Mr. Darcy and Indonesia

1893

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Mr. Darcy’s sin is pride. He holds himself back. He isn’t interested in making new acquaintances. His aspect is reserved and unhappy.

If I had not lived in Indonesia, I could never have understood Mr Darcy to the degree I did reading Pride and Prejudice here. Because in Indonesia, they have the same opinion of introverts as they did in Austenian England.

Yes, Mr. Darcy is proud–but he is mostly just an introvert in a society where being social is the default position. At one point, someone even says that Darcy may seem arrogant, but he is very friendly and loyal among his close friends. But, after all, at that time in that society half the human race had little to occupy themselves with but gossip–someone who held back from that gossip would of course be stigmatized. Thus, Mr. Darcy is taken to be arrogant.

In Indonesia, being introverted had the exact same result. I was labeled as somboh (arrogant) because I would sit quietly at my desk in the teachers room and read, or seek a cool and place to be alone between classes. I would shut my door at night to rest, rather than settling on the porch with my neighbors. And language kept me from participating in gossip.

That’s not to say that I was shunned. I made many friends in Indonesia–many wonderful friends. My neighbors eventually adapted to my ways, and I don’t think they thought ill of me. But I was not popular. The teachers at my school did not like me. The immigration officials hated me and my arrogance. I left many good impressions–but most of these were with a hundred minor acquaintances, rather than in the communities I lived in.

Like Mr. Darcy, my discomfort manifested through a particular cultural lens and pride. And maybe, like Mr. Darcy, there was some truth to the accusation. Nonetheless, it is very difficult to be an introvert in a society of gossip and chatter.

1893

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