Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapter 22-28: Summary, Musing & Discussion: Day 9 Giveaway

Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. The Narrator, Chapter 22

Quick Synopsis

Charlotte’s attention to Mr. Collins redirects his affections to her and he proposes. Elizabeth thinks it impossible, but Charlotte claims she is not romantic and only requires a comfortable home. Mrs. Bennet does not believe it either and thinks the Lucas’ are schemers and everyone has treated her barbarously. Mr. Collins returns to Kent. Caroline Bingley writes from London to Jane putting an end to any doubt of her brother Charles’ return to Netherfield in the near future, if ever. Elizabeth is certain that the Bingley sisters and Darcy have contrived to part Jane from him. Mrs. Gardiner and her family arrive for Christmas. She warns Elizabeth not to fall in love with Wickham. He has no money and it would be imprudent. Mr. Collins and Charlotte marry, departing for Hunsford. Jane returns with the Gardiners to London. Weeks pass and no sign of Caroline Bingley or her brother there. She gives up hope agrees she has been duped. Elizabeth will visit Charlotte, traveling to London to visit Jane and the Gardiners on the way. Wickham’s attentions are now away from her and on an heiress Miss King. The Gardiners invite Elizabeth to tour the Lakes with them next spring. Elizabeth arrives at Hunsford to find Mr. Collins as pompous as ever and Charlotte tolerant.


The very mention of anything concerning the match threw her into an agony of ill-humour, and wherever she went she was sure of hearing it talked of. The sight of Miss Lucas was odious to her. As her successor in that house, she regarded her with jealous abhorrence. The Narrator, Chapter 23

So the Lucas’ are schemers after the Bennet fortune. This is Mrs. Bennet’s reaction to the news of Charlotte’s marriage to Mr. Collins. Both she and her daughter Elizabeth are incredulous when they are told the news. Mr. Collins has within three days asked two women to marry him. Charlotte saw her chance after Elizabeth refused him and even though Elizabeth thinks she has not chosen well, Charlotte thinks quite the contrary. “I am not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connexions, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.” Does this point of view appear mercenary? Yes, and no. Her fiancé is a silly, pompous fool, but she will have her own home and not be a burden to her family. Even in today’s modern world it seems quite practical to me, though I would not choose it personally. Lizzy wants only to marry for love so she thinks Charlotte’s settling for Mr. Collins is impossible.  Both ladies personal choices are a gamble. But in life and love, a sure bet is never a certain thing.

“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 24

Romantic disappointment is in the air. So, Jane has been jilted by Bingley, Mr. Collins refused by Elizabeth, Charlotte settles for a loveless life with Mr. Collins and Elizabeth must give up Wickham because he has no money and it would be an imprudent match. No wonder Elizabeth is getting cynical and is dissatisfied with the world. Her conversations with her aunt Gardiner see her sharing thoughts openly on romance and the reality of finances in courtship. Money seems to be fueling the plot. Darcy’s fortune makes him proud and disagreeable to all. Bingley’s fortune makes him agreeable but Jane Bennet the young woman he is interested in lack of fortune makes her unworthy in his family and friends eyes. Charlotte has no money and must accept an odious, pompous man who will inherit the Bennet estate. Wickham is badmouthing Darcy because he feels cheated out of his fortune. Elizabeth is attracted to Wickham but the match would be imprudent because he has no money, nor does she. Wickham must instead chase after a young woman who until she became an heiress, was of no interest to him. What a muddle.

“Pray, my dear aunt, what is the difference in matrimonial affairs between the mercenary and the prudent motive? Where does discretion end, and avarice begin?” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 27

This question is answered when Elizabeth visits her newly married friend Charlotte at her home with Mr. Collins in Hunsford. It appears from the outside that Charlotte has what she craved; she is the mistress of her own home. Her discretion in marrying Mr. Collins with all of his flaws and foibles was questionable to Elizabeth, but it has given Charlotte the financial security and satisfaction that will not burden her family. Some may view this as avarice, but she thought it quite prudent. It will take Elizabeth a bit longer to see the practicality of it for her friend, even though she may never apply the philosophy to herself.

“what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains?” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 27

Amen. Let’s all go to the Lakes instead!

