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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE BY JANE AUSTEN: STUDY GUIDE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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