Mr Darcy is women's favourite fictional romantic icon. According to a recent poll conducted by the Orange Prize for Fiction, 1,900 women across the generations voted for Mr Darcy as the man they would most like to go on a date with. He was also the fictional character women would most like to invite to a dinner party - which strikes me as odd, as surely Mr Darcy would spend the evening either gazing at the ceiling grunting with boredom or glowering at the guests.
Here is the rub - Austen leaves us to assume that her heroine's marriages are happy despite portraying very few idyllic marriages in the rest of her texts. Also, Austen's deification as a novelist is such that one hardly dares to point out that when it comes to marriage and what goes on behind the bedroom door, she herself had no first-hand experience. But as modern women with our wealth of relationship experience and all the benefits brought about by feminism, we should know better. The fact is that dark, smouldering, moody, charismatic, arrogant Darcy types, whom we hate at first sight and then later find ourselves falling in love with, often - particularly after we have married them - turn out to be rigid, dominating and controlling.
What message is this Darcy fixation sending to men? On the one hand, women say they want men who are emotionally intelligent, sensitive, flexible, who enjoy sharing equally and are fun to be with. But these same women are swooning over a fictional character who is the epitome of the dominant patriarchal male. No wonder men are confused.
I'm perplexed as well. Of course, as a man,I've always been a little perplexed by the inner workings of women's minds. Being married nearly four years has not really shed an more light into the mystery, either.Alas, I know My wife digs Mr. Darcy, especially his Colin Firth incarnations. But hay, she comes home to me at the end of the night, so I must be doing something right, even though I'm not a brooding, hard to deal with patriarch. Damn my modern sensabilities!