There's a pattern we sometimes see in stories, of a girl being attracted to a haughty, arrogant guy. The idea is that the sparks of conflict are really sparks of attraction. But it's a dynamic that has always bothered me, largely because I don't think of arrogance as an attractive quality.
One of the cited prototypes for this is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice,
where the male love interest, Darcy, is insufferably haughty to the
main character, Elizabeth, when they first meet. And these two end up
happily married, so ... insulting behavior must be attractive, right?
But when I look at the actual text of Pride and Prejudice, what I find is this:
Darcy insults Elizabeth. She's offended and dislikes him. And she continues to dislike him for about thirty more chapters.
arrogance doesn't make her weak-kneed nor draw out the flirt in her. It
turns her off, and while she is polite to him because they have friends
in common, she is not attracted to him ("She liked him too little to
care for his approbation"). And it is her self-confidence, her refusal
to worry about his opinion of her, in addition to their shared interests
in reading and walking, that kindles his respect and eventually his
romantic interest in her.
This pattern continues throughout the
book. Whenever Darcy is high-handed (as in his first disastrous
proposal), Elizabeth reacts with disgust. When Elizabeth believes he has
unfairly deprived her friend Wickham of an inheritance, she is angry.
When he discourages his friend Bingley from pursuing Elizabeth's sister
Jane, Elizabeth thinks this is unforgivable.
The turning point
comes when Elizabeth discovers that Darcy is not as awful as he has
seemed: That he discouraged Bingley's interest in Jane mostly because he
honestly believed Jane did not return the feelings. That Wickham not
only squandered an inheritance, but played fast and loose with the
affections of Darcy's younger sister. At this point, Elizabeth's
feelings soften, though not to the point of love (they are described as a
mixture of indignation, compassion, gratitude, and respect). Her heart
thaws even further when Darcy's housekeeper praises his fairness,
kindness and generosity, and when she herself observes his protective
affection for his sister. Darcy's willingness to help Elizabeth's own
family out of a disaster (instigated by Wickham, no less) seals the deal
for Elizabeth. But in all of these cases, it is when Darcy displays
generosity and a lack of hauteur that he is most attractive to Elizabeth.
could say that the love interest in my first novel shows signs of
arrogance. I would agree, but I always thought that the main character
liked her in spite of it rather than because of it; there's a point in
which he describes her arrogance as her least attractive quality. He
really liked her vulnerability and her ability to poke fun at her own
privileged status. I believe the appeal of an arrogant character is not
in the overconfident shell, but in whatever qualities lie at the core of
the character, beneath that shell.