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Free Study Guide: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - Free BookNotes

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: PLOT SUMMARY / BOOK NOTES

CHAPTER 13

Summary

The next morning Mr. Bennet informs his wife that they will be having a guest for dinner. Mr. Bennet has received a letter from his cousin, Mr. Collins, who will inherit Longbourn after Mr. Bennet’s death. Mr. Collins, a clergyman, hopes to reconcile the differences between Mr. Bennet and himself. He comes, offering an olive branch of peace, and hopes that his efforts will be accepted. Mrs. Bennet is perturbed over the visit and complains about the cruelty of "settling an estate away from a family of five daughters, in favor of a man whom nobody cared anything about".

When Mr. Collins, a tall, swarthy young man of twenty-five, arrives, he heaps indiscriminate praise on everything. He compliments Mrs. Bennet on her cooking and speaks highly of everything about the girls. In every way, he appears to be a peculiar figure.

Notes

Chapter thirteen introduces the reader to Mr. Collins. Like the letter he writes, he proves himself to be a vain and stupid young man who utters preposterous things. He attempts to be flattering, but is clumsy and foolish. Mr. Bennet comments that he is "a mixture of servility and self-importance".

A central feature of Austen’s style is that the dialogue of a character corresponds to his personality. This trait is clearly seen in this chapter. Mr. Bennet speaks with a tongue-in-check humor. Mrs. Bennet attempts to speak in long, flowing sentences, but she usually breaks them up with sudden interruptions. Elizabeth speaks in a lively way. Mr. Collins’ speech is pompous and contrived.

It is important to note that again in this chapter Mrs. Bennet shows her concern that her daughters will have no means of support when Mr. Bennet dies, for his estate must go to the foolish Mr. Collins. It is no wonder that she is concerned about them finding husbands who can take care of them.


CHAPTER 14


Summary

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.

Notes

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.


CHAPTER 15

Summary

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.

Notes

"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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