Wickham: The Modern Hero?

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


I just finished rereading Pride and Prejudice for the fourth or fifth time. I love the book and there isn't much I could say in a review, but this time around I did start thinking about how the characters would be viewed in a modern society. The book is pretty popular -- people still find plenty to love in it despite its differences from modern life. However, I wonder how people would react to Wickham and Darcy if they were reincarnated into modern society.

Darcy has scruples about falling in love with a girl who has an embarrassing family, who is in a lower social class than he is. He tries to fight his feelings for her because he knows that, on paper at least, it won't be a "suitable marriage." He isn't interested in following his heart and only does so when he can no longer resist Elizabeth's charms. Eventually he is reconciled to Elizabeth's situation, but he remains mortified by much of her family.

Wickham, on the other hand, is funny and charming. He doesn't want to marry Georgiana. He doesn't want to marry Lydia. He just wants to have a good time, live with them for a while, test the waters. And so what if they don't get married? They're young. They're figuring out who they are.

I am playing devil's advocate a little bit -- my personal belief is that Wickham is still a villain, and that Darcy, in taking into consideration more than just his emotions in choosing a wife, is making a wise decision. (That is not to say that people should reject others because of differences or lack of money, but at least Darcy knows himself well enough to think about those things and whether or not they will inhibit his commitment to Elizabeth in the long run). Wickham's plan to just go with it, to stick with Lydia without marriage (which doesn't work out for him, as we know) because he wants to "have some fun" sounds kind of vile -- but I feel like so many men have that attitude today. Maybe that is why we still love Pride and Prejudice -- because we live in a world of so many Wickhams and not enough Darcys.

I'm curious what your thoughts are. Do you think that Pride and Prejudice is still relevant? If you stick Wickham and Darcy in the modern world, do you see their roles as reversed, or are they still the villain and hero, respectively?

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