Fiction Crushes: Darcy and Bingley

(in which I am as giddy as a twelve-year-old in love, while trying to still sound intellectual)

In a few minutes of idleness, I found myself watching Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice. The first time I watched the film, I was barely a teen and had only the slightest idea of the classics genre. But I read the book a few years later, and promised myself I would re-watch the movie one day.

Pride and Prejudice is one of the most beautiful films I’ll ever know. The music was always enchanting, and the cinematography caught my attention. I rarely pay attention to this, as I am a sucker for plots and characters, and the lines of writing. But let’s talk about the characters.

In my high school, my batch was the last to study Northanger Abbey as our Prose text. The following batches were required to study Pride and Prejudice, much to our envy. One of my friends wrote lovingly about Mr. Darcy online, to which her [male] classmate replied, “Why Darcy? Why not Bingley?”

That was a very valid question. Mr. Bingley was the nice, sweet, courteous gentleman, and Mr. Darcy’s existence was a visual metaphor of arrogance. Still, Darcy is the most beloved romantic hero in all of classic literature. Because he’s Darcy, that’s why.

In nine-to-one cases, I vote for the book over the movie. However, I love this movie in a special way because it shows us something that the book never knew how to say: Darcy’s feelings. The way his hand trembled the first time it touched hers. The way he looked at her with such agony, because he loved her and he couldn’t stand how much he loved her.

This is why I think Darcy can only be loved in retrospect. We fall in love with him after knowing his story, after his sensitive side has been divulged, the way it was done with Lizzie. Had I been any other character in the story, I would have hated him too. But since I have lived this story over and over, my heart only melted and wept every time he struggled to even look at her and she responded with utter hate for him.

But before I rave some more Darcy, let’s see his good friend Charles Bingley, the most adorable ginger ever portrayed.

Mr. Bingley and his love interest, Jane Bennet, exist for two main reasons: to contrast against Darcy and Elizabeth, and to lead the events that bring the two together. Bingley is childlike and sociable where Darcy is solemn and reserved; Jane is shy and focused on the good in people, while Elizabeth is outspoken and quite critical of everyone.

Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet represent all the shy, naive crushes in the world, the ones that are sweet and all smiles. Bingley clearly loves Jane, that it makes him stumble over his words and run away scared from his first attempt at proposing. He’s wealthy, polite, good-looking, and good-natured; “just what a young man ought to be.” It’s all very bashful and endearingly awkward, a giddy situation for the romantically weak-hearted (like me).

If it were left up to Charles and Jane, they would have never ended up together, because they never resisted the flow that life took them on. It took two meddlers by the names of Darcy and Elizabeth to do the push and pull for them. And that’s what I meant by reason number two: bringing the latter pair together.

As I watched the movie this time around, I tried to open my senses to the question: “At what point did Elizabeth fall in love with Mr. Darcy, and why?” I paid attention to her words, her facial expressions when he was or wasn’t around. I tried to hunt for the clues. But I could not figure out a point.

Darcy’s letter, explaining his side of the story about Wickham, only brought down Elizabeth’s prejudices; it did not make her fall. But by the time she saw him at Pemberley, she was already struggling to look at him the way she had always had before.

It’s hard not to fall in a love with a man who is fiercely loyal in secret. Good qualities are amplified so much when they are least expected. And maybe it is true when they say that there’s a very thin line between love and hate, because both feelings require you to pay attention more than most. Maybe that’s why Lizzie fell in love. Maybe she was looking for more things to hate when she accidentally found things to love instead.

I once saw someone write that these two couples outlined the differences between loving and being in love, a question I have long struggled with. Bingley and Jane Bennet loved each other, easily and innocently; while Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet were in love with each other, the kind of emotion so strong their first instinct was to fight it. It represented the two kinds of people you could end up with: the one that was perfect for you, or the last person you ever thought you’d fall in love with.

So while Mr. Bingley is the sweetest gentleman, and any girl would be lucky to have a Mr. Bingley of her own, I would rather have a Darcy that would change the course of the whole world for me.

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