Darcy's Friendship with Bingley: Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of A Man of Few Words, in The Gentleman the Rake, tackles Elizabeth's visit to Netherfield. I used this chapter to poke some good-natured fun at Darcy and Bingley.

Thomas Gibson as Greg:
He even looks like Darcy!

There's an episode of Dharma & Greg in which Greg plans a romantic weekend in "snow" country for Dharma, who has never seen snow. Their romantic get-away consists of him carefully planning exactly how long it will take them to reach their destination, so they can arrive in time for a romantic sunset. This means NO STOPPING. Although Dharma evinces interest in several passing sites--"Oh, that one looked good!"--Greg focuses on the road: "We have to keep to a schedule!"

Woodbury Sibs at a Site: Niagara Falls
Needless to say, this is Darcy. This is also my dad. Our road trips from New York State to California when I was growing up were carefully planned to allow for certain sites and excursions but never at the expense of our nightly reservations. I graduated high school believing that people never traveled any other way. When I planned my own cross-country trip in my early twenties, it never occurred to me to simply drive as much as I could on any given day, stop, and stay at the most convenient hostelry. One does not travel that way. One examines maps, measures distances, calculates miles per day, and makes reservations at least two months in advance.

And, truthfully, I would probably do the same thing now.

But it's still amusing.

Bingley, of course, is the exact opposite. Austen makes clear that Bingley rented Netherfield because that's what his friends--eh hem, Darcy--do: they live on big estates passed down from their parents. Austen also makes clear that Bingley doesn't have a clue what to do with a big estate.

This, however, doesn't bother Bingley in the least. Bingley is one of those annoying yet endearing people who takes life completely as it comes--"Hey, I rented Netherfield; wow, that was a riot"--yet always seems to land on his feet.  Or maybe it is just that people like Bingley take the ensuing consequences so good-naturedly that they come out seemingly unscathed.

And in all fairness, one of the nicer things about Bingley is how completely confident and content he is with himself. Bingley can brag about writing letters quickly, and Darcy can question, "What is laudable in a precipitance which must leave very necessary business undone?" and Bingley can laugh and change the subject: "I assure you, that if Darcy were not such a great tall fellow, in comparison with myself, I should not pay him half so much deference."

There's no snideness in this last remark, by the way. Bingley is the ultimate guileless man.

For a worrier like Darcy, a friend like Bingley is enormously relaxing. For a living-in-the-present guy like Bingley, Darcy is a necessary point of stability (as Jane will also be).

It is a very believeable, and lightly drawn, relationship, proving that Austen could create strong male as well as female characters, though she did concentrate more on the latter.

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