Oh, dear Charles Bingley.
You just gotta love him--I mean, what a doll. There's so little to dislike about Charles. As Jane Bennet points out (and I whole-heartedly agree), "He is just what a young man ought to be, sensible, good-humored, lively."
I've never seen such happy manners either, Jane! And even though I'm looking for my Mr. Darcy, I certainly look for all of Charles' qualities in prospective suitors. I'd love for my Mr. Darcy to be good-humored (sarcastic/witty), lively (someone outgoing to occasionally drag me off the couch and into society), and sensible (we can't all live in a fictional reality--hard as one may try). There's a reason why we fall in love with not just Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, but Charles, too.
In comparison with the imposing, brooding figure of Mr. Darcy, he is just so simple. There's something very appealing (especially in this day and age of Tinder dating) about somebody who is uncomplicated. My friend and I were recently complaining about how difficult it is to find a guy who is straight-forward. One could even argue that Bingley's uncomplicatedness is most of his charm. He seems like the sort of guy who behaves same around his closest friends as he is around strangers; he can easily make himself agreeable in any company, whereas Darcy takes a little more time to get to know others outside his own party.
When I think of Charles, I immediately reflect on something I read in Cheryl Strayed's book Tiny Beautiful Things:
Don't be strategic or coy. Strategic and coy are for jackasses. Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word 'love' to the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will.
I love how simple Strayed makes honesty seem, and I think it ties in nicely when we discuss Bingley. He is a truly authentic character who has no strategy or motive in his pursuit of Jane other than his love for her: "Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld!" How adorable is that?
His sisters are the ones who have a problem with Jane and her lack of connections. And of course, Darcy's interference (allegedly) has more to do with his belief of Jane's indifference than the imprudence of the match (though he certainly was looking out for his friend's interest in that regard).
The one problem I have with Charles is how easily persuaded he was by Darcy. Strayed tells us to be brave. And Charles was not brave in his love for Jane. I mean, I get it. Everyone seemed to hold Darcy's good opinion on their list of must-haves. But it's frustrating as the reader to witness him desert a woman who was positively mad for him. But in an attempt to avoid hypocrisy, I should probably reflect on whether or not I've let my friends' opinions sway me away from a potential suitor. And the answer is, of course I have, and most of the time, their opinions were completely valid. And after retrospective consideration, I'm so glad and relieved they intervened!
For one thing, sometimes our friends are able to see things we are blinded from by attraction or excitement or just the novelty of talking to someone new. A few weeks ago, I was distracted by the cuteness of a local bartender. In a word, he was edgy: dark, well-dressed (but thrifted well-dressed with ripped jeans and flannel), and scruffy--very Nick Miller-esque now that I think about it.
The guy had a good look.
And my friends were like, okay...but you don't want to date someone who is "edgy." His cute, hipsterness had distracted me from the fact that he drank like a fish, smoked like a chimney, and had been thrown in the drunk tank at the police station at least once.
The point of this longish digression is that sometimes our friends really do know what is best for us. So perhaps we shouldn't be so critical of Charles--or of Darcy for that matter. I mean, it's easy to feel insecure about yourself, especially in relation to how someone else may or may not be feeling about you. Relationships require communication, but the Regency era wasn't always conducive for full-frontal honesty. Charlotte Lucas was onto something when she claimed, "In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better show more affection than she feels." And it turned out she was right; Bingley struggled to do more with his feelings without a firm confidence of Jane's affections or Jane helping him on.
So where does that leave us in modern times? Of course Charlotte's wise words don't translate into modern times--we'd quickly be written off as unstable, clingey, or emotionally slutty.
Being too emotionally invested up front (at least openly and honestly) can easily freak out the other person--I know it does to me. You want to get to know someone and once you feel you know what they're about, then you can tell them how awesome they are and how much you like them. As much as I hate to admit it (and as much as I want a guy who is straight-forward), too much honesty all at once is often too much. I never want to relive the first date in which I learned all about his history of depression and his struggle to find the right meds. Or the fact that he planned out the next six years of our lives together after the first date.
So my answer is complicated (like life and love), but I firmly believe that honesty is absolutely the best policy. Perhaps if Jane had forced herself to be a touch more forthcoming with her feelings (regardless of whether or not it was in her quiet, shy nature), Charles would have felt secure enough in her affections to thwart Darcy's advice. I would much rather know up front whether or not a guy is into me. In my experience, knowing is a lot better than not knowing. It will spare you not only time, but also emotional energy that you can put towards someone who thinks you're as amazing and fabulous as you truly are.