What about Bingley? Sometimes readers scoff at Austenites and their consuming love for Mr. Darcy. Why? Because he was tactile, proud, and--let's be honest--rather rude. Instead, these readers and Darcy critics ask, what about Bingley? He's charming, personable, and conveniently rich, is he not? I mean, he doesn't have £10,000 a year, but I think he does alright. So why isn't there some other blog entitled "Looking for Mr. Bingley?" There probably is. Somewhere. Or someone could start it. ("Looking for Mr. Tilney" would also be perfection.)
The wonderful thing about Bingley is that he is so charmingly uncomplicated. From the first moment he sees Jane, we know he's in love: "She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld!"
He's never shy about his feelings or his intentions, and that's a quality to praise. His only real downfall is his complete lack of self-confidence (AKA his crippling dependency on Mr. Darcy), as well as his rather awful sisters (who--one can only hope--accept his choice of bride and welcome her into the family...eventually).
I think the biggest thing that Darcy critical readers overlook is his development as a character and a man. Whereas, with Bingley, what you see is what you get. There really isn't much more boiling beneath his surface, which is certainly not a bad thing--the world could use more forthcoming men, am I right? Mr. Bingley is described as "good looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners." Darcy, too, "drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien." (This confirms my theory that hot guys attract other hot guys.) However, Darcy was quickly declared proud "and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend." Darcy is much more the intellectual (God love him for it), and that's what makes these two men such splendid friends.
Between [Bingley] and Darcy there was a steady friendship, in spite of a great opposition of character. Bingley was endeared to Darcy by the easiness, openness, ductility of his temper, though no disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own, and though with his own he never appeared dissatisfied.
I can only really think of one other negative surrounding Mr. Bingley, something Mr. Darcy does not fall victim to. Mr. Bingley, rather than potentially make a fool out of himself for love (after all, we are all fools in love), runs away from his love when Darcy expresses his own doubts. Darcy projected his own insecurities, his own doubts about his feelings for Elizabeth (her lack of fortune and connections) onto Bingley and Jane's situation. What kills me is that he leaves without so much as a conversation. Rather than define his relationship and compare intentions and feelings with Jane, he runs off to London and leaves her heartbroken--without so much as a conversation.At least Darcy has the decency to declare himself (however over-confidently) to Elizabeth and receive his (due) rejection. And again later, when it seems her feelings had changed, Darcy reiterates his intentions, this time receiving a positive response.
I know a lot of people think it's silly to take these characters and learn from them because 1. they were born in 1813 and 2. they're fictional, but I can't stress enough how important it is to take something away from whatever it is you're reading. When I first started this blog, I had no idea how deeply a person could look at Pride and Prejudice; how many angles one could use to discuss more minor characters like Charlotte Lucas or Mr. Collins; how many lessons Jane Austen was subtly instilling in future generations.
So here's one lesson to learn from Bingley--other than how to be a lovely person and a true gentleman (take notes). Define the relationship: Jane and Bingley were such a near miss, one more miscommunication away from leading separate lives. Forever.
I can't wag my finger at Bingley enough. Because of his own self-doubt (and a little bit--okay, a lot--of Darcy's own doubt), he almost lost his chance with "the most beautiful creature [he'd] ever beheld." The thing I can't wrap my brain around is the fact that he knew, from the first moment, that this girl--Jane--was something special. (I mean, I don't know a lot of guys that throw around the phrase "most beautiful creature I ever beheld," but that seems like a red flag, don't you think?) He knew she was the one for him. One of those rare instances, I think, when there's certainty. And even if there wasn't certainty on Bingley's end, there were feelings. And feelings worthy of being verbally expressed, even if that meant looking like a fool.
And yet, hard as I might try, I don't want to chide Bingley too much. Love is a scary thing. So is putting yourself out there. Finding the words to walk up to someone's face and say "Hey, I like you" is much harder than it should be. Trust me; I know.
But Bingley is proof that if you don't put yourself out there; if you don't summon the words that need to be said; if you don't leap when it counts, you might miss your shot. (Notice I say might, because he didn't actually miss his shot.) Bingley truly is proof that we are all fools in love.