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

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: LITERATURE NOTES

CHAPTER 36

Summary

At first, Elizabeth finds the contents of Darcy’s letter incredulous, but soon the veracity of it dawns on her as she recalls the unscrupulous way in which Wickham has floated tales about Darcy and the purely ‘mercenary’ attachment he has formed with Miss King. She chides herself for being so wretchedly blind to Wickham’s faults, which she believes she failed to discern because of her vanity. Although she cannot accept that Jane was ever insensitive to Bingley, Elizabeth concedes to the critical statements Darcy has made about her parents. When Elizabeth returns to the parsonage from the park, she learns that Darcy and Fitzwilliam will be leaving Rosings.

Notes

Darcy’s letter evokes confusing responses from Elizabeth. Initially, she reads the letter "with a strong prejudice against everything he might say;" she has trouble accepting any of it as truth. Then gradually she realizes that Darcy has spoken correctly of Fitzwilliam and her parents. She cannot accept, however, that Jane has been insensitive to Bingley.

As pointed out earlier, Darcy’s letter reads like a legal manuscript, and Elizabeth’s manner in reading and rereading it is akin to a legal process. After getting the drift of his letter, Elizabeth begins "reconsidering events, determining probabilities, and reconciling herself as well." She studies Wickham’s case, recalling the discrepancies between Wickham’s statement and his action. She remembers the crudeness of her mother and father in front of Darcy. Finally, Elizabeth must admit the truth of Darcy’s accusations.

The most important result of the letter is that Elizabeth becomes aware of her ‘prejudice’. Earlier, she had chided Jane for being blind, and now she understands her own blindness. She confesses, "Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind". She accepts the fairness of Darcy’s objections and why he kept harping on the ‘obstacles’ he had to overcome to propose to her.



CHAPTERS 37 - 38

Summary

The next morning, Darcy and Fitzwilliam leave Rosings. After Collins bids them farewell, he hurries to comfort Lady Catherine and her daughter. Lady Catherine invites the company at the parsonage to dine with her. At the dinner party, Lady Catherine is her domineering self, demanding that Elizabeth stay on for two months at the parsonage.

Elizabeth and Maria plan to leave the parsonage, ending their six weeks’ visit. Mr. Collins harps on the indebtedness they should feel towards his patroness and her daughter for their kindness. He also talks in flattering terms about his own social position in order to emphasize Elizabeth’s loss in refusing him.

Elizabeth and Maria go to London, where they stay at the Gardiners’ house for a short while. They then return to Longbourn with Jane. Elizabeth does not disclose Darcy’s proposal to Jane until they reach home.

Notes

The plot is moving towards its climax; therefore, all the characters must return to Hertfordshire, where the action started and will end. Elizabeth and Jane return to Longbourn and will soon be followed by Darcy and Bingley. Elizabeth’s state of mind is ambivalent. Although she has overcome her prejudice against Darcy, her pride now stands in the way. It will take Darcy’s heroic salvaging of her family honor to humble Elizabeth.


CHAPTER 39

Summary

Kitty and Lydia wait at the village inn for their elder sisters. On their way back to Longbourn, they tell anecdotes and jokes to Elizabeth and Jane. Lydia reveals that Miss King has gone to Liverpool to break free from Wickham.

Elizabeth and Jane are warmly welcomed by their parents. Mrs. Bennet is pleased to see Jane is still so beautiful, and Mr. Bennet more than once voices how glad he is to have his darling Lizzy back. Mrs. Bennet and her younger daughters are aggrieved because the militia regiment is leaving for Brighton. Elizabeth is relieved on hearing the news for two reasons. First, she does not want to see Wickham in her present agitated state of mind; and secondly, she feels her sisters will not be so capricious with the soldiers gone.

Lydia has been invited to Brighton for the summer, and Mrs. Bennet and the younger girls want Mr. Bennet to take the whole family there. Although Mr. Bennet has no intentions of doing this, his answers are vague and equivocal.

Notes

Elizabeth returns home to find her younger sisters still crazy about red coat soldiers. Mrs. Bennet, as always, is still an indulgent mother, giving in to every demand of her daughters, especially to Lydia. She is also still obsessed with getting her daughters married.

Elizabeth’s decision not to disclose Wickham’s true nature to her family has serious repercussions. First, it leads to the Wickham-Lydia affair, which could have been prevented; and secondly, Darcy continues to be considered an unjust man and is treated accordingly.

Lydia pleads to be granted permission to visit Brighton for the summer; Elizabeth begs her father not to let her go. Mr. Bennet, however, is too irresponsible to put his foot down, a fact which makes him as responsible as his wife for the family’s sad state at affairs. Elizabeth is shocked by the behavior that she sees in her family and realizes the truth Darcy has stated about the weak impression they make.


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