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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: LITERARY ANALYSIS

CHAPTER 19

Summary

The day after the ball, Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth, who wastes no time in declining the offer. Mr. Collins, undeterred by Elizabeth’s rejection, replies that it is usual for young ladies to initially turn down a proposal for marriage. He believes that Elizabeth really wants to accept and intends to do so in the end; as a result, he repeats his proposal. Elizabeth declines again, refuting his arguments. Mr. Collins, however, is blinded by conceit and does not realize that the lady is truly not interested in him. Elizabeth decides she will seek her father’s help if this vulgar suitor continues to believe her repeated refusals are really "flattering encouragement".

Notes

Mr. Collins’ proposal to Elizabeth is outrageously comic. It is worded as pompously and as absurdly as one would expect from this foolish man. When she quickly refuses his offer, he brushes her refusal off, saying it "the usual practice of elegant females". In his conceit, he is convinced that she says no only to encourage him to propose again, which is exactly what he does. The entire scene if amusing to the reader and frustrating to Elizabeth. It is important to note, however, that this is the first marriage proposal of many in the novel.


CHAPTER 20

Summary

Soon after Elizabeth leaves the room, Mrs. Bennet enters and congratulates Collins on the most happy prospect of his becoming her son-in-law. Mr. Collins accepts her good wishes and gives her the particulars of what has happened with Elizabeth. He explains his belief that Elizabeth’s refusal stems from her "bashful modesty and the genuine delicacy of her character". Mrs. Bennet, who knows her outspoken daughter very well, does believe that her denial is meant as shy encouragement. She explains to Mr. Collins that Elizabeth is headstrong and foolish, but assures him that her daughter will be brought to reason. When Collins hears Mrs. Bennet’s assessment of Elizabeth’s personality, he doubts whether he has chosen the correct daughter and voices his concern. A flustered Mrs. Bennet, who sees a marriage opportunity slipping away, contradicts her prior statements about Elizabeth. She then hurries to tell her husband, asking him to advise Elizabeth to accept Mr. Collins’ proposal. Mr. Bennet tells Elizabeth that her mother will never see her face again if she does not marry Collins, but at the same time, he will not see her face again if she does marry Collins.

Mr. Collins’ pride is finally hurt by Elizabeth’s refusal. He has truly wanted to find an amiable companion among the Bennet daughters and convinced himself that a marriage to one of them would be an advantage to all the Bennet family. He says he is sorry that he is misunderstood and apologizes if he has been rude in any way.

Notes

Mrs. Bennet is upset with Elizabeth’s refusal to marry Collins and promises him that she will bring her daughter to reason about the marriage. As always, she is anxious to have all her daughters married, especially the older ones. She does not care that Mr. Collins is foolish and an unsuitable husband, especially since Elizabeth is not her favorite child. It should be remembered that she told Mr. Collins that Jane was unavailable to him, for she hopes for better things for her and believes that she will marry Bingley. On the other hand, Mr. Bennet fully understands and agrees with Elizabeth’s refusal. He humorously states that if she had married Collins, he would disown her.

Mr. Collins’ resignation to Elizabeth’s rejection, ‘inevitable evils’ as he calls it, is as pompously worded as his proposal. Although Mr. Collins assumes a resentful silence after his rejection, he does not shorten his visit.


CHAPTER 21

Summary

The next day the girls meet Mr. Wickham in Meryton. He tells Elizabeth that his absence from the Netherfield ball was self-imposed, for he wished to avoid an ugly scene with Darcy. After the girls return home, Jane receives a letter from Caroline Bingley; she informs her that everyone is leaving Netherfield, and they are unlikely to return that winter. Caroline also hints that her brother admires Darcy’s sister and that she hopes that they will be married. Jane is crestfallen over the news in the letter, but her dashed hopes are lifted by Elizabeth, who says that Miss Bingley simply wishes to keep her brother away from Jane.

Notes

Wickham meets Elizabeth again and tells her that he stayed away from the ball to avoid a scene with Darcy. Elizabeth is full of sympathy for him and fails to realize that Wickham has earlier mentioned that he would never intentionally avoid Darcy; she is unable to see the falseness of his character.

A twist in the plot is provided by Caroline Bingley’s letter, which informs the Bennets that the whole family is leaving Netherfield and will not return that winter. The departure is a definite setback to Mrs. Bennet’s match-making; it also upsets Jane. Elizabeth is puzzled by the abrupt departure and rightly suspects that it has been maneuvered by the Bingley sisters.


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