Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 29-35: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 11 Giveaway

Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer; and Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with so much dignified impertinence. The Narrator, Chapter 29

Quick Synopsis

The grandeur of Rosings Park foretold by Mr. Collins is felt by the Hunsford party, though Elizabeth is equal to Lady Catherine’s authoritative air by astonishing her with her decided opinions and impertinent replies. Nothing is beneath the great Lady’s notice by officiating over her community and scolding them into harmony. While Elizabeth plays the pianoforte she teases Darcy about his behavior while in Hertfordshire. He exclaims that neither of them perform to strangers. Darcy visits the Parsonage frequently. Charlotte thinks he is in love with her friend, though Elizabeth disagrees. Elizabeth learns from Col Fitzwilliam that Darcy contrived to divide her sister Jane from Mr. Bingley. Darcy visits Elizabeth alone at Hunsford and proposes despite his objection to her family. She refuses him, explaining that he is the last man in world she would be prevailed upon to marry. The next day Darcy presents her with a letter explaining the offenses against him made by her. He admits to separating Mr. Bingley and Jane. He did however honor his father’s request and paid Wickham for the living in the church he chose not to take. Wickham squanders the money and then plans an elopement with Georgiana, Darcy’s sister for her money and to injure him. He has faithfully revealed all and closes by adding “God bless you.”

Musings

So we meet the grand Lady of Rosings Park and she is as conceited and officious as Elizabeth expected. It is evident why she chose toady Mr. Collins as the parson for her parish. She needs the distinction of rank to be upheld and he does enough kowtowing for all of her subjects. When they arrive for dinner Sir William Lucas who has seen the grandeur of St. James (the King’s palace) is in awe, Maria Lucas almost frightened out of her senses and Elizabeth equal to the scene. Lady Catherine quizzes Charlotte on her household management correcting and advising her, then turns her attention to Elizabeth attempting to pick apart her family and upbringing. No governess? All of the five of the daughters are “out”? Elizabeth replies to her interrogations coolly and defiantly. Lady Catherine tells her she gives her opinion very decidedly for being so young and asks her age. Coyly Elizabeth will not own it. Lady Catherine is astonished at anyone not answering her directly. We will later learn during the famous pianoforte scene with Col Fitwilliam and Mr. Darcy that nothing intimidates her.

“You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? But I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. 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.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 31

This interaction at Rosings between Elizabeth, Col Fitzwilliam and Mr. Darcy is one of my favorite scenes in the novel. Darcy sees his cousin Col Fitzwilliam paying attention to Elizabeth. He sees Elizabeth enjoying his company and showing him more attention than he has ever drawn. He is jealous and ready to enter closer into the sphere of her affection and joins them at the pianoforte. She immediately puts him in his place in front of his cousin by reminding him of how badly he behaved to the “savages” in Hertfordshire, dancing only with his immediate friends and talking to no one. He attempts to justify his behavior by explaining that he is ill suited to recommend himself to strangers. She is not buying any of it and retorts that she does not play the piano as well as she should because she does not practice (implying that if he does not extend the effort to converse with new people and be civil in a ball room he will never be able to improve). He knows she is right, and that is the turning point of their relationship. Until that moment he had the upper hand in his eyes. By Elizabeth openly defying his aunt and calling out his bad behavior in front of his cousin it is the beginning of him being “duly humbled”. His attraction to Elizabeth has been heightened by her impertinence.

“What can be the meaning of this?” said Charlotte, as soon as he was gone. “My dear Eliza, he must be in love with you, or he would never have called on us in this familiar way.” Charlotte Collins, Chapter 32

Wise and pragmatic Charlotte sees all. Whenever she speaks to Elizabeth throughout the novel (and it is not often) it is like a warning bell, a foreshadowing of what Elizabeth is blind to, and her insights usually come to pass. Mr. Darcy and Col Fitzwilliam visit the Parsonage every day. Mr. Darcy also seeks Elizabeth out during her solitary walks and their conversations are puzzling to her. His train of thought seems distracted and disjointed. His conversations in the past especially at Netherfield were well reasoned and composed. This is much different behavior than what we have seen in the past. For someone who boasts that she is a keen observer of personalities, she is not putting the pieces together. She easily converses with Col Fitzwilliam while Mr. Darcy is silent and observant when they visit the Parsonage together. Charlotte watches Mr. Darcy and concludes that the main reason why he calls is because he is in love with her friend. Elizabeth does not believe her until Mr. Darcy arrives at the Parsonage alone and proposes to her.

