One of the last questions mainstream popular culture asks us to consider is, “What's so great about Mr. Darcy?” even though Pride and Prejudice is organized around just this question. For its protagonist, coming to desire Mr. Darcy is one and the same as coming to recognize oneself as a member of modern society; seeing him as the ideal man is the novel's measure of Elizabeth's gradually acquired self-knowledge. “She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her,” Austen writes. “It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved, and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance” (318). Austen may have required Elizabeth...

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