Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Reader Question #4: Mr. Darcy's Proposal What If

This question came to me from Scullery Maid. Scullery Maid writes:

Do you think Lizzy would have accepted Darcy the first time if she had never met Wickham, and if Colonel Fitzwilliam hadn't told her about Darcy's separating Bingley and Jane?

In order to answer this question, I'm going to relate the proposal that Mr. Darcy presented to Elizabeth during her stay in Kent. Recall the scene (and if you need a refresher, I've included a video at the bottom of this post. Go ahead. I'll wait.): when Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, she refuses for the following reasons:
  • He told her that he likes her against his will, reason, and character
  • He tore Jane and Mr. Bingley apart.
  • He cheated Wickham out of his inheritance
  • Since meeting him, his manners convinced her that he was the last man she could marry.
So, to rephrase Scullery Maid's question, was tearing Jane and Mr. Bingley apart and cheating Wickham out of his inheritance just enough to convince Elizabeth to refuse Mr. Darcy proposal, or was she convinced to never marry him before finding out those pieces of information?

Now, you may recall that Elizabeth during her refusal of Mr. Darcy's proposal said,

Elizabeth refusing Mr. Darcy

"From the very beginning—from the first moment, I may almost say—of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."

From that quote alone, one could argue that Elizabeth would have refused him even if she didn't know about the facts of the question. But if you just go off that quote, the argument can be defeated by someone saying "Well, she said it in the heat of the moment and didn't really mean it." So, to fully answer this question, I'm going to have to come up with more evidence that Elizabeth would have refused Mr. Darcy no matter what.

You may have noticed that I bolded the last bullet point of the above list. That's because, for purposes of this question, I'm going to delve into the details of that bullet point to see if those smaller details to see if I can prove that she would have refused Mr. Darcy no matter what.

So, let's go to the beginning of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's acquaintance.

"Come, Darcy! I must have you dance!"
When the people of Meryton first see Mr. Darcy at the Assembly Room ball, everyone soon found out that "[Mr. Darcy's] manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud; to be above his company, and above being pleased." So, from first impressions, Mr. Darcy wasn't exactly the kind of person that Elizabeth would want to marry (after all, who wants to marry someone that is always irritated and doesn't even want to talk to you?). But then, Mr. Darcy does the worst thing imaginable...

Elizabeth recounting Mr. Darcy's refusal to dance with
her to Jane.
He refused to dance with Elizabeth...

Elizabeth over hears Mr. Darcy say that she was only tolerable and not handsome enough to tempt him to dance with her. This immediately wounds Elizabeth's pride. If she didn't care for him before, she dislikes him now. Sure, Elizabeth goes around to her friends and tells them what Mr. Darcy said about her (since she delights in anything ridiculous), but even if she was going around poking fun at Mr. Darcy, there must have been a part of her that was seriously wounded.

And then after he refused to dance with her, Mr. Darcy doesn't really impress Elizabeth all that much before Wickham even came into the picture. They verbally sparred quite a bit while Elizabeth was staying at Netherfield while Jane recovered from her cold. When Jane finally recovered, Elizabeth was glad to get out of there and away from Mr. Darcy.

And since then, even after Wickham came into the picture, Mr. Darcy hadn't really improved his character to her. Really, Mr. Darcy hadn't begun to improve in Elizabeth's mind until she had refused him. Her refusal showed him how he came off to other people. Elizabeth was probably the first one to tell him exactly what she thinks of him because everyone was probably kissing up to him (after all, with £10,000, who would have the guts to stand up to him?). If it wasn't for Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy would never have mended his manners and she would have never accepted his proposal even at a later time.

So, to answer the question directly, even if Elizabeth hadn't met Wickham or never heard from Colonel Fitzwilliam about Mr. Darcy's hand at separating Jane and Mr. Bingley, I think she still would have refused him because his overall demeanor was still proud and he came off as a jerk. There wouldn't have been a reason for her to like him because by the first proposal she still would have thought of him as a jerk.

What do you think? Do you think Elizabeth would have accepted Mr. Darcy had she not have met Wickham or heard about Mr. Darcy separating Jane and Mr. Bingley? Do you agree with me? Disagree? Leave a comment!

Thank you, Scullery Maid, for sending in your question! If you have a question you would like to submit for me to do a post on, leave a comment. Just follow these guidelines. It can be about anything related to this blog: period dramas, blogging, reviews, etc.

And in case you need a little refresher on the proposal scene, I've included this YouTube video of the 1995 first proposal scene. Definitely the best P&P Proposal scene in my opinion.

 God Bless,
God Bless, Miss Elizabeth Bennet


  1. i agree with you, i don't think she would have said yes either way...she disliked him with or without all the other details. i liked this post very very much. i had never thought about that before....very interesting indeed!

  2. I agree with you but I would add that Elizabeth is very highly principled and it would be totally against her principles to marry anyone she did not deeply love. I know we learn this in the 1995 version from an additional scene, but there is good evidence in the book for this view - for example, her comment about poetry (missing from the 1995 version) and her response to Mr Collins' proposal. And if she had been prepared to marry for financial security, she could have accepted Mr Collins as that would have been enough with him inheriting Longbourn to secure the future of what was left of the family after Mr Bennet dies. Furthermore, we know that Mr Darcy's great wealth does not seem to impress her from her ironic bordering on sarcastic response to Mr Darcy ("Mr. Darcy is all politeness," said Elizabeth, smiling.) to Sir William Lucas' words encouraging her to dance with Mr Darcy at Lucas Lodge (I guess though the 1995 version is explicit), when you realize that her refusing to dance with him prevents her from dancing with anyone else while he is still present that evening and as we know dancing is something she thoroughly enjoys. Not that her refusal upsets Mr Darcy or prevents him from admiring her eyes and pretty face. A bit of a Pyrrhic victory for Elizabeth.

    1. And I should have made it clear in my comment that at this point, Elizabeth doesn't even regard Mr Darcy as a potential candidate for her love, let alone being deeply in love with him.


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