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 34

His abrupt declaration astonishes Elizabeth. He then proceeds to insult her by telling her that he loves her against his better judgment, against reason and decorum. She was just learned from Col. Fitzwilliam that Mr. Darcy used his influence to divide his friend Mr. Bingley from her sister Jane. She is angry with him even before he insults her with his blundering proposal. The scene may be one of the most riveting in Austen’s canon. The dialogue is so sharp, so abrasive that even after many re-readings it never fails to give me goose bumps. Her last retort is so cutting and so incisive that I feel the wound to Mr. Darcy’s pride much more keenly than I do to Elizabeth’s.

“From the very beginning — from the first moment, I may almost say — of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 34

Ouch!

And then, the next day he presents the letter to her. He cares enough about Elizabeth’s good opinion to try to clear his name and apologize for one of the two offences she has lain against him. I love his opening line as he tries to disarm reproof.

“Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments or renewal of those offers which were last night so disgusting to you. I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on wishes which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten;” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 35

So he does not want to renew his proposal, but he feels compelled by pride to explain and defend himself. Interesting. I would say that both of them like to have the last word. Elizabeth definitely won the first round by turning down a wealthy man on principle with her last cutting remark, now we shall see if Mr. Darcy can top it. As he explains his involvement in dividing Jane from Mr. Bingley he slowly builds his case. He did notice Mr. Bingley’s preference for Jane, but she did not appear to return it. The general expectation of their marriage was alarming to him and Mr. Bingley’s sisters and he freely admits to saving his friend from a most unhappy connection by encouraging him to leaving for London and further influencing him not to return to Netherfield. He also admits to concealing his knowledge of Jane being in London from Mr. Bingley. Being an honorable gentleman he apologizes for causing any pain to her sister Jane. Regarding ruining Mr. Wickham’s prospects, he offers no apologies, only the detailed truth. He honored his father’s recommendation in his will to provide Wickham with the church living, but Wickham declined to take orders and took the cash instead. Wickham then goes off and lives a life of dissipation and vice returning to Mr. Darcy after three years expecting him to instate him in the living that he previously declined and was compensated for. When Mr. Darcy refuses, he turns his attentions upon his younger sister Georgiana romancing her into an elopement. His chief object was unquestionably her 30,000 pound fortune as revenge on Mr. Darcy. This was his faithful narrative of every event between them.

After both the heated proposal and the emotional letter, Darcy concludes with a salutation to Elizabeth that befits his position and gentlemanlike behavior:  wishing her health and happiness and finally “God bless you.”

Ok Jane Austen. You really know how to make us weep.

Further reading

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 11 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of the Oxford’s Worlds Classic edition of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating if you think you think Elizabeth was too harsh in her rejection of Mr. Darcy’s proposal 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 12  July 02     Carriages in Pride and Prejudice
Day 13  July 03     Group Read: Chapters 36 – 42
Day 14  July 05     Music at the Netherfield Ball

23 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 29-35: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 11 Giveaway

  1. A rather comical aspect of Charlotte and Elizabeth’s friendship comes up during this part of the novel.

    Earlier in the novel, Charlotte details to Elizabeth her program for securing a rich husband—or any husband—to which Elizabeth replies in amusement and disbelief, “You make me laugh, Charlotte; but it is not sound. You know it is not sound, and that you would never act in this way yourself.” (Ch. 6)

    But it is exactly what Charlotte does, securing to herself Mr. Collins. Now Elizabeth is visiting Charlotte in her new home, and Charlotte notices Mr. Darcy’s interest in Elizabeth.

