When in “Pride and Prejudice” Does Darcy Accept the Fact He Loves Elizabeth Bennet?

When in “Pride and Prejudice” Does Darcy Accept the Fact He Loves Elizabeth Bennet?

images-2.jpg When Fitzwilliam Darcy first encounters Elizabeth Bennet at the Meryton assembly, he tells Bingley, “At such an assembly as this, it [dancing] would be insupportable? Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.” To which Bingley argues the merits of the women attending the assembly. When his friend points out Elizabeth “sitting down behind you,” Darcy replies, “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humor at person to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.” 

images.jpg Near the end of the book, Elizabeth asks Darcy, “…when you had once made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?” To which, Darcy replies, “I cannot fix on  the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew what I had begun.” 

Now, the romantic in most of us likes to believe in “love at first sight.” We cling to Austen’s phrases to prove Darcy experienced this great phenomenon. Austen tells us, “…and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till, catching her eye, he withdrew his own, and coldly said…” To those of us who love the idea of Darcy’s falling in love with Elizabeth across a crowded room, we cling to the idea that he must force himself to look away from her. Does he wish Elizabeth Bennet’s attentions? Does he wonder of the impression she has of him? 

After the assembly, Elizabeth tells Charlotte in speaking of Darcy, “I could easily forgive his pride if he had not mortified mine.” Was this a “defense mechanism” on Elizabeth’s part? At the evening at Lucas Lodge, we learn, Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley’s attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticize. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes…. 

images-1.jpg Even though Darcy attempts to keep his new obsession under control, he takes great pleasure in eavesdropping on Elizabeth’s various conversation. “He began to wish to know more of her; and as a step toward conversing with her himself, attended to her conversations with others. His doing so drew her notice.” Is he in love at this point? Likely not. But Darcy has met a woman who does not feign a regard for him and his wealth, and he finds that enticing – at least, from the ordinary. When the others in attendance at Sir William’s entertainment decide to dance, “Mr. Darcy stood near them in silent indignation at such a mode to passing the evening, to the exclusion of all conversation….” 

Sir William attempts to force their hands and have them dance. “Mr. Darcy with grave propriety, requested to be allowed the honor of her hand, but in vain.” After her refusal, Elizabeth looked archly, and turned away. Even so, Darcy finds himself admitting, “I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.” 

Darcy defends Elizabeth against the Bingley sisters’ remarks, but he agrees with their evaluation of the Bennets’ connections. “But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world.” Has he begun to think of Elizabeth as his future wife? Has Darcy had the argument with himself regarding her connections? As the days at Netherfield pass, Darcy continues to assess Elizabeth’s finer qualities: “…and to all this she must yet add something more substantial in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” After Mrs. Bennet’s attendance upon Jane at Netherfield, ...leaving her own and her relations’ behavior to the remarks of the two ladies and Mr. Darcy; the latter of whom, however, could not be prevailed on to join in their censure of her…. 

When she defends Mr. Bingley over him, Mr. Darcy smiled, but Elizabeth thought she could perceive that he was rather offended, and therefore checked her laugh. Darcy takes umbrage when the Bingley sisters purposefully cuts Elizabeth from their walk in the gardens. Then, taking the disengaged arm of Mr. Darcy, she [Mrs. Hurst] left Elizabeth to walk by herself. The path just admitted three. Mr. Darcy felt their rudeness….

We know something of his developing affections after Elizabeth takes him to task for suggesting she might like to dance a reel. Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed that, were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger. 

Darcy begins to enjoy their verbal swordplay, but he also begins to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention. When Elizabeth and Jane prepare to leave Netherfield, we learn, In Mr. Darcy it was welcome intelligence Elizabeth had been at Netherfield long enough. She attracted him more than he liked, and Miss Bingley was uncivil to her and more teasing than usual to himself. He wisely resolved to be particularly careful that no sign of admiration should now escape him – nothing that could elevate her with the hope of influencing his felicity; sensible that, if such an idea had been suggested, his behavior during the last day must have material weight in confirming or crushing it. Steady to his purpose, he scarcely spoke ten words to her through the whole of Saturday; and though they were at one time left by themselves for half an hour, he adhered most conscientiously to his book, and would not even look at her. 

pride-and-prejudice-and-pianos1.jpg So when in Pride and Prejudice do you believe Darcy accepts that he loves Elizabeth? One of the examples above? In truth, for me, it is a scene at Rosings Park. I love how this  particular scene progresses in both the 1995 and the 2005 film adaptation of the novel. It is the scene when Elizabeth is playing the pianoforte. Darcy smiled and said, “You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing your can think anything wanting. We neither of us us perform to strangers.”  To me, he is saying “I have had the argument with myself and I find nothing wanting in you,” and he says “we,” not “I.” They are both from step with strangers, but they are not strangers to each other. They are one soul in two bodies. pride_and_prejudice_0626.jpg

For more on this topic, check out Collins Hemingway’s post, “Slow Love for Darcy, or Slow Awakening.” 

