Slater unmasks Austen’s iconic Fitzwilliam Darcy as the enigmatic figure of Pride and Prejudice documents his part in the sage of Regency England that so fascinates legions of readers. Austen’s Darcy is quiet, brooding, attractive for his lack of public display. Content in a rigorously structured society where class determines influence, Slater’s Darcy is a man of his times - entitled, cosseted by servants and wealth, indulging in his favorite pastimes (hunting, gaming and womanizing) before stepping into the murky territory of marital considerations.
When the Bennet sisters crash into the social scene, the reaction is swift, a flurry of interest and gossip. And when Charles Bingley finds himself irresistibly drawn to Jane Bennet, everyone is atwitter with concern: she is a decidedly unsuitable match for the charming and available Mr. Bingley. It falls to Darcy to deliver the final blow, a subtle interference with the natural order on behalf of his besotted friend. The rest is history.
Darcy revealed sheds more light on the society from which he springs, where gentlemen engage in fisticuffs for relaxation, carousing with the likes of Lord Byron in a male-dominated society where women are accessories and potential fortunes: “An undersized young lady of doubtful family, however brilliant, cannot tempt me.”
Darcy’s struggle with his feelings for Elizabeth Bennet is puerile, self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing, less a man than man-on-the-verge of maturity, crippled by his rigid moral code and resentful of such cads as George Wickham, who nearly ruins Darcy’s sister and the reputation of the Bennet family.
By the time Darcy bows to defeat - and his abject love of Elizabeth, which is idealized rather than realistic - he seems more an accident of fortune than the purposeful gentleman who nearly destroys the romance of Charles and Jane and tortures Elizabeth at every turn. Romantic love is not for the faint of heart, especially in class-conscious Regency England, where name and fortune are everything. Slater does not further Darcy’s cause.
Perhaps the author hopes to introduce us to another Darcy, the bold individual who cares for family and friends, who gladly accepts family responsibility and the future to which he is born. But there is no romance in this Darcy, a rather priggish gentleman of leisure who cannot break from convention even when his heart calls out to him. Despite the author’s intentions, it is clear that Elizabeth Bennet gets the short end of this bargain.