    Charlotte “had once or twice suggested to Elizabeth the possibility of his [Mr. Darcy’s] being partial to her, but Elizabeth always laughed at the idea; and Mrs. Collins did not think it right to press the subject, from the danger of raising expectations which might only end in disappointment; for in her opinion it admitted not of a doubt, that all her friend’s dislike would vanish, if she could suppose him to be in her power. “(Ch. 32)

    And what does Elizabeth do, but refuse Mr. Darcy’s proposals! Charlotte and Elizabeth were equally deceived in each other. Each thought that the other would act differently than their words suggested, but each acted completely in accordance with their own principles.

    Charlotte’s marrying Mr. Collins was, I think, very characteristic of her. Obtaining her goal of getting a husband, she now, through “her kind schemes for Elizabeth”, plans to enrich him:

    “In her kind schemes for Elizabeth, she sometimes planned her marrying Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was beyond comparison the most pleasant man; he certainly admired her, and his situation in life was most eligible; but, to counterbalance these advantages, Mr. Darcy had considerable patronage in the church, and his cousin could have none at all.” (Ch. 32)

    So pragmatic! She must have been a very amusing friend.

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    • Great quotes – you know Charlotte so well. I picked up on Austen having Charlotte scheme to find out if Darcy was in love with Elizabeth. I think she is really a sleuth, reading peoples personalities better than Elizabeth and detecting what is needed in a conversation. My admiration of her is heightened.

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  2. The proposal chapter is my favorite part of the whole book. I love how stunned Mr. Darcy is – it really never occurs to him that she would say no. And in many ways, it’s quite astonishing that Elizabeth would turn down another proposal. Granted, she had her reasons (and valid ones at that) for declining both Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy (the first time), but it would have been unheard of for a young lady to refuse two proposals. Elizabeth would have been regarded as crazy.

    I do wish Austen had explored Colonel Fitzwilliam more. He always intrigued me, popping into the story and kind of stirring up things a bit. I always wonder what might have happened, had Mr. Darcy not proposed. Perhaps Elizabeth would have ended up with him.

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    • Perhaps Colonel Fitzwilliam was a spur to Mr. Darcy. C.F. caused feelings of jealousy since Mr. D. could plainly see Lizzy’s regard for him.

      I don’t think C.F. would ever have proposed to Lizzy. She was too poor, and he had no income of his own to live on. He lived on his family’s income. He was expected to marry a woman who had an independent living of her own.

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      • I agree Melissa Lynn. There is no stronger elixir to love than having another man paying attention to a woman a man is interested in. Col Fitzwilliam did the trick. He was also needed to inform Elizabeth of Mr. Darcy’s involvement in separating Bingley and her sister making her so angry that we got the great fireworks in the proposal scene. You can say that we was catalyst of Darcy and Elizabeth’s misunderstandings and eventual romance. ;-)

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  3. I do think Lizzy was too harsh in her condemnation of Mr. Darcy. Her opinions were based upon too little information to make her judgements of Mr. Darcy sound.
    However, I don’t think she should have accepted him at this point. His pride was seriously overboard, and he could not appreciate her value to him as he should at that point.

    “She could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security.” So I think it did him good to know that just because he was Mr. Darcy did not mean that every woman was willing to throw herself at him like Caroline Bingley. He admired Lizzy for not throwing herself at him and then was suprised when she turned him down.

    In his defense, though, I admire Mr. Darcy for not letting resentment get the better of him after Lizzy turned him down. Instead he decides to better himself to become the man she would want. Bravo, Mr Darcy!

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  4. I agree that Lizzy was too harsh.

    Yes, Mr. Darcy handled himself as a gentleman in the face of being turned down. Perhaps it was the 1st time he was turned down in anything, never mind something as important as marriage.

