Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 43-49: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 15 Giveaway

Elizabeth was delighted. 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! The Narrator, Chapter 43

Quick Synopsis

Elizabeth and the Gardiner’s travel to Pemberley by carriage and are awed by its splendor. “of this place, I might have been mistress.” The housekeeper’s account of Mr. Darcy’s character counters Elizabeth previous conclusions. Mr. Darcy’s surprise arrival and attentive manner changes the course of their relationship. Elizabeth is grateful that he is not bitter over the past and her feelings toward him change. News from Longbourn of Lydia’s elopement shocks Elizabeth into tears and Darcy into retreat. Elizabeth and the Gardiner’s return home in pursuit of finding Lydia. Wickham’s bad debts and reputation are discovered by others. Mr. Collins writes to console the family but actually insults them. Mr. Bennet receives news from London that the couple will marry on very easy financial terms. He is suspicious, Mrs. Bennet ecstatic and the Bennet daughters relieved.

Musings

Elizabeth begins another journey of discovery when she and the Gardiner’s visit Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s Derbyshire estate. Never had she seen a place where “nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.” They are awed by its splendor and Elizabeth reflects, “and of this place I might have been mistress.” I think this chapter is one of the rare instances in which Austen describes a residence and grounds in such detail. I believe it is a build up to what Elizabeth will experience when they apply to the housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds for a tour of Pemberley House. Not only is his home furnished according to his wealth, but its style is elegant, not gaudy or ostentatious like Rosings. This is a reflection of Darcy’s personality that Elizabeth had not realized before, coupled with the praise of his character by his faithful servant and Elizabeth is astonished and the Gardiner’s puzzled over her previous account of his proud and arrogant nature. As she gazes upon his portrait in the family gallery her feelings for him begin to change and respect and admiration take over her former prejudices. When they meet by surprise in the garden both of their reactions are classic as they blush and stammer for conversation. I love this scene. Here is Lizzy who is never at a loss for words or self-confidence frozen in silence. Ha! And Darcy the well-educated and eloquent man who she previously accused of having a taciturn nature only ready to speak if he can amaze the room, unable to do so. Their next scenes as they come together and walk through the grounds of Pemberley are one of Austen’s finest. There were so many passages to quote but I narrowed it down to one of my favorites.

No; hatred had vanished long ago, and she had almost as long been ashamed of ever feeling a dislike against him, that could be so called. The respect created by the conviction of his valuable qualities, though at first unwillingly admitted, had for some time ceased to be repugnant to her feelings; and it was now heightened into somewhat of a friendlier nature by the testimony so highly in his favour, and bringing forward his disposition in so amiable a light, which yesterday had produced. But above all, above respect and esteem, there was a motive within her of goodwill which could not be overlooked. It was gratitude — gratitude, not merely for having once loved her, but for loving her still well enough to forgive all the petulance and acrimony of her manner in rejecting him, and all the unjust accusations accompanying her rejection. The Narrator, Chapter 44

Elizabeth’s transformation from pride and prejudice is almost complete. Gratitude for kindness and understanding is a form of admiration and esteem and a solid basis for a relationship. It is almost the opposite of the conceited independence that Miss Bingley accused her of earlier in the novel. She is sincerely puzzled by his change in manner. His civility and marked attentions could only mean that he is still in love with her and wants to earn her favor.

[F]or to love, ardent love, it must be attributed; and as such, its impression on her was of a sort to be encouraged, as by no means unpleasing, though it could not be exactly defined. She respected, she esteemed, she was grateful to him, she felt a real interest in his welfare; and she only wanted to know how far she wished that welfare to depend upon herself, and how far it would be for the happiness of both that she should employ the power, which her fancy told her she still possessed, of bringing on the renewal of his addresses. The Narrator, Chapter 44

Austen often throws us from a poignant and moving scene of realization or enlightenment for her heroine right into the hornets’ nest of opposition. In this instance it is the re-introduction of acerbic and spiteful Caroline Bingley. She sees Darcy’s interest in Elizabeth as more than admiration of her fine eyes and decides to remind him of her family’s deficiencies with her cutting remark about the loss to her family by the removal of the militia from Meryton. Interestingly, her attempts to disparage Elizabeth in his eyes backfire, when the thought of the regiment also includes the association of Wickham hurting tender Georgiana who is still sensitive to the Ramsgate elopement debacle. Clueless that she has offended Darcy and Georgiana she continues to bad mouth Elizabeth after she departs by listing her physical defects like she is disqualifying a horse at auction.

“I must confess that I never could see any beauty in her. Her face is too thin; her complexion has no brilliancy; and her features are not at all handsome. Her nose wants character — there is nothing marked in its lines. Her teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common way; and as for her eyes, which have sometimes been called so fine, I never could perceive anything extraordinary in them. They have a sharp, shrewish look, which I do not like at all; and in her air altogether there is a self-sufficiency without fashion, which is intolerable.” Caroline Bingley, Chapter 45

It was gratifying to see Caroline fail at enticing neither Georgiana or Darcy to join in in her criticism and to hear him come to Elizabeth’s defense, “Yes,” replied Darcy, who could contain himself no longer, “but that  was only when I first knew her; for it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance.” Ouch!

