The Darcy Effect: Why Two Centuries Later, Mr. Darcy Is Still The Man

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Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813. Nearly 200 years later, the novel’s romantic lead, Mr. Darcy, still has a powerful effect on women.

What other character in literature has left such an indelible impression on so many generations of women? What other character has been honored with spin-offs, adaptations, Facebook groups, clothing lines, and, most recently, a namesake sex pheromone? There is definitely something about Darcy…

For girls of a younger generation, part of Mr. Darcy’s appeal is tied to Colin Firth’s celebrated portrayal in the 1995 BBC miniseries. But the very character, as written by Jane Austen, is imbued with certain qualities that have stood the test of time as the male ideal.

So what exactly is it about this stodgy, old-fashioned, 198-year-old man that still sets our hearts a-flutter? Oh Darcy, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways….

The “Diamond In The Rough” Thing

The reason that Darcy remains so popular to this day is that he embodies the archetype of finding a “diamond in the rough”: at first impression, he seems pompous, conceited and unfriendly. It is only the women in his life (Lizzie Bennet and his sister) who are able to bring out his more personable and caring side. (See also: Beauty and the Beast.)

The Being Good In A Crisis Thing

All anyone ever wants, in a lover, in a husband, in a partner, in a friend, is someone who is cool-headed, efficient, and calm in a crisis. When Elizabeth Bennett’s sister goes missing, Darcy wordlessly gets on his horse, goes to London and finds her.

The Not Being A Knight In Shining Armor Thing

Important to note that Darcy doesn’t rescue Elizabeth or even help her in an effort to win her affection (he keeps his involvement a secret). He’s not trying to be gallant, and he’s not looking for a partner that’s weak or vulnerable. He truly sees Elizabeth as his equal.

The Ardently Loving And Admiring Thing

Darcy isn’t one to mince words or play games: He tells Elizabeth exactly what he feels about her. Because he loves her. Ardently. People don’t do anything ardently enough anymore, do they?

That Whole Witty Banter Thing

The BBC miniseries has a scene with Mr. Darcy fencing, but it is the verbal sparring he engages in with Elizabeth that really has audiences sighing. They are perfectly matched in intellect–Elizabeth is more clever, Darcy more to-the-point. Together, it’s rhetorical fireworks.

The Whole Pemberly Thing

Look, if someone came along who acted exactly like Mr. Darcy but was broke, neither Lizzie Bennett nor the modern woman would turn him down. But the fact that you could, conceivably (for Jane Austen herself conceived it!) be married to the perfect companion and have a palace? Well, it’s no wonder Darcy is fiction. (And no wonder we’re still obsessed.)

What You Had To Say

We asked for your Darcy thoughts on Tumblr and loved your astute and hilarious responses. Here are some of our favorites!

He’s COMPETENT. He’d figure out how to break your lease without incurring penalties. He could unlock your car door with the coat hanger. He’d find out which deductions you missed on your taxes.lazybookreviews

He’ll do all that without you having to nag him 59 times. He’ll do it before you even know it needs to be done, and when you say thank you, he’ll be all, ‘No worries, I did it because I love you most ardently.’thesignaturething

Emotionally distant and titled? Be still my thudding heart. -Katherine Neifeld

Even if you can’t cook, he’d be all “Your delicious pot roast has bewitched me, body and soul.”criticalmess

Mr. Darcy stands the test of time because (1) he is HARD TO GET… Until he gives in and recognizes you as an equal (2) in intellectual competence, in addition to other varying degrees of competence (wealth, humour, beauty, etc), and thus declares his love for you in an incredibly awkward manner.akoebe

It’s because you have to work at him and chip away at the hard exterior before finding his gooey romantic center. Mr. Darcy also broods, which we all hate to admit we like but we totally do.-Julia Giolzetti

Mr. Darcy is the quintessential ‘unobtainable man’, except that he ends up being in love with Elizabeth the whole time. It makes women feel like that guy who says that he hates them is actually lusting after them in secret. nelinator

He doesn’t know how to express himself, and that’s endearing. Before he ever tells Lizzie he likes her, he’s super awkward to the point of being rude despite the fact that he really likes her. When he finally gets his act together at the end and properly tells Lizzie that he’s always held out hope that she might be “generous enough to trifle” with him, I melt into a puddle of my own smitten-ness.Ohjeez

It’s the long “ahhh” in “Dahhhcy”-Jaclyn Backhaus

He’s strong, silent, yet sensitive, he’ll give time and money just to get your attention, and he’ll change for you. That last part is the most important thing, and the thing that gets women into trouble in real relationships.Rachelkawesome

I think it’s less Darcy the person, but the two of them together. Here you have lizzie, who is out spoken, and perhaps not as pretty as her sister and maybe we identify with her. Because we’re outspoken and perhaps not as pretty as the other girls. And Darcy and Lizzie meet and, eventually, they learn to love each other BECAUSE of their faults. So we like him because here he is, this big man or whatever, loving a girl JUST AS SHE IS.-Joy Engel

Lastly, he’s handsome and rich and tall. Those three things are always going to stand the test of time. Always.OhJeez