Damsel in distress

I recently read a description of Mr. Darcy as a rescuer, and that gave me a little pause. Since he wants no notice of his heroic deeds, it is easy to underestimate this part of his personality. But he does seem to be a rescuer, and usually unbidden.

He rescues Georgiana’s virtue from the clutches of Wickham and rescues the Bennet’s reputation and respectability by forcing Wickham to marry Lydia. In both cases, he is unbidden but very welcomed.

There are a lot of positive personality traits associated with someone who comes to the aid of others. Loyalty. Selflessness. Generosity. Responsibility. Tolerance. Darcy has many of these traits (perhaps tolerance to a lesser degree, though), and that is why he is so appealing to Elizabeth and to readers.

Yet, he also “rescues” Bingley from association with Jane and the Bennet family by whisking him off to London. In this case, his interference is both unbidden and unappreciated by Bingley (although Caroline appreciates it to a great degree!).

But there can also be downsides to rescuing personality. It could be construed as, “you need me,” or “I know what’s best for you.” These modern psychological concepts are a little difficult to apply to Regency England, where being both male and wealthy inherently gives you power and dominion over others. Nonetheless, I think these elements are interesting traits in Darcy’s personality.

Does a person like Darcy who rescues others feel burdened? Get exhausted from exerting so much energy for others? Become resentful that no one else can behave responsibly?

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2 responses to “Damsel in distress

  1. Neither Mr. Darcy nor Caroline Bingley were trying to “rescue” Charles Bingley from the Bennet family. In an obscure sentence toward the end of the novel, Jane Austen says that Fitzwilliam Darcy had an unstated motive for not telling Charles Bingley that Jane Bennet was in town: Darcy was trying to interest Bingley in marrying his sister Georgiana. Of course, Caroline had her own motive: She did not want Elizabeth to be her sister-in-law, because she (Caroline) was interested in Darcy, and she wanted her rival removed from Darcy’s circle.

  2. Darcy _was_ trying to rescue Bingley from Jane and the Bennets. Yes, Austen tells us of his other motive, but at the same time lets us know that he didn’t mean for the motive to lead his actions.

    It’s very fortunate that Jane appeared the kind and principled lady she is. Very well she could be another Lucy Steele.

    On the other hand we don’t know whether Darcy tried to interest Bingley in Georgiana, or perhaps Bingley already was interested in her before he met Jane and his affections moved to a new object.

    I do think that Darcy felt burdened, and wished people felt more responsible for their own actions. After all no one would save _him_, and he tries to behave as responsibly as he can.

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