It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. The Narrator, Chapter 1
Charles Bingley, a single man of good fortune lets the estate of Netherfield Park, bringing his two fashionable sisters and rich friend Mr. Darcy into the social sphere of the Bennet family of Longbourn, local gentry who have five daughters to marry off with little dowry. Bingley is immediately attracted to eldest sister Jane, but Mr. Darcy finds no beauty in anyone and snubs second daughter Elizabeth by refusing to dance with her. His proud airs and arrogant manners give offense to all. The ladies of Longbourn visit the supercilious Bingley sisters at Netherfield. Elizabeth and Darcy cross paths. He is intrigued by her spirit and fine eyes. She thinks him disagreeable and proud. Mrs. Bennet brags about Jane and Bingley’s romance, convinced they will marry. Charlotte Lucas is not so certain. Jane is invited to Netherfield arriving on horseback in the rain, catching a cold. Elizabeth visits her having walked 3 miles in the mud. The Bingley sisters are appalled by her appearance, but ask her to stay to tend to her sister.
For as many times as I have seen the often over-quoted first line of Pride and Prejudice it still makes me laugh. Its verbal irony just sets the tone of the novel and makes me value Austen’s skill as a storyteller all the more. Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, two wealthy and eligible bachelors, do not enter the neighborhood in want of a wife. Quite the contrary. That they should be the rightful property of one of the local daughters is the truth universally acknowledged. It is the ladies of the community who are in need of a husband. A good match was what was expected of a young lady, and Mrs. Bennet with her five daughters, little dowry and an entailed estate is determined that it will happen. The fact that two such eligible gentlemen land unannounced in a neighborhood with few other local prospects is a gold mine to her, and every other mother in the county. No wonder she is in frenzy and determined to beat the other local families to his door. Mr. Bennet is nonplused. He would rather stay in his library than do his duty to his family, keeping them in suspense with the news that he has already introduced himself to his new neighbor. When Mr. Bingley and his party do appear at the Meryton Assembly, only one of the two gentlemen makes the cut. Bingley is amiable and agreeable, dancing and socializing. A true good catch. But his friend Mr. Darcy, though handsome, and richer, gives immediate offense to all with his arrogance and pride.
His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and every body hoped that he would never come there again. The Narrator, Chapter 3
When he snubs our heroine Elizabeth Bennet by calling her only tolerable and not handsome enough to tempt him to dance, we know that this black mark will not be easy to erase. I have always been puzzled that the community would be so quick to condemn him just based on his haughty demeanor. Money and social standing can be a strong equalizer of any shortfall. It is easy to forgive a rich man his offenses because, he has all the power. Wise Charlotte Lucas sees this and tells her friend Lizzy so, though in a round-about-way.
“His pride,” said Miss Lucas, “does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour, should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud.”
“That is very true,” replied Elizabeth, “and I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” Charlotte Lucas and Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 5
That Mrs. Bennet is so quick to disqualify Darcy as a prospect for one of her daughters is amusing. Both Bingley and Darcy are rich and socially connected, yet she is vehemently opposed to Darcy because of his arrogant manners. In the Regency world, that is not prudent. Austen is showing us that Mrs. Bennet is not a clever woman, or she would be scheming to win his favor for one of her girls. Charlotte Lucas on the other hand reveals to Elizabeth how the world really works. Elizabeth who has declared she will only marry for love is quick to disqualify Darcy for her own personal reasons. He has wounded her pride by calling her only tolerable. She instantly agrees with her mother on her assessment of him. “I believe, ma’am, I may safely promise you never to dance with him.” Austen is showing us Elizabeth’s rash judgment in siding with her mother. We know from Mrs. Bennet’s previous conversations that she is not the best judge of character or the sharpest knife in the drawer. Elizabeth is clever. For her to succumb to her mother’s level is a red flag.
Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. The Narrator, Chapter 6
Hmm? Darcy is changing his tact? Why? What intrigues him about Elizabeth enough to admit his interest in a young lady of no wealth and little consequence to his friends? That opens himself up for attack. Elizabeth notices him watching her and is puzzled. Her reaction is to harden her line of defense. “He has a very satirical eye, and if I do not begin by being impertinent myself, I shall soon grow afraid of him.” Then in an act of total defiance she refuses to dance with him when he finally asks her, walking away in triumph. Nice psychological interchange here. Unknowingly, Elizabeth has just given him the strongest reasons to want her. Her indifference and rejection. It’s as old as the ages and works every time. Men cannot stand to lose. They love the chase. We know how much this has affected him when of all people, he admits to Caroline Bingley that he admires her fine eyes. Bold strategy to derail Caroline’s interest in him, or the impulse of smitten man? Caroline’s reaction is classic female counteract. Deride your opponent. “I am all astonishment. How long has she been such a favourite? — and pray, when am I to wish you joy?” Ouch.
