Jane Austen did an awful thing by conceiving such a character like Mr. Darcy. It may be “a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife,” but it has left women for over two centuries with great disappointment. With characters like Mr. Darcy, Captain Wentworth, Colonel Brandon, and the likes, women of all ages have summoned to this idea of an “idyllic man”. Not saying that these literary hotties are cramping our style, but rather suggesting that they may be the driving force behind the high expectations women hold upon love and relationships.
I think it’s safe to say that here at Fry Sauce and Grits we are pretty much obsessed with Jane Austen and all things period. I mean who doesn’t love the costumes, the formality, and the romance? Oh and did I forget Colin Firth in the role of Mr. Darcy? (Swoon!) So naturally, when it came time for me to write a persuasive essay for my English class, I picked the most controversial of subjects: Jane Austen’s male protagonists. Can you relate?
In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy, a brooding and proud character at the beginning, is seen as a rich disagreeable bachelor. As the story enfolds we see a change in his character, and a turn for the more humble. These changes are made after he proposes to Lizzy, is refused, and then reprimanded. It’s not that Lizzy is actively trying to fix Darcy, but rather that Darcy chooses to set aside his ideals because of his fervent love for her. Because of this classic power couple, women have the expectation that love conquers all; love will fix all problems. Darcy is so enamored by Lizzy, that he proves to her his love. Women believe that if their love is strong enough men will consciously change. As real relationships will prove, there is more needed for survival than just mere love.
It may be true that some men are fluent in romantic prose, but I argue that this is generally not the case. When it comes to romantic prose and letters of engagement, Captain Wentworth, from Jane Austen’s Persuasion, takes the cake. When Wentworth realizes that he may have lost his dear Anne forever, he writes to her, “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.” These simple two sentences, alone, leave women swooning. This works in a romantic literary sense, but when women reflect these types of expectations on their relationships, a problem arises. It may come as a shock to some women that men aren’t fully versed in their Shakespeare sonnets. In a society where video games and sports center reign, Shakespeare is commonly last on the list of possible readings. So why do women appeal to the emotion and drama of Wentworth’s musings? Perhaps because in society nowadays words aren’t given much importance. Penmanship and cursive are no longer taught in our elementary schools. Instead of writing thoughtful letters, words can be sent from our cell phones straight up into the space, and magically be found on another device. The exchange of words is easy, and thoughtless. In this case words have lost importance. Women swoon after his rhetoric, because they want to be treasured and thought of. His letter proves to be thoughtful, and most ardently romantic.
In Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon is the stable, established, and constant male protagonist. Because of his pleasant and safe qualities, he may be one of Austen’s most over-looked heroes, but this does not demean his powerful appeal on the female mind. Because of his well-put-together manner, women have the expectation to marry someone who has his ducks-in-a-row, so to speak. Women want to find that man who is stable in all facets of life. He symbolizes this ideal of having it all. This expectation can be very dangerous, because some women may think that this ideal is what brings happiness in a relationship. They forget that hard work, and dedication is what brings a sense of confidence to a relationship. They want it all, and they want it now.
As we can see, these three male protagonists are all handsome, desirable, and noteworthy, but the one thing they have in common is the fact that they perpetuate an “ideal”.