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

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE BY JANE AUSTEN: STUDY GUIDE

CHAPTER 53

Summary

Mrs. Bennet is crestfallen after the departure of Lydia, her favorite daughter. The only thing that excites her is Mr. Bingley’s arrival with Darcy at Netherfield. Elizabeth fears that her mother’s incorrigible behavior will surface again to embarrass her further. During the first visit, Mrs. Bennet, as always, talks foolishly, humiliating Elizabeth. She also gushes over Mr. Bingley, while being cold and ceremoniously polite to Darcy. Elizabeth is particularly pained by her mother’s icy treatment of Darcy, who has been Lydia’s savior. Darcy’s behavior, which is solemn and reserved, aggravates Elizabeth’s misery further. The only positive thing in the visit is Bingley’s marked attention towards Jane, whom he finds as pretty as ever, though not so communicative.

Notes

The plot comes almost full circle with Bingley and Darcy returning to Netherfield, and Mrs. Bennet again dreaming of finding a husband for Jane. She also makes a fool of herself once more with her grotesque behavior. Ironically, she is totally cold towards Darcy; she has no idea that it is Darcy who has found Lydia and paid Wickham. At the same time, she gushes over Bingley to the point of embarrassment for Elizabeth and Jane.


CHAPTERS 54 - 55

Summary


Mr. Bennet invites the company at Netherfield to dinner at Longbourn. During the visit, Darcy’s serious and aloof behavior disturbs Elizabeth. He sits far from her, his speech is formal, and he does not seek her out after dinner. In contrast, Mr. Bingley clearly shows his affection for Jane and seems to be in love with her as never before; he never leaves Jane’s side throughout the evening. Mrs. Bennet is in an ecstatic mood over Bingley’s attention to Jane and the overall success of the party.

Darcy goes to London a few days after the dinner party. Elizabeth is displeased over his departure, but she is delighted to learn that Bingley has proposed to Jane, who is ecstatic over the thought of marrying him. Mrs. Bennet is a delightfully happy woman, for two of her daughters will soon be married.

Notes

These are important chapters of the novel. Mrs. Bennet’s hopes for her daughters are finally materializing. With Lydia’s marriage and Bingley’s engagement to Jane, it is only Elizabeth who needs to find a husband; and even Elizabeth has overcome her pride and her prejudice against Darcy to admit to herself that she is in love with the man. Fortunately, Jane and Bingley, whose characters are not as complicated as that of Elizabeth, easily work out their romance. It is refreshing to see the love they share, for it is pure, simple, and straight-forward. It is ironic that Darcy has pushed for the engagement of Jane and Bingley, for he had earlier dissuaded his friend about Jane.


CHAPTER 56

Summary

Lady Catherine comes charging in at Longbourn "with an air more than usually ungracious". As always, she is cold and haughty; she treats the Bennet family with open contempt, declining all offers of refreshment and remarking about the small size of their property. Lady Catherine asks Elizabeth to walk on the lawn with her. There she tells Elizabeth she has heard a ‘scandalous falsehood’ that Darcy has become engaged to her. She forces Elizabeth to negate the rumor and wants the assurance that Elizabeth will never consent if Darcy should propose. She declares that her daughter and Darcy have been intended for each other from the cradle. She bitterly derides the lack of class of the Bennets and speaks about Lydia’s elopement. The self-assured Elizabeth unflinchingly argues that there is no reason why Darcy or she should not make their own choice about marriage. Lady Catherine is incensed and calls Elizabeth a selfish creature who will ‘pollute’ the shades of Pemberley by her inferior presence.

Notes

This chapter presents the preposterous attack of Lady Catherine and Elizabeth’s noble response. Previously, Elizabeth has borne Lady Catherine’s impertinent intrusions into her private life because she was in the lady’s house, and decorum prevented her from answering back. When Lady Catherine attacks at Longbourn, Elizabeth retaliates with self-respect. In a calm, but assured, manner she vetoes the demands of Lady Catherine, who is stunned by Elizabeth’s undaunted courage. Ironically, Lady Catherine’s unsavory intrusion serves to foreshadow the engagement of Elizabeth and to tie up the plot. Since Elizabeth and Darcy have put aside their pride and prejudices, the stage is set for their union.


CHAPTER 57

Summary

A letter arrives from Mr. Collins congratulating Mr. Bennet on Jane’s betrothal and also hinting at the rumors which are floating in and out of Hertfordshire that Darcy and Elizabeth are soon to be engaged. Mr. Collins also conveys that Lady Catherine views the Darcy-Elizabeth match with an unfriendly eye. Mr. Bennet reads the letter to Elizabeth and voices his thorough amusement, for he believes that Darcy has no interest in his daughter. Elizabeth pretends to be equally surprised at the rumors.

Notes

In this chapter, it is obvious that Mr. Bennet has been able to put the Lydia-Wickham episode behind him. He is again in a happy frame of mind and can read Mr. Collins’ letter with amusement. Not knowing the feelings of Elizabeth, he is certain that the reported rumors about Darcy are a total joke. He even remarks that man seems to live "to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn". This remark also emphasizes the difference between Elizabeth and her father’s social outlook. Elizabeth is concerned about the decorum and good repute of her family, while Mr. Bennet sees human behavior as a humorous specimen to be studied under his satiric eye.


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