“I admire the activity of your benevolence,” observed Mary, “but every impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion should always be in proportion to what is required.” Mary Bennet, Chapter 7
Just a brief word on Mary Bennet. A minor character, she only has eight passages of lines in the novel. This is one of her best. On the few occasions that she does speak, they are gems of ironic subjection. A giant punctuation point of out-of-sync advice that never fails to roll my eyes. Hear, hear for the clueless, the inept, and the oblivious! Thanks for the laughs Mary.
- Group reading schedule
- Pride and Prejudice: Reading Resources
- Pride and Prejudice: List of Characters
- Pride and Prejudice: Plot Summary Chapters 1-7
- Pride and Prejudice: Quip and Quotes Chapters 1-7
- Pride and Prejudice without Zombies Event Schedule
‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 2 Giveaway
Enter a chance to win one copy of Barnes & Noble Classics edition Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about Mr. Darcy’s change of heart toward Elizabeth, or which is your favorite quote from the novel by midnight, Saturday, July 24th, 2010. Winner will be announced on Sunday, July 25th. Shipment to continental US addresses only. Good luck!
Upcoming Event Posts
Day 3 – June 18 P&P Publishing History
Day 4 – June 19 Group Read: Chapters 8-14
Day 5 – June 20 P&P (Naxos Audio) Review
Well, Mary just put it perfectly rigth! But is someone who wants to be always right someone we can like? She’s a bit snob or is it only my impression? She, at least, feels superior to her sisters and dislikes what they like. Poor girl. Am I being to harsh toward her? Maybe.
As for what I like in Mr Darcy’s change of heart, I appreciate people who can racognize their mistakes!
Again, I know and I’m so sorry that I won’t be entered in any giveaway :-(
but I just want to share the fun of such a great event. May I ? I love P&P and everything Austen without Zombies in it !
Not being too harsh on Mary. She is harsh herself. No tact.
Regarding Mr. Darcy’s change of heart – at this point, I think it is Elizabeth’s defiance of him that pique’s his interest and stirs his hormones. He does not really know her well enough yet to be in love with her personality or principles. He is intrigued because one assumes no one has opposed him much in his life. She is a novelty. A woman who is not fawning over his money and position. Ironically, she should be trying to catch him but will not give him the time of day. Too delicious. Cheers, LA
I love so much about this book but since we are talking about Mary I think I like this best.
“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
and Charlotte I love for this
“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.”
Hi Wic, two great quotes. Both ironic Austen at her best. Mary thinks it’s OK to be proud – just not vain. Charlotte is of the same opinion, defending Mr. Darcy’s actions at the Assembly ball because of his upbringing. She thinks he has the right to be proud. Lizzy does not agree. Charlotte often is the voice of reason thrown in to steady her friends. Mary on the other hand does not have Charlotte’s tact. It come out all stuffy and pompous. I love her for that. She makes me laugh! Charlotte has the opposite affect. She is a kill joy. Hard to hear the plain truth. Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance, is true, but hard to swallow. The romantic in us wants to believe in true love like our heroine Elizabeth. Thanks for joining in. Cheers, LA
Hi Laurel Anne.
To that question you posed yesterday;
“Is Mr. Darcy proud or shy?”
I’ve always thought the English aristocracy, apart from being inbred, have a high percentage suffering from autism amongst their numbers.
Am I being too harsh?
However, I’m sure that Mr Darcy, once a good woman has taken him in hand, will mellow.
He does, doesn’t he???