Further reading

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 9 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of the Norton Critical Edition of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating if you think Charlotte Lucas was mercenary in her choice of Mr. Collins as a husband or which your favorite quote is 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 10  June 28     Dancing at the Netherfield Ball
Day 11  June 30     Group Read: Chapters 29 – 35
Day 12  July 02      Carriages in P&P

22 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapter 22-28: Summary, Musing & Discussion: Day 9 Giveaway

Add yours

  1. I think Elizabeth was a lot harder on Charlotte for marrying for money than she was on Wickham for pursuing Mary King for her money. One thing she writes to her aunt Gardiner is that “handsome young men must have something to live on as well as the plain.” Shouldn’t this apply to her dearest friend also?
    I do agree with Elizabeth and Jane Austen that Charlotte’s marriage was purely mercenary, but she never pretended to be romantic. Even when she is talking of Jane and Bingley you see her true viewpoints of marriage. I personally would never do what Charlotte did since Mr. Collins is such a pompous jerk. But then I’m not stuck in her situation either as I am fully able to provide for myself without a husband.
    I think the funniest part in this whole escapade is what Mr. Bennet says to Mrs. Bennet when she tells him to make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins. “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.” Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!


    1. I hadn’t thought about how Elizabeth was harder on Charlotte than she was on Wickham. Thank you for raising that. Perhaps Elizabeth can more easily put herself in Charlotte’s place (she was in fact in the same place when Mr Collins proposed to her) than she can put herself in Wickham’s place.

      I agree that Mr Bennet’s talk to Lizzie outlining the unhappy alternative before her is one of the funniest parts of the novel! Almost as funny as Mrs Bennet at the end of the novel.


  2. I kind of feel sorry for Charlotte. She really did not have a choice or at least a good choice. She could choose not to marry Mr. Collins and continue to be a burden on her family or she could choose comfort and security over love and romance.

    I think Elizabeth was harder on Charlotte because she loved her and wanted so much more for her. It would be hard to watch your best friend settle for someone like Mr. Collins.

    One of my favorite scenes in this group of chapters is from Ch. 27–(Mr. Bennet) so little liked her going, that he told her to write him, and almost promised to answer her letter.
    Mr. Bennet cracks me up:)


  3. Charlotte would never have married Mr. Collins if it were not for his “situation in life”: “Miss Lucas . . . accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment”. That certainly sounds mercenary to me. Her reasons for doing so are understandable, and, had Mr. Collins been sensible, would be quite forgivable. But “the stupidity with which he was favoured by nature must guard his courtship from any charm that could make a woman wish for its continuance”, and must make us more likely to agree with Elizabeth in feeling that Charlotte had “sacrificed every better feeling to worldly advantage”.

    However, Elizabeth’s fears that “it was impossible for [her] friend to be tolerably happy in the lot she had chosen”, are not fulfilled. Charlotte’s “home and her housekeeping, her parish and her poultry, and all their dependent concerns”, along with her knack for forgetting her husband, keep her occupied and cheerful. And, as Mr. Collins seems every bit as contented as his wife (he even wishes Elizabeth “equal felicity in marriage”!), there seems to be no harm done—yet. I cannot, however, help feeling sorry for their “young olive-branch”.


  4. I think it is important to remember that woman were raised in the believe that there is nothing as important as to marry and to marry well.
    I also think that there was not only the pressure from the family, friends, neighbors always the question why is she not married. We also have to remember the age most girls already had children and she not even a man. As a unmarried woman you always stood apart.
    Even today there are families and cultures in which a woman is under that same pressure and most bend.
    So does she marry him because of his social standing? i don`t think so.
    Does she marry to escape the life of a spinster? Yes.


  5. I understand Charlotte’s choice from her perspective and I understand Elizabeth’s reaction as well, but I always thought that Elizabeth was a bit too hard on Charlotte. Elizabeth is judging the situation from her perspective – her ideals and thoughts on marriage frame how she sees the marriage, which is why she thinks it’s a bad idea. She’s imposing her beliefs onto Charlotte, who thinks quite differently.

    As a few other commenters have mentioned, Charlotte never makes her thoughts on marriage a secret – she’s doing what she thinks is best for her. In some ways, I always read it as Elizabeth being upset because Charlotte wasn’t doing what she (Elizabeth) would do.


  6. I always rather liked Charlotte and prefer to think of her as pragmatic rather than mercenary. Mr Collins wanted a wife, Elizabeth did not want him, Charlotte was 28 and destined to be a spinster living a restricted life with her parents – it is a no brainer really. She also has the calm, common sense approach which would be ideal in dealing with mr Collin’s pomposity and stupidity and, all in all, I rather admire her for her clear thinking and practical approach.

    Elizabeth is a romantic so it is hardly surprising that she should feel shock and astonishment at Charlotte’s decision, but really her position is no better from a financial and social point of view and no particular reason for taking the moral high ground here.

