anghraine: from the 2005 p&p: darcy standing at a piano while georgiana plays it (Default)
[personal profile] anghraine
A Tumblr anon asked:

I don't know if you answered this before but do you think Mr. Collins proposal or Mr. Darcy's first proposal was more insulting?

My response (predictably):

Mr Collins. Darcy manages to stop short of 1) itemizing her dowry, 2) saying nobody else would ever want to marry her, and 3) insisting that no means yes because women are sadistic liars.

I felt that was inadequate, however, so I posted again with a longer explanation:

Okay, I was going to leave it there, but … nah.

Don’t get me wrong: Darcy’s proposal is very insulting and incredibly self-absorbed. But the kneejerk “oh, it’s no different from what Mr Collins was saying! Thematic punch!” is extremely facile. Whenever I see it, I end up wondering if people have forgotten just how bad Mr Collins’ proposal was, or if they’re just … really intent on forcing parallels to outright equivalence.

The thing is, Mr Collins’ proposal is not really a proposal to Elizabeth. It’s more like … a proposal template that happens to be delivered to her. He doesn’t personally insult Elizabeth so much as he insults women in general. He doesn’t know Elizabeth; the issue at hand is relentless misogyny.

Darcy does not insult women at large. He insults Elizabeth specifically. That is, perhaps, the reason why it hits so much harder—everything Mr Collins says is so absurdly terrible that while the experience is awful, it’s not something that affects her much. Darcy accusing her of incivility, vanity, and lack of respect for privacy is personal. Even insulting her family is personal in a way that Mr Collins’ pronouncements are not.

Insofar as there is a general issue at hand, it is class. Really, Darcy and Elizabeth’s conflicts are vastly more about class tension than patriarchy, the latter of which gets an emphasis in professional and fandom analysis out of all proportion to what the two characters actually say and think. The awful shit that Darcy says in the proposal is mostly about his sense of it being a degradation to marry into a family of social inferiors who are also horrifying public embarrassments. Even then, though, it’s hardly an abstract monologue about the Nature of the Squirarchy & Middling Sorts in the way that Mr Collins talked about the Nature of the Womenfolk.

Again, it hurts more—Mr Collins was just blathering on with his gender essentialist bullshit, who cares. But a good portion of what Darcy says about the Bennets is either literally or pragmatically true; it’s not that saying it is factually wrong, but that saying it is inconsiderate. He could and should have expressed his feelings differently. Mr Collins couldn’t have expressed his feelings in any way that wasn’t awful.

We can see the difference in Elizabeth’s reactions. She responds to Mr Collins’ outrageously awful proposal with enormous courtesy and patience. She responds to Darcy’s brutally, selfishly honest one by ripping him up one side and down the other. Because it’s rooted in the personal and specific, not the grandiose and categorical, it’s not as bad in itself–but it’s much worse for Elizabeth.

Tl;dr - Darcy’s isn’t as bad because it’s a really, really, really low bar to step over. Like. A bar buried under the street. It doesn’t make his proposal more acceptable, just … not Mr Collins.

on 2016-07-24 08:33 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] alatefeline
I very much enjoyed reading this bit of analysis! It's encouraging me to try rereading Austen.


anghraine: from the 2005 p&p: darcy standing at a piano while georgiana plays it (Default)

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