Do I dare compare Pride and Prejudice with the Twilight sagas? A most beloved classic and a pop culture phenomenon? I can almost hear the intake of breath from Austen devotees. :) I know they are two very different things, but how different are they really? I don't mean to get any feathers ruffled, but the more I dive into Darcy's character, the more parallels I see to a new literary heartthrob (not the actor heart throb), Edward Cullen. If we can separate Colin Firth and Matthew MacFadyen from the literary Mr. Darcy, then we can pull Robert Pattinson, "purdy" as he may be, away from Edward Cullen and examine the men from the books.
Let's really look at the two and try to get past the whole fantasy vampire genre. Darcy and Edward are both good decent men (slash vampire.) They are both very reluctantly drawn to a strong young woman that they meet by chance with lots of other people around. Each are surprised by their unexplained attraction and initially treat the objects of their desire quite horribly, in hopes that Lizzy and Bella will stay away from them. Darcy and Edward are uber-rich, brooding, intelligent, and have lost their parents. They both dress impeccably and are from completely different worlds than the ones Lizzy and Bella come from.
Even though both books are about our heroines, their love interests interest us all for the same reason. We just love tortured men! If there was a contest, Edward would win hands down for most tortured with the whole "I'm a vampire and had no choice in becoming one", and spends his waking hours (which are all of them) quelling an unrelenting thirst for human blood. He knows that he should stay miles and miles away from Bella because he's afraid that his darker instincts might overpower him if he gets too close to her. But Darcy in his own tortured way was all alone in the world and doesn't know how badly he needs Elizabeth until she flatly rejects him in Hunsford. We don't get to see him beyond when he and Elizabeth are in the same room, but we get the idea that he spends the majority of his time trying not to think about her, yet inventing ways in his mind to be near her. And there is nothing sexier than a man torn to bits over a woman he can't or shouldn't have.
When Darcy first met Elizabeth, he flatly refused to dance with her and called her "tolerable, yet not handsome enough to temp him" within her earshot. Ouch! But we all know that it was only a knee-jerk reaction to his instant attraction to her. Edward saw Bella from across the cafeteria and couldn't read her thoughts. That was intriguing, but when he got a whiff of her in Biology class, he literally had to lean away and not take a breath for fifty minutes. Poor Bella even sniffs her own hair to make sure she isn't the one offending. Like Lizzy, Bella was absolutely mystified why and how he could be so suddenly repulsed by her. Each lady was left with bitter memories and did not look kindly on the man who acted repulsed.
Interestingly enough, while fighting his attraction, Darcy still asked Lizzy to dance at the Lucas gathering and again while Lizzy was staying at Netherfield. Which shows us that there was a real war going on in his head. He then decided that he would not speak to her if he could help it, after he realized where his heart was heading. Austen writes a scene where the two are in the same room alone for quite some time without saying a word to each other, but we all know that their thoughts were full of each other.
Struggling with his attraction, Edward couldn't help but save Bella when he saw a car skidding straight for her. But after the hospital, when he fully realized what danger they all were in from his attraction, he did not say a word to her for six weeks, though they sat next to each other in Biology class each day. Bella narrates the book, and every once in a while she thinks she sees Edward's head slightly incline her way when she is talking to someone else, but she can't be sure. Well played, Stephenie Meyer. I was on edge for those six weeks!
There is just something about being in on how tortured each man is--longing for and wanting the girl, but holding back. And that is one thing that I tried to do in my book--let everyone in on Darcy's struggle. I longed to know what he was thinking in P&P, and this was my interpretation--he could not get her out of his head. I even touch on Colonel Fitzwilliam's struggle. He gives up Lizzy because he knew in the end, it was for the best.
And there is most likely a longing in all of us to be the object of such love. Maybe the extra handsome produce manager looks forward to your weekly shopping trips, and switches his hours with someone knowing that you come at 5:30 every Wednesday evening. Maybe he thinks you are too good for him with your Jimmy Choo shoes and your Lexus parked outside, so he barely says anything to you, but he thinks about you all the time while he works his way through graduate school. And even though you are attracted to him, you think he is a huge snob because he smiles and heartily greets everyone but you. Heavy sigh.
It's highly intoxicating, and that is why there have been two centuries of women in love with Mr. Darcy, and now droves of youngsters and cougars alike who can't get enough of Edward Cullen. It's a delicious formula that works and has held up for over two hundred years.
I did it. I just compared Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy to a sparkling vampire. If Jane will forgive me for writing a fanfic with her dearest characters, then maybe, just maybe she can forgive me for this...