    I love the paragraph when Elizabeth visits the Parsonage after their marriage:

    “The room in which the ladies sat was backwards. Elizabeth had rather wondered why Charlotte should not prefer the dining parlour for common use…..her friend had an excellent reason for what she did for Mr Collins would undoubtedly have been much less in his own apartment had they sat in one equally lively; and she gave Charlotte credit for the arrangement”

    “Mr Collins invited them for a stroll in the garden….which he attended himself. to work in his garden was one of his most respectable pleasures and Elizabeth admired the command of countenance with which Charlotte talked of hte healthfulness of the exercise and owned she encouraged it as much as possible”

    Clever lady!


    1. I had not picked up on Charlotte’s man hunting radar before, but she does not miss a beat to pay attention to Mr. Collins as a favor to her friend Elizabeth after she rejected his marriage proposal. I have no doubt that Charlotte is a survivor and managed her husband as much as Lady Catherine does, but in a much less obvious way. Thanks for the insightful comments Elaine.


  7. I never saw Charlotte as mercenary. To me, the word implies a gold-digging, money-grubbing attitude that Charlotte does not display. She is simply a very practical, straightforward woman who only ever wanted “a comfortable home,” and realized that Mr. Collins might be her last opportunity to secure it.

    I think the reason Elizabeth was so hard on Charlotte for her choice was because they are such close friends–the only dearer friend Lizzie has is Jane. It’s easy sometimes to assume that your friends see the world in the same way you do. After all, they’re *your* friends! Even though Jane’s match with Bingley might also be considered somewhat mercenary, Elizabeth is in favor of it because there is also love at its heart.


  8. I’ve been reading the annotated edition, which i recommend to everyone. I’ve studied Victorian and Regency literature and history and thought i was pretty well versed, but the notes in this edition were informative and increased by appreciation of the book which I had read several times previously. Particularly helpful are some of the explanations of what can be expected in manners and mannerisms of those belonging to different social classes and the extreme difficulty faced by women who, like Jane Austen herself, never married and had to be supported by brothers who had inherited wealth. The commentator points out that it is apparent that Charlotte’s family is a large one and that her situation if she does not marry will be penury.
    Genteel poverty and dependency were the only real alternatives to marriage, except becoming a quasi-servant in the form of a governess. Although she deplores marriage without love. Austen’s own views on the “marriage mart” are usually pretty much common sense about financial realities. By making Mr. Collins as ridiculous as he is can she justifies Elizabeth’s shock and disapproval.


    1. I’ve been thinking on the same lines as you, Ruchama. I certainly read Jane Austen’s own mortification in these passages:

      The whole (Lucas) family in short were properly overjoyed on the occasion. The younger girls formed hopes of coming out a year or two sooner than they might otherwise have done; and the boys were relieved from the apprehension of Charlotte’s dying an old maid. (Chapter 22)

      Jane Austen must have keenly felt being a burden on her brothers. But by making the ridiculous Mr. Collins the pragmatic choice for Charlotte, Austen casts a chastising tone on marrying for security, without love. Perhaps it is Austen’s own defense for never marrying? (Or rejecting the proposal of Harris Bigg Wither of Manydown Park?)

      Which lead me to rack my brain: which of Austen’s characters married for love, without money, and still ended up happy? Admiral and Mrs. Croft, perhaps, from Persuasion? But then, he was very financially fortunate as his career progressed… So, is the element of money always a necessary ingredient for matrimonial happiness?

      This is why I love Austen… women are still faced with the same dilemma in the 21st century… =)


      1. Which of Austen’s characters married for love, without money, and still ended up happy? There’s always Mr. & Mrs. Harville, who were quite poor, but very happy. Captain Benwick waited for money to marry Fanny Harville, but by the time he had it, she had died. Anne Elliot felt that she would rather have struggled through the difficulties of being poor, than be separated from the man she loved, if she had not been afraid of injuring him. Edward Ferrars didn’t have much money when he married Elinor, but he had some. Edmund Bertram only had a small living when he married Fanny, but he got the living at Mansfield when Dr. Grant died. Robert Martin and Harriet weren’t very rich, but for farmers they were well to do. Then there is Miss Frances Ward, who married Mr. Price without any fortune, but they didn’t turn out very happy.

        Mrs. Croft: “I would rather have young people settle on a small income at once, and have to struggle with a few difficulties together, than be involved in a long engagement.”

