Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 8-14: Summary, Musing & Discussion: Day 4 Giveaway

“There is meanness in all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend to employ for captivation. Whatever bears affinity to cunning is despicable.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 8

Quick Synopsis

Elizabeth stays at Netherfield to tend to her ailing sister Jane. The Bingley sisters take every opportunity to criticize her manners to the gentlemen though they do not agree. Caroline chides Darcy about Elizabeth’s fine eyes and low connections. Mrs. Bennet arrives to check on Jane. To Elizabeth’s embarrassment, her mother compliments Bingley and insults Darcy. Elizabeth observes Darcy watching her but cares too little about him to seek his approbation. He is bewitched and if not for the inferiority of her family he would be in serious danger of falling in love. Elizabeth tells him his defect is to hate everyone. He tells her that hers is to willfully misunderstand them. Elizabeth and Jane return home and shortly after their pompous cousin Mr. Collins arrives to offer the olive-branch of friendship to heal the family riff over the entailment. His patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh advises him to marry with discretion. Mrs. Bennet thinks him odious until she realizes he is a possible son-in-law.


What a pill Caroline Bingley is. So much of the tone of the conversation in chapters 8-12 is driven by her. As soon as Elizabeth leaves the room she attacks her manners. This happens several times. When she does say something positive it is a back handed compliment. She allows her to be a good walker and then claims her scampering about the muddy countryside to visit her sister is conceited independence. She tries to get Mr. Darcy to agree with her assessment of her bad behavior by mocking his admiration of her fine eyes but he defies her insult by complimenting them. In fact, almost every conversation in which Caroline attempts to insult and disparage Elizabeth to Darcy, he counteracts her. Much of the bad behavior that she accuses Elizabeth of, she is in fact exhibited herself.

“Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, when the door was closed on her, “is one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art.” Caroline Bingley, Chapter 8

The scenes at Netherfield are some of my favorites in the novel. It is all about observations, evaluating personality and actions, and disagreeing with opinions. Caroline and Louisa see only fault with Elizabeth and says so to the gentlemen repeatedly. Charles never agrees and Darcy rarely. Bingley did not notice Elizabeth’s petticoat three inches in mud. He does not agree that her arrival at Netherfield was impertinent. Caroline mockingly accuses Elizabeth of despising cards taking pleasure in nothing because she prefers to read at that moment. Elizabeth disagrees. Bingley defends her by noticing that she takes pleasure in tending to her sister. Charles Bingley thinks all young ladies are accomplished. Caroline disagrees listing what skills an accomplished lady possesses:

“a through knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.” Caroline Bingley, Chapter 8

Elizabeth is surprised at them knowing anyone to fill that list. She has never seen such a woman. Elizabeth thinks poetry drives away love. Darcy thinks poetry is the food of love. Darcy asks Elizabeth if she is inspired by the music to dance a reel. She defiantly replies in a classic put down that she did not respond because if she said yes, he could despise her taste. She prefers to cheat a person out of that satisfaction and dares him to despise her. He does not. Darcy states that when his “good opinion once lost is lost forever.” Elizabeth cannot laugh at him for being implacably resentful. He thinks people have a tendency toward defects which education cannot overcome. She tells him his defect is to hate everybody. He replies that hers is to “willfully misunderstand them.” There are other examples. Every conversation is laced with divergent opinions. It’s like a tennis match. Back and forth. It makes for great dialogue. Austen verbal sparring at its finest.

“He (Mr. Collins) must be an oddity, I think,” said she, “I cannot make him out. There is something very pompous in his style. — And what can he mean by apologizing for being next in the entail? — We cannot suppose he would help it if he could. — Can he be a sensible man, sir?”

“No, my dear; I think not. I have great hopes of finding him (Mr. Collins) quite the reverse. There is a mixture of servility and self-importance in his letter, which promises well. I am impatient to see him.” Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet, Chapter 13

Mr. Collins arrives at Longbourn and through him we will learn a lot about Mr. Bennet. His cousin is to inherit his estate by entail. This fact is distressful to Mrs. Bennet who even after years of explanation does not understand how her home will be given to a male cousin and not her daughters when her husband dies. Even though she has not met Mr. Collins she declares him an odious man until his letter reveals a glimmer of hope. He could be a possible son-in-law and she could stay in her home. His letter to Mr. Bennet offering the olive-branch over the family dispute regarding the entail and inviting himself to stay at Longbourn is one of Austen’s best. His pompous language sends up a red flag to Lizzy, who has admitted to being a keen studier of character, intricate ones being the most amusing. Mr. Collins is definitely intricate, to the point of exhaustion. When he finally arrives, Mr. Bennet cannot resist testing him and goads him into talking about his esteemed patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

“I am happy on every occasion to offer those little delicate compliments which are always acceptable to ladies. I have more than once observed to Lady Catherine, that her charming daughter seemed born to be a duchess, and that the most elevated rank, instead of giving her consequence, would be adorned by her. These are the kind of little things which please her ladyship, and it is a sort of attention which I conceive myself peculiarly bound to pay.” Mr. Collins, Chapter 14

What a toad. Lest we be disappointed, he might also lick her boots. This is just fuel to the fire for Mr. Bennet, who like his daughter Elizabeth, dearly loves to laugh at follies and nonsense. Since she thinks like him, this may be why she is his favorite daughter. They have similar personalities in that respect. The fact that he prompts Mr. Collins into revealing his prepping complements in advance is just too hilarious.

