A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

By Anngela Schroeder

Society has misinterpreted the intelligence of young girls.  It believes that Disney Princesses and their ‘love stories’ were detrimental to our development as independent, strong women because of the focus on them being “saved” by the princes.  Society is wrong!  We were not focused on the Princes at all- we wanted to be Belle, not for the prince but for his library, Cinderella for her shoes and dress, and Ariel for the fact that, well…she’s a mermaid.  Who doesn’t want to be a mermaid?  So people professing that women were raised to fall in love with men that would save them like these animated classics, are sadly mistaken.  Our first loves were Gilbert Blythe because he called Anne Shirley ‘Carrots’ and smirked when Josie Pye challenged her to walk the ridgepole; Ned Nickerson, because he didn’t try to hold Nancy Drew back from not only hanging out with her best friends, but when she solved every possible case known to teenagers from the 1920’s through present day, he said he knew she could do it; and Harry Potter, well because he’s Harry, and he’s so humble and good and defeats Valdermort and is just Harry. (Unless you’ve seen Neville Longbottom lately, because if you have, you know Harry takes a back seat!)

Gilbert-blythe
Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert Blythe from “Anne of Green Gables”

But these are still the boys of a young girl’s dreams.  Where are the men?  The real men who are willing to battle through adversity?  In my senior AP British Lit class, while reading Pride and Prejudice, my female students had a moment of clarity.  We were analyzing the scene where Darcy walks in after Elizabeth received Jane’s letter about Lydia, and were discussing the following passage:

                  “Good God!  What is the matter?” cried he, with more feeling than politeness; then recollecting himself, “I will not detain you a minute; but let me go, or let the servant go…You are not well enough; you cannot go yourself.”

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Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice”

This seemingly innocuous passage held so much in the realm of realization for my students.  We spoke of how Darcy had allowed himself to soften even more for a brief moment- he spoke ‘…with more feeling than politeness…’ and his obvious concern was governing his words and actions when all he wanted to do was throw caution aside and somehow help this woman whom he dearly loved.  Taking a moment, before moving on to my next thought, Jayna, a student in the front row, shook her head and under her breath muttered, “Dang.  Where’s my Mr. Darcy?”  And there it is.  Girls/Women don’t want Disney Princes- we want men of substance who will fight for us, but understand us enough to recognize when to back off; we want men who ardently admire and love us with such an extreme depth of feeling that it is palpable; we want men who might struggle with their feelings, but who we eventually realize ‘don’t rattle around like other young men’ and are worth being patient for.

So, we’ll continue to harbor girlhood crushes on the Gilberts, Neds and Harrys of the world, while all the while waiting for our own Mr. Darcy.  Am I somehow setting future generations of women up with false expectations by glorifying Fitzwilliam Darcy?  Maybe, but everyone needs someone to dream about when they stand around a wishing well and sing to their woodland friends.

17 Responses

  1. Claudine Di Muzio
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    Lovely post Anngela. I love that you shared your student’s comment about Mr. Darcy. I loved Gilbert too when I was younger, but I love the complex character that is Fitzwilliam Darcy!!

    • Anngela Schroeder
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      Thanks, Claudine. Agreed! I came to a point where I realized I had grown up, and although I still loved Gil, a more complex character was needed to deal with my shenanigans! Enter my Darcy crush! 🙂

  2. Christina Boyd
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    Yes, I’m sure I’m guilty of propagating the DarcyDilemma.

    Great post!

    • Anngela Schroeder
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      Thanks, Christina. Yes, you are one of the main propagators for sure! 🙂

  3. Denise
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    Beautifully written!

    • Anngela Schroeder
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      Thank you, Denise! 🙂

  4. Erin
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    Yes!!

    • Anngela Schroeder
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      Thanks, Erin! 🙂

  5. Johnni
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    I think it’s better for women to demand better for themselves anyway. There is a danger in the romanticization of relationships I think. Women, for so long, have thought they were only validated once they were married with children. The tides are changing and women are becoming more empowered to put other pursuits above the pursuit of a family – unfortunately, a woman’s biological timeline is much more rushed than that of our counterparts so it’s not fully turned, nor do I think it ever will be. But even women who have chosen they would prefer to be career-oriented rather than family-oriented feel the pressure. As one of those women, someone who has no plans to get married until I am at a certain, long-coming point in my career, I still feel the pressure to find a man who could at least be a prospect for future engagement. And I’m pretty strong willed. And as friends get married, and time passes, and the baby-making window begins to close, women get less picky. Their standards drop. So holding Darcy up, a man who learns to embrace emotion (something that has been too long attributed as a feminine-only trait) but also does not seek to dominate or rule over his woman, who does not demand her affections like Mr Collins – I don’t think that’s as bad as letting women drop their standards. I still hope we can continue to empower women to not feel the need to find a man to feel validated, but I don’t know how we can do that yet either. In the meantime, yes, celebrate Darcy and Edward Ferrars! I’ll take them any day – once I have my career all in order that is.

    • Anngela Schroeder
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      Love this perspective, Johnni. Thank you for your insight. 🙂

  6. Glynis
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    So true Angela. I think every sensible woman would love to find a Mr Darcy. Unfortunately not everyone does, this is why there is such a market for all the variations of P&P as I and many others can’t get enough of his deep love and devotion to Elizabeth. I think he is the most romantic hero of all. Thanks for this post.

    • Anngela Schroeder
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      Thank you, Glynnis for your thoughts. I agree. We women are so in awe of Darcy’s complete devotion (great word choice) to Elizabeth, that we realize even though he is fictional, we need to celebrate the traits that seemingly make him unlike other men. I agree with you on the romance meter! 🙂

  7. Sheila L. M.
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    I love Darcy as he changed without the promise of a reward so when I want to escape the harsh realities of the world around me I need to dream that there is a man like this…I can still dream and enjoy that little time in another world…of fantasy.

    • Anngela Schroeder
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      Well said, Sheila! 🙂

  8. Sophia Rose
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    Yes, let them keep their dreams. It’s important for a girl to form ideas of what she wants and needs early. I had a thing for Gilbert and yes, Ned, along with several others when I was a girl and it wasn’t for their rescue the damsel in the distress powers. Thoughtful and delightful post, Anngela!

    • Anngela Schroeder
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      Thank you, Sophia.

      • Anngela Schroeder
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        🙂