Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I love words. This is a simple but true fact of my existence.

I love words so much I was compelled as an undergraduate to study not one, but two literary traditions, and although I was afraid it would nearly kill my love for reading because of the sheer volume of material I was made to consume, I've found that such a passionate love is hard to extinguish in so avid a gourmand of language.

For every avid reader though, for every connoisseur of books, there are those solid few titles that come alive and with which we shall never become bored, because they speak a universal truth to us, whether we encounter them at 15 or at 75. And although I have a penchant for the French literary tradition, my heart has a huge soft spot for the English one as well, specifically Jane Austen.

Austen is admittedly the author at which all the boys in high school groan when they are obliged to read Pride and Prejudice, to swallow whole Mansfield Park, or heaven forbid, Sense and Sensibility. But there is something so simply lovely and timeless in Austen's writing that even as a modern young woman, I cannot help but hold her work dear. In a day and age when male-female relations are complicated by e-mail, Facebook, text messaging, and the ever nerve-wracking First Date, I cling to what Austen shows us through the art of personal conversation,
to the gap between what is said and what is left unsaid, to the universal desire to love and be loved. I love Austen because she allows me to dream, while allowing me to keep my feet on the ground. I may have romantic sensibilities (oh, believe me, they exist) but at the end of it all, I am still a pragmatist.

This is why my favorite male character ever has got to be Darcy. I thought of this while lesson planning on Sunday night amid listening to the soundtrack to the Keira Knightly movie version of Pride and Prejudice--which, although I do enjoy it, does a good job of butchering and compressing such a comic novel for the screen. Needless to say, what girl doesn't want a Darcy?

There is no Darcy equivalent that I have found in the canon of French literature. He is uniquely English. And yes, he is a complete jerk. But this is what I love about his character--he's not entirely the White Knight, and he has a dark side. He finds it hard to trust. He's hard to open up, shy even. He doesn't get along right away with Elizabeth. She's independent, witty, and sharp tongued, and I get the impression she intimidates him at first. While she'd be open to marriage, she won't go down the road just for the sake of saying she walked it. In the end, there are enough differences between Darcy and Elizabeth to keep the relationship interesting, but enough similarities to create true complicity. And that, my friends, is timeless.

I won't sit here and lament about how I wish Darcy really existed, nor will I sit here and tell you I'm waiting for my "Darcy" to appear. But what I will say is that I think he is one of the most brilliantly written male characters I've encountered, and that I hope one day I'll be lucky enough to find the sort of complicity of mind in real life that exists in fiction. Maybe I will, maybe I won't.

A girl can dream for now.

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