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  5. Because she stated my thoughts better than I could have, I would like to share Melissa Lynn’s words:

    ” I do think Lizzy was too harsh in her condemnation of Mr. Darcy. Her opinions were based upon too little information to make her judgements of Mr. Darcy sound.
    However, I don’t think she should have accepted him at this point. His pride was seriously overboard, and he could not appreciate her value to him as he should at that point.”
    ~{Thank you, Melissa Lynn}

    This is certainly a place in time where, if Elizabeth had not been so horribly offended and angry, that tenderness toward him must certainly should have swelled her womanly heart. I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t. {Doesn’t it begin here for most of us?} Instead that ugly pride resurfaces and she marches on, full steam ahead, and responded with anger and defiance when gentleness and her genuinely pained response to the wounds would have served her better. Had she responded in the gentle nature of ‘a kind word turneth away wrath’, sort of way . . . her demeanor would have served to soften his pride’s last stand, and the conversation, and eventual proposal would have come to a quicker satisfying conclusion . . . but who among us would have wanted that?

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  6. The question of Elizabeth’s being to harsh is double edged. From the point of view of civility, good manners, and compassion, she was much to harsh. Of course she was insulted, but on reflection she had to admit the reasonable basis for his most insulting observations. From the point of view of a woman in her position (with societal and the recipient of such a proposal) she could have declined by expressing her anger and taking umbrage at his insults, without making the “last man in the world”remark. However, from the point of view of plot and scene creation, I can’t think of any better device and dramatic portrayal. The reply demonstrates Elizabeth’s own pride and prejudice in response to Darcy’s demonstrating his. And then, he has “blinked first,” by humbling himself enough to propose and risk rejection. It remains for Elizabeth to meet him at least half way.

    Once again, I commend to all the annotated edition. The editor explained the financial and professional ramifications of Wickam’s choice and the use of the term “madam” for a single woman (apparently appropriate at the time) and many other points that continue to make this re-read a real joy.

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  7. I love the way Lizzy says that Mr. Darcy is “the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry”. What Spunk with a Capital Letters. :)

    As far as Charlotte vs. Elizabeth in their views of marriage, they were not all that dissimilar about all that is needed to make a suceessful marriage, money being one of them.

    After all, Elizabeth falls in love with Mr. Darcy (atleast to the reader’s eyes) when she visits his large estate, ie, Pemberley with the Gardiners. Who can forget what she says in Chapter 43.

    “She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something ”

    But she never would consider a marriage solely for material comforts as Charlotte did, perhaps, because she was not considered to “die an old maid” at twenty as Charlotte was at 27. All the noble ideals of youth, I guess. :)

    But Elizabeth is definitely our modern heroine who will marry only for love and never be intimadated by Lady Catherine or even Mr. Darcy with his blundering proposal. Three cheers for her!

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  8. The proposal scene in P&P is one of my favorite passages in English literature. It is certainly one of the most ingeniously crafted conversations ever to grace the printed page. In my opinion, it demonstrates what arguments should be: intelligent, clever, eloquent, and passionate.

    I do not think that Elizabeth’s rejection was too harsh–rather, I think it fits perfectly with her love for her sister, her belief in common decency, and her hatred of pomposity. My favorite quote from this scene is when Elizabeth responds to Darcy’s accusation of incivility with:
    “I might as well enquire why, with so evident a design of offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character? Was this not some excuse for incivility, if I was uncivil?”

    I just want to shout “Yeah, girl!!” every time I read that haha…it is rare to find such confident and assertive language coming from a female character during this time period. I do agree with Melissa Lynn, though, that Darcy is to be admired for allowing his anger to take a “proper direction” by endeavoring to improve himself. In the end, they both get what they want.

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  9. You are all quite passionate about the proposal scene. Even after 200 years it is one of the most emotionally charged discussions in literature. Only Elizabeth’s encounter with Lady Catherine in the prettyish kind of wilderness (no spoilers I promise) comes to mind as another example close to verbal swordplay at its finest. We still have that to look forward too.