Ah Tony … you took the bait. Is Mr. Darcy proud or shy? The eternal Janeite debate bantered about for years on the Internet. So far, it is a draw. ;-)
Mrs. Bennet may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but in my mind, she is the one who utters the famous opening line… and she got it right, didn’t she? ;-) Jane Austen sets her up to be such a silly, uncouth character, but Mrs. Bennet has an innate understanding of how society works. Problem is, she goes about her plans without finesse. But I still love her dearly for it! =D
Which is why, like you, Laurel Ann, I am also puzzled why Mrs. Bennet would write Mr. Darcy off so quickly. Is it to show where Lizzie gets her pride (or is it vanity?) from? Lizzie obviously inherits her cutting wit from her father…
As to Mr. Darcy’s change of heart, I would again agree that Lizzie’s deliberate counter ‘snub’ certainly intrigued him, a man who is so used to women falling over themselves to get his attention (Yes, Miss Bingley, that’s you!). But what I noticed this time around was this particular passage:
‘Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing.’ (Chapter 6)
I think it’s the same critical eye that he applies to his Pemberly grounds whose beautiful symmetry wins Lizzie over later (sorry for the spoiler). This just struck me right now…
I don’t think I’ve every appreciated Mary’s lines enough. The one you quoted is certainly deliciously ironic.
The opening line is remarkable – Austen has such a fabulous way of stating the truth (for it is universally acknowledged, is it not?) while making us laugh at ourselves. I often think this line is so well known not because it opens her most famous book but because it so aptly demonstrates Austen’s comic genius. And yes, Mrs. Bennet is a big problem. Silly, illogical, embarrassing, and potentially dangerous (as she proves when orchestrating Jane’s wet journey to Netherfield), she is nonetheless right, far more so than the intelligent Mr. Bennet, in making her daughter’s marriages her top priority. Why she so readily rejects Mr. Darcy under such circumstances is puzzling, and I always attributed it to her own pride: her daughters are the beauties of the neighborhood and, as such, they deserve their due. Her mistake is making herself disagreeable to him, as Charlotte Lucas would phrase it. This takes me back to where you ended, Laurel Ann, with Mary: “Pride,” observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, “is a very common failing I believe.” So very common that everyone in the book suffers from it.
I’ve always found it interesting that our first introduction to Mr. Darcy is through the attendees of the assembly. We see him from their point of view (Ch. 3 – “he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud…”)
Of course we don’t know what he’s thinking, but the narrator seems to be nudging us in the direction of thinking just as Elizabeth and the rest do – that Mr. Darcy is proud.
Meanwhile, the first time I read the book, I was thinking, “oh, he’s just shy!” If I were in his place, in a large crowded room where I didn’t know anyone outside of my own party, I would definitely by shy and probably come off as aloof. I’d need time to warm up to people.
I realize it’s all essential for the plot, but I always thought it was a bit sneaky of Austen to make us assume certain things about the characters before we ourselves had the chance to get to know them.
This is the first time I have been a part of something like this and I must say that I am really enjoying it. I love reading all of the posts. Everyone has great views. None of my friends understand my love of all things Jane but now I have a place I can go. So Thank you!
Jennrenee – so glad you have joined in the celebration of P&P. Your are definitely in the right place to express your Jane Austen obsession. ;-) I am quite touched by your complements. A blog mistress and Austen fan could not hope for finer praise. Cheers, Laurel Ann
Why Mrs. Bennet writes Mr. Darcy off so quickly? I think either Mrs. B is a smart mama or she’s a loving one.
In the first case, seeing that he’s proud and even her prettiest daughter Jane can’t attract his attention, Mrs. B just writes him off and moves on to the next target.
In the second case, Mrs. B loves Lizzy more than she shows. Seeing Darcy slighted Lizzy, she writes him off by showing support to her second daughter.
Why Darcy is attracted to Lizzy? Lizzy hasn’t defied him yet at that time. So I think his change of heart (in Chapter 6) is more sexual.
I remember reading P and P for the first time and being very intrigued by Mr. Darcy’s change of heart toward Elizabeth. He completely slights her and then when we next see him, he is taken by Elizabeth’s fine eyes and her love for her sister. Perhaps his change is indeed sexual. Or the result of his view of Elizabeth without the faces of other ladies clouding his vision.
I think that Mr. Darcy started to notice Elizabeth because she would not flatter and court him. He was probably tired of all the women and their mothers who were practically forced upon him. Caroline Bingley’s behavior is the perfect example of what Darcy was probably exposed to anytime he went out into society. So a woman who refused his attentions was probably a refreshing change.
I personally feel that Darcy still has his knickers in a twist over the whole Georgiana/Wickham thing when first he meets Lizzie . . . it took place not to long before. So his natural shyness/snobbery (take your pick), may have been enhanced by his still being disturbed over that event.
