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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: PLOT SUMMARY / NOTES
If Darcy had worded his proposal in a romantic way, emphasizing his love, Elizabeth would have reacted differently. As it stands, Elizabeth can only attack him. She accuses Darcy of ruining her sister’s chances with Bingley and of upsetting Wickham. Darcy does not understand what Elizabeth means and finds himself at a loss of words. When Elizabeth accuses him of ungentlemanly conduct, Darcy has heard enough, for he greatly prides himself on "his stately bearing,"
What stands in the way of Darcy and Elizabeth getting together at this point in the novel is "pride and prejudice." Darcy’s pride makes him act in a superior way when he proposes; he indicates that he makes the offer in spite of her inferior social position and her vulgar family. Elizabeth’s previously established prejudice against Darcy is intensified; she does not even contemplate marrying such an arrogant man.
In an ironic inversion, Darcy accuses Elizabeth of being too proud, while
Elizabeth accuses him of being prejudiced. She tells Darcy that he has
a propensity to hate people and has shown his prejudice against Wickham
and Jane (and everyone else who comes in his way). The truth is that both
characters are guilty of pride and prejudice.
The next morning Elizabeth is walking by the park gates when she is confronted by Darcy, who thrusts a letter in her hand and leaves. The letter, contrary to her expectations, does not renew his marriage proposal. Instead, Darcy admits that he persuaded Bingley to give up Jane, for he had the impression that Jane did not really love Bingley. Darcy now realizes his mistake; however, he still feels the Bennet family, especially the mother, is ill suited to become the in-laws of a man of Bingley’s caliber. Darcy also apologizes for keeping Jane’s presence in London a secret from Bingley.
In regard to Wickham, Darcy informs Elizabeth that his own father, who employed
Wickham’s dad, had given Wickham 3,000 to aid him in studying law. Unfortunately,
Wickham squandered the money in idle living; quickly exhausting the funds,
Wickham demanded more money. When rebuffed by Darcy, Wickham tried to
get back at Darcy by attempting to elope with Darcy’s young sister, which
Darcy was able to foil. Darcy ends the letter by asserting the veracity
of his statements, which Colonel Fitzwilliam can certify. Darcy closes
the letter with "God bless you."
The letter that Darcy thrusts into Elizabeth’s hand is the most important letter in the book. As Darcy tries to defend himself in the letter, he clears up several unanswered questions.
It is important to note the style of Darcy’s letter. Like Darcy himself, the language of the letter is direct, straightforward, precise, proud, and, above all, faithful to his convictions. In fact, Darcy’s tersely worded letter reads like a legal manuscript; it is a sharp contrast to Mr. Collins’ first letter to Mr. Bennet, which was full of flowery language and formal addresses.
Elizabeth’s aggressive behavior has forced Darcy to defend himself. In the
letter, he elucidates his role in the Jane-Bingley matter and exposes
Wickham’s treachery. The reader now understands why Darcy, at various
moments in the novel, has been hesitant to divulge the truth about Wickham.
Since the man misled his young sister, Darcy could not explain his treatment
of Wickham without bringing his dear sister into the picture.
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. 09 May 2017