Mr. Bennet’s expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance, and, except in an occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure. The Narrator, Chapter 14


Further reading

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 4 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Harper Collins Classics edition Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating which is your favorite scene from Netherfield Park 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 5 – June 20 P&P (Naxos Audio) Review
Day 6 – June 21 Fashions at the Netherfield Ball
Day 7 – June 23 Group Read: Chapters 15-21

33 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 8-14: Summary, Musing & Discussion: Day 4 Giveaway

Add yours

  1. One of the best bits at Netherfield Park is when Caroline gets Elizabeth to take a stroll around the room with her(which showcases how desperate she is to get Darcy’s attention indeed!) and Darcy’s reply about not joining them,since he can “admire them much better” from where he is-talk about flirty:)


    1. After Caroline has been condescending in person to Elizabeth and viciously dismissive behind her back, I was shocked that she asked her to do anything with her. It is only because of Mr. Darcy of course. She wants to attract his attention and putting Elizabeth in the picture lets him compare them. I am sure she hopes to win his admiration, but the conversation soon turns playful and then biting and she realizes that it has backfired. Excellent psychological interplay here by Austen


  2. Because of a remark on the B**** in a Bonnet blog, I unfortunately think of Wile E Coyote whenever Miss Bingley appears. Miss B is always trying to do Elizabeth in, figuratively speaking, and everything she tries just backfires on her! And she never, ever learns from it. I think she’s just as shallow and silly in her elegant, educated way as Mrs Bennet is in HER way.


  3. One of my favorite bits from the Netherfield Park chapters is Lizzie’s response to what makes an accomplished woman: “I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”


    1. hi LP, I believe your favorite bit is from Pride and Prejudice, and not Netherfield Park. As you know Mr. Darcy sets his standards very high for women, and during that scene Elizabeth Bennet was criticizing Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley for being over picky and having such high expectations.


  4. How wonderful is this blog? Wow, it’s so neat to stumble upon someone with such a passion for something. Jane Austen is definitley worth the study! I’ve become determined to understand this author as she’s one of my favorite PEOPLE. Looking forward to using this blog along the way!


    1. Thank you for my share of the complement. I must also add that their are more than six accomplished ladies that visit here regularly that add immeasurably to my enjoyment and the credibility of the sight, thank goodness. Look forward to your future comments.


  5. I completely agree with Lady T. That scene is one of my faves. I also like the part after that where they talk about each others faults.

    “And your defect is a propensity to hate every body.”
    “And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is willfully to misunderstand them.”

    Anytime Elizabeth and Darcy go back and forth is pure book heaven. That Jane Austen! You just have to love her!


    1. I love how the conversation turns from playful teasing to ugly spite in a matter of moments. Those two lines just jump out at us. Lizzy does have a sharp tongue when she does not hold it back. I think it is what Darcy really admires and why he is bewitched by her. The meaner she is to him, the more impassioned he becomes.


  6. My favorite Netherfield Park scene is the one where Mr. Darcy asks Elizabeth to dance, and she uses the stance he has just taken in the debate with Mr. Bingley as the reason that she won’t. :)


  7. I love the incident when Darcy and Lizzie debate whether poetry is the food or poison of love:

    ‘…I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!’
    ‘I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love,’ said Darcy.
    ‘Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Everything nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away.’
    Darcy only smiled… (Chapter 9)

    In rereading these chapters, I realized that Darcy smiled more than I remembered him doing! And Lizzie, even at this early stage, learns to discern his different smiles. =) They appreciate each other’s sense of humor very early on. I think I’ve forgotten this detail because of the film/tv adaptations that favor to portray Darcy as unsmiling and aloof (Olivier, Firth, MacFadyen, and am now watching the Rintoul version). And when they do finally smile, I always go: Oh look at that, Darcy has dimples! ;-P


    1. You’re right! Mr. Darcy smiles more than I usually think of him as doing. Your comment reminded me of this passage later on in the book:

      “In the gallery there were many family portraits, but they could have little to fix the attention of a stranger. Elizabeth walked in quest of the only face whose features would be known to her. At last it arrested her—and she beheld a striking resemblance to Mr. Darcy, with such a smile over the face as she remembered to have sometimes seen when he looked at her. She stood several minutes before the picture, in earnest contemplation, and returned to it again before they quitted the gallery. Mrs. Reynolds informed them that it had been taken in his father’s lifetime.” (Ch. 43)


      1. Oh Miss Sneyd, that particular moment always brings a smile to my face! =)

        Guess Lizzie needed some reminding, too, about Darcy’s arresting smile… ;-)


    2. Great observation Joanna. The onscreen Darcy’s never smile, well, maybe the Olivier Darcy does, but Rintoul, Firth and McFadyen do not until the very end when Elizabeth accepts them.