As for his change of heart, I think he may have been protesting a little too much there at the beginning ;)
As you noted in your blog entry above, the opening lines set the tone of the novel. And try as I might to find another quote that I love (and there are so very many!), I keep coming back to the opening lines. It shows Austen’s wit like no other can. Every time I read it or hear it, I get a silly smirk on my face.
This time as I sat down to read P&P, I was struck at the many ways pride and prejudice show up and in what characters. I am looking forward to a discussion on pride and prejudice throughout the novel and how it changes character’s perspectives. (IE–Lizzy and Darcy do not have just pride or prejudice, they have both etc.)
“Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, HE WAS CAUGHT BY THEIR EASY PLAYFULNESS. … He began to wish to know more of her, and as a step towards conversing with her himself, attended to her conversation with others. …” (Ch. 6)
PLAYFUL: “giving or expressing pleasure and amusement”
Elizabeth was intelligent and she was happy. I think that most people are drawn to happy people. That must have had a lot to do with Mr. Darcy’s interest in her.
As for Mr. Darcy himself, I think that, though he may have been somewhat shy, he was also proud. He admitted it himself:
“I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. … I was spoilt by my parents, who … allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own. Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! … By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.”
I admit to feeling sorry for Mary sometimes, despite her issues. It couldn’t be easy being the only plain girl in the Bennett household, especially without any wit or talent either. She showed some strength of character in even trying to distinguish herself. In her place I think I would’ve given that up about the age of 5! The line where Mary wanted to say something wise, “but knew not how” is funny, but it’s also a little sad to me.
In this reading the O&P I ‘ve realized why Mr. Darcy was so angry about an evening plenty of music, dance and little conversation. He had begun to like Elizabeth and he only wanted to talk to her and no one else.
When Sir William Lucas talk about dancing, Mr. Darcy was very upset and said the famous phrase “Every savage can dance.”!
I love the quote, in the context. It is unpleasant and true at the same time!
When someone annoys me too much I end up saying something nasty, so I understand him perfectly. I just regret not saying something as smart as Mr. Darcy did.
About Mr. Darcy being shy or proud – I think he is both.
I’m not sure I find it to be a change of heart per se. Mr. Darcy admits later in the book that he is not good with new people and is likely shy. His comments, which he thought no one but his friend would hear, are likely to fend off Bingley’s attempts to make he dance. I do think her rejection sparked his interest a bit more but her conversation prior to that probably did so anyway as the look in her eye is reflected in her speech.
I started noticing Darcy’s change of heart for Elizabeth here:
“Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed [Elizabeth] to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to cririticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she hardly a good feature in her face, then he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.” Chapter 6
I feel like from here on out, Darcy was trying to justify to himself why he was so attracted to Elizabeth from the beginning. I feel like he had a hard time trying to grasp why he was falling for her, so he thought he would start out slow by expressing his opinion about her to those around him.
Pamela Aiden in her “Mr. Darcy, Gentleman” trilogy (P&P from Mr. Darcy’s POV), suggests that Darcy is captivated by Lizzie’s singing. I thought at first that it was a bit farfetched, but on rereading P&P, I notice many references to her singing (saving her breath to swell her song, etc.) and to her popularity, both in general and as a singer. At Rosings, Lizzie says that she plays very ill; but Georgiana says that Darcy has told her that nothing gave him greater pleasure than Lizzie’s performance. Perhaps the explanation for this apparent contradiction is not simply that Darcy was besotted, but rather that it is the singing he is talking about. Also, her great popularity in the neighbourhood might account for the neighbourhood taking so violently against Mr. Darcy – his overheard comments about their favourite were widely repeated.
I believe that on the night of the Meryton Assembly Mr. Darcy was cranky — a good midpoint to the shy vs. proud debate. He didn’t want to be there, didn’t want to be around people whom he didn’t know, and didn’t want to exert the energy needed to display the manners he was capable of having. When he made the “not handsome enough to tempt me” comment about Lizzie, he had not really noticed her. She just represented the whole group of women present that he didn’t want to deal with.
As for Poor Mary, she represents the other extreme found in Lydia’s personality. At least Mary gets points for trying to educate and improve herself. Sadly, she reminds me of some employees who don’t really grow in their jobs. If they’ve worked for 12 years, they don’t have 12 years of experience, they have one year of experience 12 times. I believe Mary would be such an employee. She recites other people’s thoughts but never expresses an original thought herself.