I am thinking once again about Pride and Prejudice and the thousands of knock-offs it has inspired. I am thinking also about the different demands of real life and of novel-writing.
Romance in real life usually involves people hitting it off right away, either as friends or as strangers or mere acquaintances mutually attracted to each other. Any massive personality conflict usually comes later, ending or transforming the romance. In the beginning, all is smooth sailing and goofy smiles.
But this does not meet the demands of romantic fiction, which needs conflict right from page 1 to keep the reader interested and the plot going. After a lifetime of being forbidden from reading any but Georgette Heyer's romance novels, I read a whole glut of non-Georgette for Irony class in grad school. And it struck me that they were all the same. They all involved Woman meets Man, Man behaves Rudely, Woman chastizes Man, Man feels amused and intrigued, Woman goes off in huff, Eventually Woman realizes she had Man all wrong, Sex Stuff (or Just Kissing), The End.
Man often had steely grey eyes. All over the world there may be grey-eyed men who wonder why women berate them and then hang around expectantly.
This may be very hard to believe if your primary interaction with men and romance is through romantic novels, films and television programs, but men do not like being mocked, chastized or harangued. Not once in my life, and I dated for over 20 years, weep weep, have I ever heard a real-life man say "Dang, but I like a gal with spirit!" This cannot be because I lack spirit. I have spirit in buckets. I think that this is just a line men use (if they ever do) when they have decided in ADVANCE that they are going to court this particular woman, no matter what she thinks about it.
Beautiful Woman at Buffet Table: Would you mind not breathing down my neck?
Smitten Man: Great buffet, isn't it?
Beautiful Woman: I'd enjoy it more if you didn't breathe down my neck.
Smitten Man: Dang, I like a gal with spirit!
Do you see the distinction? You cannot make a man fall in love with you by teasing or berating him, although you might not necessarily discourage a man who is already interested in you by teasing or berating him. If a man is constantly hanging out around your desk at work and blushing, and you say with a smile, "Gracious sakes, Fred. Why don't you just ask me out for coffee and be done with it?", Fred will probably do just that. But if Fred only acknowledges your existence with an absentminded nod in the photocopy room, such "gentle raillery" will not encourage Fred as much as it will annoy him.
Elizabeth Bennet thought that Mr Darcy was a rude and pompous ass who would leave her community as suddenly as he entered it and, as she was worried that her sister was in danger of losing her heart to his best friend, the sooner they both went, the better. This is why Elizabeth stuck metaphorical pins into Mr Darcy. This is not why Mr Darcy fell in love with Elizabeth.
Darcy fell in love with Elizabeth because she had beautiful, intelligent eyes, a nice figure and amusing conversation (Chapter 6). And of course she was clever and very caring to those she loved. She was also a mystery to the people-watching Mr Darcy because she was so unlike her relations. And she must have been a refreshing change from Caroline Bingley, who did her very best to captivate him, including with "gentle raillery."
Someone quoted me from P & P the other day, thinking Elizabeth quite delightful and her speech hilarious. However, it was clear that my interlocutor had heard or remembered the speech out of context. Context is often what gets dropped from film or TV versions.
Here is the speech within the context, with my bolds to flag what must be flagged:
...Mrs Hurst sang with [Caroline Bingley], and while they were thus employed Elizabeth could not help observing as she turned over some music books that lay on the instrument, how frequently Mr Darcy's eyes were fixed on her. She hardly knew how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration to so great a man; and yet that he should look at her because he disliked her, was still more strange. She could only imagine at last that she drew his notice because there was something about her more wrong and reprehensible, according to his ideas of right, than in any other person present. This supposition did not pain her. She liked him too little to care for his approbation.
Dear Auntie Seraphic,
I love your blog. Mr Darcy is staring at me. Why?
Because he thinks you are the most beautiful woman in the room, you moron. And he's been staring at you since Chapter 6.
Grace and peace,
After playing some Italian songs, Miss Bingley varied the charm by a lively Scotch air; and soon after Mr Darcy, drawing near to Elizabeth, said to her--
'Do you not feel a great inclination, Miss Bennet, to seize such an opportunity for dancing a reel?'
She smiled, but made no answer. He repeated the question, with some surprise at her silence.
'Oh!' said she,'I heard you before; but I could not immediately determine what to say in reply. You wanted me, I know, to say "Yes," that you may have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes, and cheating a person of their premeditated contempt. I have therefore made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all--and now despise me if you dare.'
'Indeed I do not dare.'
He was asking you to dance, toots.
Grace and peace,
Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness [Uh oh! Jane, that word 'archness' is going to blight countless female lives...] in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.
Miss Bingley saw, or suspected enough to be jealous; and...[s]he often tried to provoke Darcy into disliking her guest by talking of their supposed marriage, and planning his happiness in such an alliance.
So Elizabeth, who dislikes Mr Darcy, uses raillery to anger him and fails, and Miss Bingley, who has a crush on Mr Darcy, uses raillery to make him dislike Elizabeth and also fails. Truly, raillery is a dangerous thing. If you want a man to like you, don't use it.
And if you are determined, despite my repeated pleas not to do so, to keep Pride and Prejudice as your personal Guide to Life, please remember that Elizabeth didn't have a crush on Mr Darcy, he had a crush on her. For the love of Jane Austen and all she held holy, don't talk to your crush object the way Elizabeth talked to Mr Darcy.