“Illusions are dangerous people. They have no flaws.” – Irene, Sabrina (1995)
I’ve read most everything that Jane Austen has written. I read her work in my teens, in my 20s, and even though I’ll only be tiptoeing into my 30s this year, it’s highly probable that I’ll read those classics again. Her wit, her social commentary and her ability to tell an intricately hilarious (and yet touching) tale have captured the imagination of women for two centuries—but probably for the wrong reasons. In the course of two hundred years, Austenites have both wittingly and unwittingly built a cult of personality around Austen’s most popular hero, Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice.
At times, it’s quite obvious that there is a Mr. Darcy cult out there, but it also has subtle influences on how single women view dating and marriage. Mr. Darcy is an inscrutable, ridiculously witty, fictional character, and even if single women can intellectually acknowledge that he isn’t real, many have subconsciously designed a dating rubric so complex that essentially no real man can measure up. Can you tell if you are in the Cult of Darcy?
You might be in the Cult of Darcy if you believe some of these things.
Good Men Are Inscrutable
For over half of the novel (or three hours of the six-hour miniseries), Mr. Darcy is completely inscrutable. He’s difficult. He’s “above his company.” He’s rude. Darcy is, essentially, a Regency-era bad boy. For most women absorbing Pride and Prejudice, it’s no spoiler alert that Darcy, despite his behavior, is the hero. In fact, he becomes all the more likeable because, after a convenient plot twist, he’s suddenly really a good guy.
If you’ve inadvertently created an “inscrutable” category on your checklist for finding a mate, you might find that you end up dating men that might make for an exciting few dates but aren’t looking out for the interests of others. Good men aren’t unreadable. Good men grow, and although they are a work in progress, they exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.
Good Men Are Witty
You and I both know men who are witty, but the verbal wordplay of our Austen hero isn’t manly wittiness. Austen writes beautifully, but her amusing hero is a woman’s creation. Sometimes, women, because they process many of their thoughts aloud, expect men to be a Darcy to their Elizabeth—charming, funny, clever—instead of practical, thoughtful and ordinary.
Good men can be extremely clever with words, but they aren’t necessarily so—it’s not a qualification for being a godly man. In fact, being overly focused on banter can hide true character.
Verses from James 1 come to mind:
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger … be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves … If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
Eloquence and godly character don’t always come in the same package.
Good Men Are Fictional
Although I’ve often written about the perils of the modern dating market and the low price of sex, that doesn’t mean that good single men are fictional, that good single men aren’t in your church, or in your pool of potential online dates. The truth is that even godly women who are seeking the Lord in their romantic lives have trouble separating their fictional desires from actual good men who are around them.
Sometimes, it’s easier on our hearts to look at being unintentionally single and blame culture, living in dreamland where the only good men are fictional. If your journey through singleness has been filled with broken promises and unmet expectations, it’s scarily easy to buy into the Cult of Darcy. I personally find the lie that no good men are out there more palatable than the truth—that in spite of my unintended singleness, God is in control.
Reading and watching Austen’s works isn’t a bad thing, and frequently, when it comes to light-hearted fiction, it’s a better option than other things out there. But as women, it’s time to reject this cult of personality surrounding romantic heroes. God has called us out of darkness into marvelous light, and as a result, we need to temper our imaginations, walk away from fantasy, and live in freedom.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:9-11).