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    • Quite agree, Laurel Ann! It is one of the best verbal repartee in English literature and rivals that of Shakespeare’s wordplay between Beatrice and Benedict, another one of my all-time favorite literary couples. =)

      What astonished me the most was Mr. Darcy’s reaction to the rejected proposal and his choice to reveal the true story about Wickam to Elizabeth. I think it was a reaction, no longer borne from pride, but rather humility and more importantly trust.

      He obviously doesn’t know Elizabeth well enough, that is why he is so astonished by her rejection. He’s read her wrong, very wrong. Yet, he chooses to lay out the whole sordid story between Wickam and him, even exposing his sister, Georgiana, in the process. Who, in his right mind, airs his dirty laundry? For all he knows, he might still be reading Elizabeth wrong and she goes around blabbing the story to everyone (look at the mother!), injuring not only himself, but also his sister. But, he takes the gamble and gives her his trust. Elizabeth must not be insensible to that implicit gesture… trust… isn’t that the best gift, after all?…

      As an aside, I love, love, love Emilia Fox’s voice for Lady Catherine de Bourgh! It is so annoying and condescending that every time she says the line: ‘I must have my share in the conversation…’, I feel like stuffing a sock in her mouth! =D

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  10. How can I pick just one quote when all of them “highlighted” today are favorites of mine. It’s the best part of the book and films. But if I had to choose a #1 favorite it would be Lizzy’s “From the very beginning….
    She is so passionate and not afraid to let him have it. She is protecting everyone he has “slighted”; just like a mother tiger protecting her cub! Just love it.

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  11. I disagree with most people here, Lizzy was not at all too harsh in saying no to Darcy. He was being a complete idiot and he thought far too highly of himself at this point. I believe that if she had said no in any other way he might have continued his suit, thinking, as Mr. Collins did, that she was saying no to increase his love. Of course, he wasn’t really that silly, but you never know. If she had answered in any other way it wouldn’t have been true to her character. She remains cool in most situations, but she is really a very passionate person, something that Darcy saw. She comes immediately to the aid of her sister at Netherfield, and she is no less protective and caring of her family now. I think he got what he deserved and that this was the wake up call that he needed to get over himself.

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  12. I must point out to Regency Romantic that Lady Catherine was played (in P&P 95) by Barbara Leigh-Hunt – Emilia Fox was the lovely girl who played Georgiana Darcy – she is the daughter of Joanna David (Mrs. Gardiner) and Edward Fox (Day of the Jackal, etc, etc, etc) . . .

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  13. Knowing what she knew (whether or not she knew it to be true — goodness, that’s a lot of rhyming in a sentence!), I don’t think she was *too* harsh. She was rightfully (again, knowing what she knew) upset and family means everything to her, so when one member of that family gets hurt she defends him/her. As for Wickham, well, she saw a situation in which she thought he’d been wronged by the very man proposing to her — I’d be upset, too. Not sure if I have Elizabeth’s guts to do it, but I certainly see where she’s coming from.

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  14. I would say that from the reader’s point of view Elizabeth was certainly too harsh. We know a little more of what is going on than she does. She does certainly go beyond what would be polite, but I definitely wouldn’t say that she should have accepted Darcy at this point. He did need to see how his actions were viewed by others as much as she needed to see how easily she had become prejudiced against someone without strong reasons.

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  15. I agree with Rebecca and Lynn M. by comparing Elizabeth’s proposal refusal to that of a tiger protecting her cub. When it comes to Mr. Wickham, though, he was not a “cub” worthy of her protection. In that Elizabeth had not corroborated Mr. Wickham’s story, she was too harsh to Mr. Darcy in that regard. For Jane’s part of being the other “cub,” her harshness was warranted. We readers can learn from this, but we would never have wanted our dear Jane Austen to have changed it as it would have changed our beloved novel.

    On a related point, I feel that some women are too quick to take the blame for when things go wrong and then get stuck with the consequences of not better shaping their futures. I love having Elizabeth’s example to follow as a way to overcome this tendency:

    “In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot — I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to any one. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short duration. The feelings which, you tell me, have long prevented the acknowledgment of your regard, can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this explanation.”

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