      1. Olivier smiled? Oh dear, my memory’s starting to fail… My strongest impression was a stuffy, disapproving (albeit very handsome!) Darcy from Olivier.

        Watched it so long ago. Time to dig it up again! ;-)


  8. I too enjoy the Netherfield chapters, especially better than the movie adaptions as the movie doesn’t have the time to chapter all the classic lines. The lengthy stay of Jane’s recovery makes the interaction with all the characters the best! You said it perfectly and all I can add is I feel like I’m there in the room adjusting the folds in my dress!


  9. I love the idea of the group read! It is inspiring me to reread this book – the quotes remind me of just how delightful the characters and flow of the banter really is!


  10. I love the moment when Lizzie walks into Netherfield. Shoes and clothes dirty, eyes shining, color burning cheeks from the walk and the situation.
    I always think that in this moment Mr Darcy was not thinking about something civilized.
    Surrounded by this boring colorless woman I think the only time he would have been able to see a Lady in this condition would be in the bedchamber.
    I love the different Versions in the Adaptations on screen. In the Movie with Keira Knightley she walks in, her hair open and she looking ruffled (no idea if this is the way to say it in English). Look at him. Yes this is the Part I love most.


    1. Every savage can scamper across the countryside, right Wic? This is a great example of the difference between what behavior was expected of a genteel Regency lady and what has not. It also shows Lizzy independence, though I will not agree with Caroline and call it conceited. Here is exuberant and outspoken Eliza Bennet turning the head of elegant and proud Mr. Darcy just by being herself, while Caroline Bingley who is doing everything possible to win his attention is just the same old predictable young lady that he has run across all his life. Interesting what attracts.


  11. My favorite part is also when Caroline asks Elizabeth to “take a turn about the room.” I like how Jane Austen is continually poking fun at Caroline Bingley, showing the obvious futility of the arts that women use to get men to pay attention to them. I think Jane is pointing out that when a man isn’t interested there’s nothing a woman can do to make him interested. There was such a desperation in Caroline’s character that still resonates in society today.


    1. One wonders out loud that if Caroline was as accomplished as she wishes Mr. Darcy to think she is, why she did not observe Elizabeth’s standoffish behavior and put downs and try it herself? Is she too proud to sink to a gentleman’s daughter’s level of outspoken incivility even it it works at attracting him? I think she missed the boat on this one and was being snooty and curt to the wrong person. Her ingratiating behavior to Darcy only backfires. Poor Caroline. So clueless.


      1. Part of the reason why Elizabeth’s behavior failed to repel Mr. Darcy was that he was already attracted to her. Otherwise, I don’t know any man who would have put up with some of her insinuations about his character. I think Darcy would have been just as disgusted with Caroline no matter how she acted. She was definitely clueless like so many young, self-deluded women.


  12. I think my favorite Netherfield scene is when Caroline decides that to get Mr. Darcy’s attention, she has to involve Elizabeth. Their conversation as they “take a turn about the room” is classic.


  13. There are so many wonderful scenes to choose from! I really like the scene where Darcy is trying to write a letter to his sister but Miss Bingley insists on interrupting him at every opportunity. His patience and ability to respond to her calmly is beyond admirable. I would have lost it long before.


  14. I have two favorite scenes, both of which have been discussed. I love the scene when Lizzie enters Netherfield with her petticoat six inches deep in mud and the scene when Caroline tries to draw Darcy’s attention by taking a turn about the room.


  15. At the moment my P and P is missing. How strenge you muse. In Oct. my brother decorated my bedroom for me and did it beautifully but prior to that my sis in law came down and packed up the 1000 or so books which lived in that room. she put them in bags without labels. Now I don’t know where anything is including all my bling. I’ve been busy cataloguing and sorting books elsewhere in the house.Now I must make abig effort and find Pand P so that I might read along.


  16. One of my favorite quotes is “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

    Good one, Mr. Bennet. ;D


  17. I, too, love the Netherfield Park scenes regarding Lizzie’s muddy hem, the turn about the room, and Miss Bingley’s incessant compliments to Mr. Darcy.

    I, also, like the comments made by Mr. Bingley that gives insight into his character:

    In Chapter 9 we see that he can be i: “Whatever I do is done in a hurry,” replied he; “and therefore if I should resolve to quit Netherfield, I should probably be off in five minutes. At present, however, I consider myself as quite fixed here.”

    In Chapter 10, we see that he’s a man of more action than of words: “My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them — by which means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my correspondents.”

    In Chapter 11, however, we see that he’s a man of his word regardless of the objections he receives:”… but as for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough, I shall send round my cards.”

    I’ll stop here and perhaps others will add to my three.


    1. Oops, I was being too much like Mr. Bingley. In Chapter 9, we can see that he can be impetuous — is what I intended to write.


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