        You don’t need a lot of money to be happy, but a man should be able to provide for a wife before he ought to marry. However, just as “happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance” (not that I completely agree with that), so fortune is uncertain. There ought to be affection in a marriage, or, when fortune is lost (as happened to Mrs. Smith in Persuasion), nothing remains as consolation.


        1. Thank you, Miss Sneyd! I had quite forgotten about Mr. and Mrs. Harville. I would not consider Edward Ferris and Edmund Bertram ‘without money’ since they both, eventually, had financial security. And Robert Martin was quite a successful and sensible farmer, as evidenced by the plans he laid out before Mr. Knightley when he sought out his advice.

          I am not sure Anne and Wentworth’s story would have as happy an ending if they had gotten together, before he made his fortune, under the disapprobation of all her family. Maybe that’s the cynic in me talking, but makes me wonder how Austen would have written that story…

          And I love your last statement… such wisdom. =)


  9. I always thought that Charlotte felt she’d never marry; that she was never clever enough to have someone interested in her. So she jumped at the chance to marry the pompous Mr. Collins. She felt it was her one and only chance to have her own home and not be a burden to her family. Most women of that time had marriages of convenience. I never felt she was mercenary; she was practical.


  10. Mercenary, prudent, someone else mentioned pragmatic, too. I think Charlotte’s character (and her decision) is all of these things. Careful and sensible, yet always looking out for herself due to social/cultural circumstances and quite matter of fact. Those qualities are Charlotte to a tee.

    I, too, am reading the Annotated P&P and thought that the annotations were good for this scene. Readers were reminded about what Charlotte’s lot would have been had she not married and how that must have been constantly on her mind as the oldest of her siblings–that she would be at her family and their mercy for the rest of her life. While we, as 21st Century folk and coming from societies where most of us have choice and can live on our own, have a hard time understanding her choice in Mr. Collins , but in Jane Austen’s time Charlotte’s motives appear quite rational and matter of fact. (And they do not at all feel like she is fortune hunting like it feels like Wickham is doing.)


  11. Romantic vs pragmatic. I think Austen gave us two friends who are opposite in personality and personal objectives. Elizabeth is in the middle of the age range of being eligible for marriage and Charlotte at the end. That sounds harsh I know, but Mr. Collins was wrong when he told Elizabeth that she may never have another proposal. With Charlotte he was right. She would most likely never have another chance due to her age, family connections and finances. Elizabeth is 20 years old and Charlotte 27. In seven years would Elizabeth have accepted Mr. Collins? No. But she would have understood Charlotte’s choice a lot more sympathetically. She would have held her ground and not married rather than settle.

    “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me.”

    Though it is a lot easier to make a statement like this at twenty then at twenty-seven. She had a value on the marriage market and Charlotte barley. Cruel times. Glad women are more than chattel these days.


    1. But in some culture, society hasn’t changed that much… =)

      To add to the romantic vs pragmatic debate, there’s also this quote from Elizabeth always makes me grin:

      Pray, my dear aunt, what is the difference in matrimonial affairs between the mercenary and the prudent motive? Where does discretion end, and avarice begin? (Chapter 27)

      Where indeed? =)


  12. I think I’ll have to go along with a number of the other commenters and say that I’ve always seen Charlotte as practical rather than mercenary.
    I certainly don’t envy her the choice she had to make, but I don’t see it as completely selfish. After all, she had to also think of the burden that she would place on her family if she didn’t marry.


  13. I think that Charlotte made the best decision that she could for herself. Was she wise in her choice of husband? Maybe not. But I think she made the most practical decision for herself.


  14. I agree that Charlotte was pragmatic and not mercenary in her decision to marry Mr. Collins. Her perspective on “handling” Mr. Collins could have been similar to having been raised by Sir William Lucas. Although Sir Lucas was not pompous as was Mr. Collins, he must have required some special handling, too. In the end, she was used to it.

    “Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune, and risen to the honour of knighthood by an address to the King, during his mayoralty. The distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly. It had given him a disgust to his business, and to his residence in a small market town; and, quitting them both, he had removed with his family to an house about a mile from Meryton, denominated from that period Lucas Lodge, where he could think with pleasure of his own importance, and, unshackled by business, occupy himself solely in being civil to all the world. For, though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to everybody. By nature inoffensive, friendly, and obliging, his presentation at St. James’s had made him courteous.”


    1. Great observation Betty. I had never seen he similarities between Charlotte’s father being pompous and her husband. They say that we are attracted to men similar to our fathers. More proof that Jane Austen knows human nature so well. Thanks for sharing. LA


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