” Which do you mean?” and turning round, he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me,” Mr. Darcy, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 3
What Janeite does not feel jolting alarm whenever we hear the word tolerable? It has a unique meaning to us. It is the ultimate put-down from the high and mighty Mr. Darcy to poor Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who has done nothing more to deserve such censure then attend the Assembly ball!
Our ‘first impression’ of Mr. Darcy is decidedly fixed. Jane Austen has critically set the tone of their first meeting, and in our heroine’s defense, we are immediately inclined to dislike him for the snub.
At this point, who is really the tolerable one?