejudice, so when I came across a book that explores the lasting effects on the character of Fitzwilliam Darcy on culture, I couldn’t resist. The book starts with what inspired Austen to write the Darcy character in the first place and works its way all the way up to how Darcy is portrayed in modern culture. I found the chapters on potential consistencies between Darcy and his “peers” Rochester and Heathcliff particularly interesting, and got enjoyment from revisiting some of the more recent portrayals (such as Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’ Diary and the more left-field Darcy from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).
At first I found myself wondering at the lack of focus on what made Darcy’s character so appealing in the first place, but it was only when I got to the end of the book that I realised that the message had been delivered in a more indirect way, through the investigation of how each portrayal of him had developed vs. how it had stayed consistent. The deep-dive into how to get around some of the more problematic aspects of his character was enlightening - especially when it came to Jane Austen Fan Fiction.
Some of the comparisons felt a little laboured and too detailed - the book may have benefitted from shorter investigations into more characterisations in the past 200 years, but overall what was there was a good read and added to my appreciation of the character, his story and his author.
For some, Colin Firth emerging from a lake in that clinging wet shirt is one of the most iconic moments in television. But what is it about the two-hundred-year-old hero that we so ardently admire and love?
Dr Gabrielle Malcolm examines Jane Austen’s influences in creating Darcy’s potent mix of brooding Gothic hero, aristocratic elitist and romantic Regency man of action. She investigates how he paved the way for later characters like Heathcliff, Rochester and even Dracula, and what his impact has been on popular culture over the past two centuries. For twenty-first century readers the world over have their idea of the ‘perfect’ Darcy in mind when they read the novel, and will defend their choice passionately.
In this insightful and entertaining study, every variety of Darcy jostles for attention: vampire Darcy, digital Darcy, Mormon Darcy and gay Darcy. Who does it best and how did a clergyman’s daughter from Hampshire create such an enduring character?
A must-read for every Darcy and Jane Austen fan.
You can buy the book here now. It was published by Lume Books.