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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: PLOT SUMMARY / BOOK NOTES
Mr. Collins has secured his parish through the patronage of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, a wealthy widow with an only daughter. As a result, his attitude towards her is one of fawning subservience, and during his visit at the Bennets, he never stops praising her. Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s daughter is a young lady of delicate health, which precludes her from taking her rightful place in society.
Mr. Collins repeats some of the compliments he has paid to his patroness and her daughter; Mr. Bennet is thoroughly amused -- " his cousin was as absurd as he had hoped."
After teatime, Mr. Bennet takes his guest into the drawing room, and a book
is offered to him. On discovering that the book is a novel, he cringes
in horror and proceeds to read aloud from Fordyce’s sermons. He is interrupted
by Lydia, who makes a flippant comment about an army officer. Mr. Collins
is offended by the interruption and puts down his book. He spends the
remainder of the evening playing backgammon.
This chapter further develops the ridiculous Mr. Collins. In a solemn manner that makes him appear ludicrous, he eloquently praises his patroness Lady Catherine and her daughter. His exaggerated shock at being given a novel to read, his proud humility, and his flowery speeches make Mr. Collins a truly farcical figure.
Lady Catherine takes on some significance later in the novel, for she is Darcy’s
aunt. It is speculated that Darcy will marry her daughter.
As a rector, Mr. Collins has a sufficient income and a good house. He visits Longbourn with the purpose of choosing one of the Bennet girls as a wife, "if he found them as handsome and amiable as they were represented by common report". Jane’s lovely face attracts him, and she seems to be his "settled choice". Mrs. Bennet, however, makes it clear that Jane’s affections are pledged elsewhere. Mr. Collins then turns his attention to Elizabeth.
The sisters walk into Meryton, accompanied by Mr. Collins. They meet Mr. Denny,
an officer, who introduces them to his colleague Mr. Wickham. He is a
young man with a fine countenance and a good figure. The group encounters
Bingley and Darcy, who are riding down the street on their way to Longbourn
to inquire after Jane’s health. Darcy and Wickham seem flustered on seeing
each other, exchanging a strange look. Darcy and Bingley ride on while
Denny and Wickham escort the girls and Mr. Collins to Mrs. Philips’ house.
Mrs. Philips promises to invite Wickham and the girls to dinner the next
evening, which thrills the girls. On returning to Longbourn, Mr. Collins
lavishes exaggerated praise on Mrs. Philips’ excellent manners and hospitality.
"Mr. Collins was not a sensible man". This statement by the author sets a factual seal on the opinion voiced earlier by Elizabeth and her father. The subsequent actions of Mr. Collins only confirm this view.
There is a marked change in Mrs. Bennet’s attitude towards Mr. Collins. It progresses from hostility to deference, as his position changes from the eventual inheritor of Longbourn to an available suitor for her daughter. At first Mrs. Bennet loathes him as the person who is going to snatch their property. When he makes it known that he is interested in marrying one of the Bennet girls, she warms to him, and "the man, whom she could not bear to speak of the day before, was now high in her good graces". She realizes that if one of her daughters marries Collins, Longbourn will remain in the immediate family. She and her daughters will not have to be displaced.
The appearance of Wickham is crucial for two reasons. First, he serves as
a contrast to Darcy; and secondly, he is an important character in the
working later working out of the plot. The accidental meeting of Darcy
and Wickham is very dramatic, and Elizabeth immediately senses that something
is wrong between the two. Her insight is, however, obstructed by her prejudice,
and she is not able to see through Wickham and accepts all his accusations
against Darcy at face value.
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. 09 May 2017