Few things throw me off more than being reminded that I’m quiet. I’ll feel good and then suddenly I’m out of the moment, focusing on how others perceive me. The familiar feeling that I’m not enough takes over: I’m not talkative enough, not perky enough, not spontaneous enough, not personable enough. Even when I push myself out of my comfort zone, trying and possibly even enjoying myself, some people expect more or want something different. It’s easy to feel that it’s all my fault, that I fail at practical life skills like small talk and conversation.
That’s one of the reasons why the characters in Jane Austen novels fascinate me. They are masters at small talk and conversation. Everyone is so articulate and witty, cutting each other down with choice words, and showing off their skill at banter and subtlety. I loved reading Pride and Prejudice for class in 10th and 11th grade. I haven’t reread the novel since then, so I can’t give a critique from a literary standpoint. But I have watched the 2005 movie adaption many many times. I am well equipped to talk about that. It’s Darcy who steals my heart, and it has a lot to do with how he is portrayed as an introvert. At the big parties he stays to the people he knows. He carefully observes social situations. He works behind the scenes to remedy what his observations have concluded need to be fixed, like the seemingly (in his mind) doomed relationship between Bingley and Jane. When Darcy leaves his wallflower tendencies to propose to Elizabeth Bennett, his words come out all wrong and he accidentally insults her and her family. This guy is making so many mistakes in a world of extroverts.
For a long time Elizabeth is at a lost as to who this man is and why he is so different. Eventually she begins to see him for who he is and not for what she wishes he could be. She sees his home filled with expressive and contemplative decorations, she sees him interact with his sister, she sees him smile, and she learns that this brooding man named Darcy has a caring nature. He is not very open with revealing the various sides to his personality, but he is compelling and charming nonetheless. Darcy redeems his earlier mistakes by fixing a marriage between Wickham and Lydia behind the scenes, and proposing to Elizabeth again, this time using words like “ardently” and “bewitched, body and soul.” Way to go, Introvert Darcy, for not giving up no matter how out of place you felt. And great job, Elizabeth, for looking past labels and preconceived notions on how people should be. The two accept each other for who they are and fall in love along the way.
People differ and life is interesting because of that. It’s a lesson difficult for me to learn, but I make progress to accepting it more and more. I am not the most talkative person in the word, but I’m also not the biggest failure. I am me. Darcy may be a fictional character, but I’m still heartened by his confession he does not “possess the talent of conversing easily with people I have never met before.” It was an honest admission, and he did not let that keep him from working toward a happy ending. I want to practice engaging in small talk and random conversation. I also want to not be so shaken when someone points out how quiet I am, because as I encounter new situations, others will learn that some of my quietness is just natural to me. It is a characteristic like my dark hair and brown skin. It is real, it is distinctive, it is enough. I am enough.