Yesterday I posed this question:
I’d like to ask my readers this: in Pride and Prejudice, the novel: when does Elizabeth fall in love with Darcy?
This is no trick question.
This not a philosophical question.
There is a specific moment in the book when Elizabeth acknowledges that she has fallen in love with Darcy.
What is this moment and is it reflected in the film?
Below, the answer:
Late in the novel, Jane asks Elizabeth when she first fell in love with Darcy.
“My dearest sister, now be serious. I want to talk very seriously. Let me know every thing that I am to know, without delay. Will you tell me how long you have loved him?”
“It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.”
When she first saw Pemberley.
Are we to believe that Elizabeth is just another female mercenary? What are we to make of this? Seraphic friend and commenter Michael Jennings responded quite correctly in quoting this section from the book:
In the gallery there were many family portraits, but they could have little to fix the attention of a stranger. Elizabeth walked on in quest of the only face whose features would be known to her. At last it arrested her — and she beheld a striking resemblance of Mr. Darcy, with such a smile over the face as she remembered to have sometimes seen, when he looked at her. She stood several minutes before the picture in earnest contemplation, and returned to it again before they quitted the gallery. Mrs. Reynolds informed them that it had been taken in his father’s life time.
There was certainly at this moment, in Elizabeth’s mind, a more gentle sensation towards the original than she had ever felt in the height of their acquaintance. The commendation bestowed on him by Mrs. Reynolds was of no trifling nature. What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant? As a brother, a landlord, a master, she considered how many people’s happiness were in his guardianship! — How much of pleasure or pain it was in his power to bestow! — How much of good or evil must be done by him! Every idea that had been brought forward by the housekeeper was favourable to his character, and as she stood before the canvas, on which he was represented, and fixed his eyes upon herself, she thought of his regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before; she remembered its warmth, and softened its impropriety of expression.
Well done, Michael.
Do not be fooled. Lizzie Bennet is not bought by Darcy’s wealth. No, in Jane Austen’s world almost everything of a man’s character was revealed by how he managed his estate. Let us never forget that the country estate was the cornerstone of the British social order in Jane’s world. In fact, it was central to the British economic structure. Almost all of the farming was done by “tract farmers” who paid rents to the squire.
Even religion was somewhat controlled by the great country estates. Ministers like the impossible, but ultimately pitiful Mr. Collins, were filled by a squire’s appointment.
And so, at Pemberley, Elizabeth sees the well-tended grounds, the thousands of volumes in the library, all which go towards maintaining the core of British culture, which at that time was ascendant in world affairs.
This is all in stark contrast to Lizzie’s father and the slow decay that is taking place under his mismanagement of the family farm and fortune.
Elizabeth sees that Darcy is a loving brother to his young and vulnerable sister Georgiana, a fair and beloved employer to his servants, and a respected landlord.
The film gives voice to these feelings in an extended sequence where Elizabeth with her Aunt and Uncle visit Pemberley. Keira Knightley, in a fine performance that relies almost exclusively on looking at inanimate object, stares long and lovingly at a bust of Darcy; she listens attentively as the servants speak glowingly of their employer. And in a fine moment, hidden, she secretly watches Georgiana playing the pianoforte, and then abruptly Darcy enters the room, sweeps his baby sister into his arms and twirls her about. It is a joyous demonstration of brotherly affection, and goes a long way towards clarifying the authentic Darcy.
And so, Pemberley unmasks Darcy as caring and generous and not at all guilty of the excessive pride for which Lizzie had first condemned him.
And Darcy, why does he love Elizabeth?
In the last chapter of the book, Elizabeth asks Darcy to account for his having fallen in love with her?
This is one of my favorite moments in the novel:
“How could you begin?” said she. “I can comprehend your going on charmingly, when you had once made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?”
“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 that I had begun.”
“My beauty you had early withstood, and as for my manners — my behaviour to you was at least always bordering on the uncivil, and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not. Now be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence?”
“For the liveliness of your mind, I did.”
For the liveliness of your mind.
Jane Austen was not a revolutionary writer. But she does know that men and women can fall in love for all the wrong reasons. Elizabeth loves Darcy for his character, his goodness and moral probity. And Darcy, bless him, loves Elizabeth not because she dances well, or is just another pretty face, but because he has also fallen in love with her lively mind–as have generations of readers.