Yesterday, in Janeites and Austen-L, Anielka Briggs wrote the following:
" Does Narcissistic Personality Disorder fit Darcy? If
so, what psychological disturbance does Elizabeth Bennet represent? Is
the crisis of her rejection an unusual treatment for Darcy's disorder
causing him to grow as a human being? Is this an example of Austen
novels being ahead of their time; highly moral, highly psychologically
accurate and charting the spiritual growth of the human psyche? NPD is
notoriously difficult to treat yet somehow we see Darcy as a dark soul
who, "benighted walks under the mid-day sun; himself his own dungeon"*
until he is enlightened by his contact with Elizabeth Bennet. A rich and
socially superior narcissist would have very little occasion to feel the
"gratitude which allows him to encounter everyday epiphanies, those
transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life
and the world". Has Austen managed the impossible by showing us that
even the darkest of souls is not beyond redemption with the agency of love?"
I responded as follows:
Anielka, her novels were indeed far far far ahead of their time in terms
of their being "highly psychologically accurate". P&P is second to none
among her novels in that regard.....and Mr. Darcy is second to none
among the characters of P&P in that regard as well, even though we are
so rarely inside his head reading his actual thoughts. _That's_ the
challenge JA has presented to the reader--- daring us to believe we can
know who Mr. Darcy really is based on so little information, and yet,
constantly teasing and tormenting us by showing us Lizzy grappling with
that very question throughout most of the novel.
And note that when we suddenly _do_ get a (relative) flood of words from
the formerly taciturn Mr. Darcy, in Chapters 58 and 60, we only hear
those words spoken by him, we are _not_ inside his head hearing his
In regard to the romantic climax of P&P, check out, for example, the
following post for disturbing indications of JA's ahead-of-her-time
insights into the darkness of Darcy's character:
In that post, which I wrote over 15 months ago, my introductory comments
included the following...
"...today I came upon a particularly smoky “smoking gun” that
illustrates how strong [Charlotte] Smith’s influence really was on JA.
It goes to the heart of Jane Austen’s fiction-- the character of Mr.
Darcy--and, as you will read below, it casts very unsettling shades on
the way JA wished her readers to see her most romantic hero, suggesting
that the worst “pollution” may have come from within the walls of
Pemberley. Read on if you dare, gentle readers….."
,,,and my concluding comments were:
"[Charlotte] Smith makes it clear from the beginning of her account that
the Abbe merely “assumes the appearance of the most amiable, benevolent
and honest man in the world.” If JA means for us to understand that
Darcy really has been “taught a lesson” by Lizzy, why (in the world)
would JA have Darcy refer to his father as “all that was benevolent and
amiable”, thereby causing the reader familiar with Smith to associate
Darcy and his father with the Abbe?"
Anyone who takes the trouble to read through that post will understand
that JA is warning us that _sometimes_ there is no redemption, even with
"the agency of love"......
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter
P.S.: For Mary Bennet's (aka Jane Austen's) similar perspective on Mr.
Darcy, read this sampling of posts as well from 2010-11:
- Deirdre Le Faye & Me: "I am a scholar, she is a scholar: so far we are equal"
- The Hunger Games’s Veiled Allusion to Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus
- Darcy's "We neither of us perform to strangers": a Radical New Interpretation
- August Wayne Booth in Once Upon A Time: Jane Austen Really IS Everywhere in 2012!
- 20 shades of hero/villain Mr. Darcy