Thirty years on, a Christian pastor’s theory of romantic communication is as popular as ever.
She can’t speak for herself, but I think it’s obvious: Elizabeth Bennet’s love language is words of affirmation. The protagonist of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Lizzy is a sharp social observer, famously clever, and, occasionally, a crafter of devastating critique. She delights in storytelling and lives for praise; after Lizzy’s older sister, Jane, expresses surprise that the handsome Bingley asks her to dance more than once, Lizzy teases: “Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never.” It’s Lizzy’s love of words that draws her to the gossipy, charming Wickham, and that initially puts her off reticent Mr. Darcy (“He scarcely spoke ten words to her” during an early visit she makes to his house). Mr. Darcy’s love language, by contrast, is acts of service; he shows his love for Lizzy by saving her sister from the shame of unmarried motherhood. Only at the very end of the book are they able to explain what they’ve tried and failed to show each other all this time: They are in love.
Of course, Pride and Prejudice predates The 5 Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, the 1992 mega–best seller by Gary Chapman, by 179 years, but the latter’s applicability has come to feel universal and timeless. Thirty years after the book’s publication, love languages maintain a strong foothold in modern romance, rivaling astrology and attachment theory as tools that promise to make one of humanity’s greatest mysteries — love — legible.