23 Responses to When in “Pride and Prejudice” Does Darcy Accept the Fact He Loves Elizabeth Bennet?

  1. I always imagine Darcy fell in love with Elizabeth when she arrived at Netherfield, petticoats six inches deep in mud. He was intrigued by her wits and intelligence before that but this excursion proves her caring nature, good health and lack of pretensions. She is genuine compared to the ladies of the ton.

  2. Loved this post. Darcy fights his attraction to Elizabeth the minute that she passes him at the Meryton Assembly seconds after uttering his infamous “she not handsome enough” remark. While she was at Netherfield, I think he was hooked, but still was fighting the “duty” issue too much to un-scramble his confused brain. By the time they were at Hunsford, he was still confused but resigned that he had to be with her. After his disastrous proposal and by the time his hurt pride turned in the right direction towards himself, he finally realizes that he loved Elizabeth all along. A bit too late, but luckily for the proud Mr. Darcy, Jane Austen gave him another chance to rectify his past mistakes.

    • Although Austen’s story is Elizabeth’s tale, is it not wonderful how she also told Mr. Darcy’s story, and we readers did not catch the subplot until we reflected upon the original. That is the reason her stories have stood the test of time.

  3. It’s great to review the progression of their relationship like this. Loved your post, Regina!

  4. I’ll go along with Kent, but of course he was fighting the attraction long before. In the middle before he knew could have gone as far back as Netherfield, if only he wasn’t too stubborn to recognize the signs. Great discussion.

    • I admit that Darcy in definitely “in the middle” before he realizes it, for theirs is not the customary courtship. They were “enemies” long before they fell in love. That is what makes them the perfect couple. They know something of each other foibles before they make an attachment. How rare is that?

  5. I have to agree with the other opinions here, that Darcy finally admits he loves her while in Kent. I think observing her interaction with his cousin, whose father is a peer, pushes Darcy’s mind to realize that this is a woman who can charm him as well as others in society and will continue to do so with her wit, her teasing manner, her intelligence and even her light and pleasing figure. The colonel might even have been someone who could also fall in love with Elizabeth, even though he can’t offer for her. That and the fact that the colonel has been exposed to the same type of society ladies as Darcy all his life. So to watch Elizabeth and the colonel hit it off says something.

    Darcy is older than Elizabeth and has been in society whereas she has led a sheltered life in a small rural town, so he can be viewed as having had more experience in separating the “wheat from the chaff” in the women he knows. How many “eligible” men has Elizabeth come into contact with? We don’t read of many but the author did not expound on all the young and eligible male members within that set of four and twenty families the Bennets dined with. Elizabeth does get a larger circle to know and evaluate with the Netherfield party and the militia in town and then with her travels, especially in Kent. She is not yet one-and-twenty at Rosings so she is not fully mature, in my humble opinion. How many of us are at that age? Although I do believe women mature more quickly than men. (That from my observations just in college.) The old saying about never trusting anyone over 30 says to me that by age 30 we have gained some wisdom with life experiences and don’t look on the world through rose-colored glasses. But that is just my opinion.

    • I like your analysis of Darcy’s watching the colonel interact with Elizabeth. It was more than jealousy, which is often the first assumption. Men always want what the other man has.

  6. I agree with Gianna: This was an interesting examination of her relationship.

    I think that he accepts he loves her in Kent, and I believe the absence of her family is part of what makes that possible. He is attracted to her earlier, but I don’t think he realizes how strong that attraction is.

    • Do you think Elizabeth truly loved Darcy when she agrees to marry him? His is the more mature love, while hers appears to be that giddiness we find in the early stages of love.

      • I’m not sure.

        She certainly wanted to marry him before he proposed, but that love might not have been as intense as Darcy’s love for her. Perhaps it was just the early stages of love.

  7. Yes I agree Regina. He obviously admires her from the night of the Lucas’ party bur even though he might have started to love her, I think that occasion at Rosings is when he first admits it to himself.
    Great post, thank you.

    • It is so hard to define when love sneaks into the equation, Glynis. I am finding that out more so in my new WIP. When do they realize they love each other? When does attraction turn to something more lasting?

  8. My first thought was it had to be at Hunsford that Darcy knew he loved her possibly on the walks when he managed to meet her except that the piano scene, I believe, came first. So, I tend to agree with you that during or just prior to that scene he’s FINALLY acknowledging to himself that he has feelings for her. Silly man. He would have been more at peace if he had done so earlier in their acquaintance. 🙂

    Interesting examination of their relationship, Regina. Thank you for the post.

    • Love makes fools of us all, Gianna. Our favorite couple are not immune to be dullards. LOL! Is it not amazing that Jane Austen, who reportedly never held such a love in her life, could understand how love sometimes comes slowly into the lives of others?

      • It may have never been reported that she held such a love, but I believe she did and kept it to herself or maybe only Cassandra knew. Whether it was Tom Lefroy or the young man who died too soon, I think she really did love someone and was hurt by it. Or she may have loved both men because we can love more than just one person. Perhaps that’s why she could write so effectively about the feelings and relationships between so many different people. And maybe that could help explain why her writings have stood the test of time so well. There’s a reality to her writings that I don’t think she could have achieved solely by guesswork or observation. Just my thoughts. 🙂

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