Happy 200th Birthday, Mr. Darcy – We Still Love You

Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice turns 200 this year, and with it, its hero, Mr. Darcy. Why does he continue to intrigue us, 200 years on?

Oh Mr. Darcy, let us count the ways that we love you. We loved you played by Colin Firth, climbing out of the pond with your wet shirt clinging to you, we loved it when you grouchily told Elizabeth Bennet you didn't like to talk to people, we love your enormous mansion, we love your botched declaration of love in the Gardeners' drawing room, we even love your stupid Christmas sweater in the modernization Bridget Jones' Diary. Did we mention the pond? Because let's be serious, who hasn't watched that scene 10,000 times?

A new theory on the death of Jane Austen

January 28th is your 200th birthday, or rather the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It makes a girl wonder: How is it that English-literature-loving women across the years have all loved the same man? Why this man?

First, there's the theory that Darcy loves Elizabeth for the reasons that we want to be loved. She's an unusual woman-outspoken for her time, always herself, doesn't put on airs-but also an appealing everywoman. She's smart, she's a little conceited. She's just like us. If Darcy loves her, then we are loveable too.

"Of course it's his love for Lizzy that endears Darcy to us," Carlene Bauer, author and Austen lover, told Yahoo! Shine. "He loves her in spite of herself, which is what all Jane Austen's books are about, in some way-a man loving a woman in spite of her difficult qualities."

As time has gone on, the character of Darcy has developed both on and off the page. "Colin Firth's portrayal of Darcy in the BBC miniseries did a lot for renewed interest in the character and in the book," Cailey Hall, an English doctoral student at UCLA, told Shine. "This is obviously due to the fact that Firth is gorgeous and charming in the role, but it's also because that adaptation expands on Darcy's background and his interior life-more than the novel does."

And let's not forget Darcy is appealing from a material standpoint as well. Darcy is rich. "Out of all the Austen marriages, Elizabeth Bennet's to Darcy is the best one, in terms of wealth," Hall told Shine.

"He is partially a fantasy," Bauer said. "The fantasy is that he has a huge-ass house and looks, as the cinema has led us to believe, like Colin Firth. But the wonderful thing about real life is that some men, many men, like funny, verbally dexterous, quote-un-quote difficult women."

As for me, I've just begun to understand the Darcy-worship. As a ninth grader, I loved the book, and I especially loved Lizzy, but I could not understand Darcy's appeal. He was rude, impatient, and boring. But reading Pride and Prejudice in my late twenties is an entirely different story. Darcy and Lizzy's romance feels modern, which I think explains its enduring appeal.

Much has changed over the course of 200 years. Certainly when Pride and Prejudice was published the romance was pure fantasy. It would have been unlikely for a man like Darcy to take a risk on someone like Elizabeth Bennett. Even 50 years ago, obstacles like wealth and position in society were serious impediments to marriage. But now, marrying for love isn't such a novel idea. When Darcy overcomes his prejudice and realizes his love for Elizabeth in 1813, it's revelatory. In 2013, Darcy's love for Elizabeth is relatable. Darcy was and is a man ahead of his time.

Darcy's struggle to articulate his love for Lizzy is anything but a fantasy. He completely bungles its execution. But his intentions are true. You can see this in the turning point of the novel, when he finally declares his love.

"In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed," he says. "You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."

Well, Mr. Darcy, 200 years later, we're still pretty fond of you as well.