The Darcy Conundrum: Unrealistic Expectations of Men Thanks to Fiction
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a female reader, in want of a good book, will fall in love with many a fictional man.
When I was 13 years old, I fell in love with Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy.
This was to begin a pattern, one that has affected me to this day, and will likely affect me for the years to come.
Relatively new to the world of fiction beyond such childhood classics like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and a Series of Unfortunate Events, Pride and Prejudice had a large impact on me in those formative teenage years. In fact, I would be so bold as to declare that Jane Austen successfully concreted my tastes in fictional men.
The brooding, clever and witty man as beheld in Mr Darcy, became my avidity.
Mr Darcy became a familiar companion to me over my teenage years, as I read and re-read Pride and Prejudice a great deal of times. Every TV series, movie or other pop culture reference was devoured with a similar fervor. I successfully canonized the characteristics and temperament of the dour Mr Darcy, as the base for judgment of a successful gentleman.
As my teenage taste-buds for fiction evolved, my taste for fictional men didn’t. All the characters that I later fell in love with, all held some similarity to our Mr Darcy; brooding Edward Cullen, serious Dimitri Belikov, clever Peeta Melark, the ever brutal Severus Snape and cultured Malfoy boys.
No matter what phase I was going through, Mr Darcy was always in my hind sight.
Because of my adoration for such characteristics, needless to say, I struggled finding boys in the real world who came up to scratch. I often loathed them; concerned only with sports, girls and their friends, these boys were not at all like what I was looking for in a partner. I looked quite intently for my Mr Darcy, but he remained very much at large.
By University, I had stopped looking for him altogether in the real world, but immersed my mind more within his characteristics as compensation. I knew this dream man of mine didn’t exist and wouldn’t come to sweep me away to Pemberly. I grew rather bitter, and after observing my University companions, abruptly fell into a dissatisfied sulk.
I had been ruined by Jane Austen. And all the other authors who had tempted me with sweet words and a heart throb of a hero.
How could a normal man stand up to such high standards and expectations? Real world men were in no competition. Gentlemen like Darcy had long vanished from the world.
My mother was keen to break my fantasy. She frequently worked to break me out of my own head, and had been doing so since I was a little girl. And honestly, I credit her for a chance meeting in early October 2013.
It was late 2013, and I was miserable. I had undergone a large friendship change and was feeling more than a little lonely. My best friend took matters into her own hands and channeled Mrs Bennett for some true match making finesse. The boy she introduced me to bore no resemblance to Mr Darcy what so ever; he was kind, sweet, a little goofy and had an immense passion for everything in the world. With similar interests to mine, we hit it off straight away. We talked for hours. He made me feel warm. He made me smile.
After an immense amount of courting (me doing all the hard yards I’d like to point out- he was utterly clueless), I finally managed to steal him. Benjamin and I became a couple.
Now, after 2 and a bit years of dating my first serious boyfriend, I’ve learned some important things about both myself and my expectations of men in general. I’d also like to point out, that Mr Darcy is still, very much, my fictional boyfriend.
Fiction is an escape, for many people, including myself. In fiction, you can do things that you never can in real life. You can be your favourite heroine or hero in their world; conquering, saving, living. You can be romanced by the dashing love interest. For a few hours, you are limitless and you exist far beyond the square, grey walls of reality.
But, as good as fiction, and Mr Darcy is, reality is sometimes the winner.
Mr Darcy doesn’t hold a candle to Benjamin’s enthusiasm for life. I’ve never met someone so happy and in love with the world around him. You cant help but catch his passion and excitement. It’s nice to put on some rose-coloured glasses every now and then. Benjamin is rarely sad or brooding; his resting face is a smile.
Mr Darcy wouldn’t dutifully and happily follow me around a pop culture convention, helping me lift my long skirts or carry my bag when I stopped to take photos with someone. Benjamin did. And not once did he complain or grumble. He was actually very happy to be there.
Mr Darcy wouldn’t talk with me for hours about whatever random thing popped into his head. He’d tell me to be quiet and not act like Mrs Bennett when the world made me mad. He’d hate it when I go on one of my all famous feminist rants. Benjamin listens to every word and adds in an extra point to give me further ammunition for my arguments.
While Benjamin doesn’t dance, like Mr Darcy, he finds other cute things we can do together instead.
I always know where I stand with Benjamin, and he never broods when something has upset him. I honestly don’t think he has a mean bone in his body and never looses his temper. He provides advice to others, but never pushes them to follow it. And while his dad jokes and puns are god awful, he never gives up and continually tries to get people to like them.
While it seems Mr Darcy is my dream man, he’s certainly not a perfect one. In real life, he’s not the sort of man you would instantly gravitate to. Because, at the end of the day, readers mostly return to reality as preference. Mr Darcy is the sort of boy your mother doesn’t want you to marry, because, while he’s rich and certainly from good people, he wouldn’t make her comfortable or come round with you for Sunday dinner.
So, we, as the ever devoted readers, are left with a large conundrum. Do we value the fictional man of our dreams over the men of real life who offer a real life end game? When do we need to cut off our high expectations and begin to be more practical? Will we ever find our own Mr Darcy?
The answer is not simple, and in my good opinion, derived entirely from the inner thoughts of the individual.
Only the deepest love will persuade me into matrimony, which is why I will end up an old maid.