In thinking about Pride and Prejudice for the last couple of weeks, my mind has naturally wondered to the men in this novel, the single men particularly. As a young woman of 20, it is a subject that my mind often turns to. There are more young single men in this novel than any other that I can think of, and some of the best and worst. The men that jump to my mind as the bachelors of Pride and Prejudice are George Wickham, William Collins, Charles Bingley, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Fitzwilliam Darcy and the gang of militia officers that Lydia and Kitty run after. All these men offer the girls in the novel different things. Some offer love, some security, and the very best ones offer both. These 5 different men, I think, show a lot about relationships.
Lt. George Wickham (son of Mr. Darcy’s stewart) is the dashing young man who flatters Elizabeth’s vanity by choosing to pay her attention. Elizabeth is not only flattered by him but she is also manipulated into believing his back story of his life and his history with Darcy. Wickham is dashing, smart and clever yet he has no fortune and does not have a steady work history (though he blames others for this). Wickham is probably the best looking bachelor and uses this to his advantage in the women that he tries to win. He is definitely a player as well in the novel, we see him or hear about him with many women including Georgiana, Elizabeth, Miss King and Lydia. This is not a very good track record for someone yet he still manages to get girls. Wickham is the dashing young officer that every girl dreams of and every mother loves until they find out his true colors.
Rev. Mr. William Collins (Rector of Hunsford in Kent) thinks he is a big fish in a little pond. He comes to Longbourn for the purpose of choosing a wife. He is not a romantic though he offers his wife security. When he finds out that Jane is almost off the market he simply moves down the line to Lizzy, thus showing just how unromantic he is. (I have always wondered if Bingley was not in the picture if Jane would have married Collins or if Mrs. Bennet would have at least tried to get them together?). Mr. Collins is a buffoon to say the very least of his character. I think he is more in love with Lady Catherine than he is with Charlotte. In my class of 20 year old college students it was of course brought up that there was a “young olive branch” coming to the Collins family. And as my teacher point out, “there is only one way to get an olive branch!”. Life with Mr. Collins might not be grand but if a woman wanted to get out of her parents house it might he might seem like a good catch.
Mr. Charles Bingley (age 22, heir to £100,000) is an interesting bachelor because he is so important yet we hear so little of him except through other people. After all he is introduced in the first page of the novel yet we rarely get a conversation with Bingley and his love Jane. I have always wondered what they were talking about at all those dinner parties and dances. Bingley is the “nice guy” though he is a little too easily lead by others I feel like. Bingley is wonderful guy who is rich and yet willing to love Jane and see past her family flaws and her lack of money. Bingley also stays in love with Jane when he is in London and separated. He is a wonderful bachelor but is perhaps there is still something lacking in Bingley, a strong spirit or a passion perhaps. It is hard to pinpoint though because he just seems so nice and caring.
Colonel Fitzwilliam (younger son of an Earl & cousin of Mr. Darcy) is one of my favorite bachelors. He is charming, an officer (so he is in a red coat) and gentlemanly. He makes good conversation and comes from a good family. Colonel Fitswilliams only down fall is that he is a second son so that he cannot marry merely for love but also for money. I have always thought that he is one of my favorite guys in the novel just because of the openness he has with Elizabeth and how conversational and charming he is. He does not always bring good news to be sure, but he can openly talk with her which I think is important. Though he has good family connections and visits Rosing it does not seem to taint his understanding of the world or his pride or vanity. He is a complete gentleman, if only he was a first son! Plus he is in a red coat, and those look soo good!
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (age 28, of Pemberley in Derbyshire with £10,000 a year) is the hero of the novel and what a man he is! He is smart, clever yet perhaps a little shy when it comes to meeting new people. He is proud but comes from a good family and has a good upbringing. He is a loving brother and his servants speak very highly of him. He is also giving and forgiving which is very important especially with Elizabeth. One of my favorite aspects of Darcy is that he changes in the end and sees how he was wrong before. At the beginning of the novel he is proud and arrogant but by the end he is more understanding and has changed for the better. Mr. Darcy is also able to keep up with Elizabeth in their banter back and forth with not only shows his wit but also his spirit though it seems a little suppressed she draws it out of him. Mr. Darcy as the hero of the novel is an amazing bachelor and we kind of wonder why he has not married before now (it is of course because he has not met Elizabeth yet!)
Colonel Forster & Co (the _shire Militia) The officers of the militia are Kitty and Lydia’s dream bachelors and we can see why. They are young, fun and wear dashing red coats. Yet they lack the maturity is similar to the girls that are chasing them. If I had to equate them to guys today I would say that they were frat boys who were interested in having a good time but who were not interested in settling down.
So gentle readers, who would you vote for? I think I might have to go for Colonel Fitzwilliam myself because I love red coats and yet I would want someone with a little more substance and conversation than just a normal officer. Bingley is too nice for me and though Darcy is wonderful, I would be happy to settle for his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam.
Until Next week,
Virginia Claire, our Austen at Large roving reporter is a college student studying English literature and history who just returned from her time studying abroad in Bath England and working as an intern at the Jane Austen Centre. She is the Regional Coordinator of JASNA North Carolina and a lifelong Janeite. She will be sharing her thoughts on all things Austen this semester and remembering her travels in Austenland.