He looked very perplexed. My student held his copy of Pride and Prejudice in his hand and said, “I see these things in here,” referring to my “I Heart Darcy” and “I’d Rather Be At Pemberley” stickers that don my classroom walls, “but I don’t understand why you like him. He seems like a real douche. He prevented Wickham from getting his inheritance.” He shook his head in disgust; his partner joined him. I relish these moments in class, because number one, they both understand the story, and two, their reality of what they know and feel so far clashes with what I know and feel. We can have a genuine discussion of the novel.
It also hit me that he’s in same role as Elizabeth and this was the perfect time to discuss with him how he and Elizabeth gained their knowledge of Darcy. Through our discussion they explained that Wickham told her all about Darcy’s bad deeds. I asked if they had heard Darcy’s side of the story and why not. “No. She won’t talk to him because he has too much pride and is a jerk.” Okay, but why does she believe Wickham; she hardly knows him. “She listens to him because he doesn’t like Darcy, either.” Why else? “He’s rich?” He’s soldier and has no money. “He’s nice to her?” Okay, why else? “He’s good looking.” How does all of this make a winning combination for Elizabeth? They discussed Wickham’s affable personality and charm.
Then one them stopped and looked at me questioningly, “Is this what it boils down to? Being cute?” I paused; both boys are seniors. They’re both short with soft features; both, in my mind, are adorable, but I’m sure they would cringe if they heard themselves referred to in that way (and by their English teacher no less!). They have not grown into rugged, chiseled manliness yet. They both stared at me with sad, puppy-dog eyes. I could see them imagining a world of Wickhams whisking away all of their potential dates.
“Keep reading,” I offered, “Pay attention to Wickham and find out how far his looks take him. Being cute is not everything.” One asked, “Are you sure?” I nodded. They glanced at my “I Heart Darcy” sticker and went back to reading.