Mr Darcy Parting the Red Sea

Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report, which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice C3

Though it’s unlikely the Netherfield party literally parted the dancing at the Meryton Assembly, like they showed in the 2005 movie, they did cause quite a stir. The difference between the two gentlemen is stark; Mr Bingley is lively and friendly whereas Mr Darcy is reserved. The reason for this becomes apparent when Bingley suggests that Darcy dance.

You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner… Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice C3

Darcy finds dancing uncomfortable with people he doesn’t know well, the two women he does know are dancing with other people. He admits to Lizzy later he’s not good with new people and points out that he and Lizzy are similar; he is private because he’s anxious but she doesn’t share all of herself either.

I certainly have not the talent which some people possess… of conversing easily with those I have never seen before.”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice C31

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Catherine Morland doesn’t part the crowd…