Things are going well for our lovers then the other shoe drops. Darcy arrives at her lodgings at Lambton to find a disturbing scene.

She burst into tears as she alluded to it, and for a few minutes could not speak another word. Darcy, in wretched suspense, could only say something indistinctly of his concern, and observe her in compassionate silence. At length she spoke again. “I have just had a letter from Jane, with such dreadful news. It cannot be concealed from any one. My youngest sister has left all her friends — has eloped; — has thrown herself into the power of — of Mr. Wickham. They are gone off together from Brighton. You know him too well to doubt the rest. She has no money, no connexions, nothing that can tempt him to — she is lost for ever.” The Narrator, Chapter 46

All of Darcy’s former grievances of the deficiencies of Elizabeth’s family come true. Lydia’s elopement will taint their family’s reputation and severely lessen what slim chance the Bennet daughters had to attract suitable husbands. The shame and grief is so great for Elizabeth she is overcome with emotion. Darcy departs and Elizabeth feels that her chance with him is lost.

Be that as it may, she saw him (Mr. Darcy) go with regret; and in this early example of what Lydia’s infamy must produce, found additional anguish as she (Elizabeth) reflected on that wretched business. The Narrator, Chapter 46

She and the Gardiner’s return to Longbourn and Mr. Gardiner continues on to London where Mr. Bennet is in pursuit of the couple.  The household is in shock and Mrs. Bennet despondent, sequestered in her bedroom in a nervous fit of flutterings and spasms. Right. After all of this tragic news and wretched angst Austen gives us moral humor.

“Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson: that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable — that one false step involves her in endless ruin — that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful — and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex.” Mary Bennet, Chapter 47

And then of course Mr. Collins must put in his oar.

“They agree with me in apprehending that this false step in one daughter will be injurious to the fortunes of all the others; for who, as Lady Catherine herself condescendingly says, will connect themselves with such a family? And this consideration leads me moreover to reflect, with augmented satisfaction, on a certain event of last November; for had it been otherwise, I must have been involved in all your sorrow and disgrace. Let me advise you then, my dear sir, to console yourself as much as possible, to throw off your unworthy child from your affection for ever, and leave her to reap the fruits of her own heinous offence.” Mr. Collins, Chapter 48

Doom and gloom for the Bennet family until a letter arrives from Mr. Gardiner with the good news that the couple has been found and agrees to marry. Mr. Bennet is rather pensive about it while Lizzy and Jane think it is excellent news. Their father sees the truth between the lines. No one would want Lydia for such a small sum.

“Yes, yes, they must marry. There is nothing else to be done. But there are two things that I want very much to know: one is, how much money your uncle has laid down, to bring it about; and the other, how I am ever to pay him.” Mr. Bennet, Chapter 49

Further reading

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 15 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of the Modern Library edition of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating why you think Mr. Darcy has had a change of heart and is so civil to Elizabeth when they meet again at Pemberley 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 16  July 09     William Gilpin and Jane Austen
Day 17  July 10     Group Read: Chapters 50 – 56
Day 18  July 11     Top Ten P&P editions in print

11 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 43-49: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 15 Giveaway

Add yours

  1. “My object then, ” replied Darcy, ” was to show you, by every civility in my power, that I was not so mean as to resent the past; and I hoped to obtain your forgiveness, to lessen your ill opinion, by letting you see that the reproofs had been attended to. ”

    I just think this is sweet. ONE of my favorites. I have many. I think this one is often overlooked. :)

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  2. I don’t think Mr. Darcy really does have a change of heart – I doubt he ever stopped truly loving Elizabeth, even after his disastrous first proposal. I do think, however, that some of Elizabeth’s criticisms hit home and, when he sees her at Pemberley, he’s determined to be civil as a way of proving that he did hear what she said and he’s trying to show that he’s not as proud as she thought he was.

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  3. I agree with Jami and Meredith.

    I think the fact that Elizabeth is visiting Pemberley shows, in Mr. Darcy’s hopeful mind, that she can’t be totally indifferent to him. Fate has handed him a second chance, and a man in love is not about to squander that away. At the very least, he has a chance to show himself in a different light, show her that he has taken her criticisms to heart and has been applying himself. And where else can he be more at ease than in his own home?

    And Austen reflects this heretofore ‘unseen’ side of Mr. Darcy through her detailed description of Pemberly (elegant, not gaudy; natural beauty not imposed on by a false hand) as well as the favorable accounts from Mrs. Reynolds. It’s a reflection of a man with fine sensibilities, a master with fine ideals, a brother with a fine temperament. I agree, Laurel Ann, that Austen is rarely this descriptive about a location, but when she does, it’s not just for the sake of description, but the impression of that description. Even before Mr. Darcy appears and shows his unexpected ‘civility’, he’s already scoring points. =)

    Several favorite Derbyshire moments: Elizabeth in front of Mr. Darcy’s portrait; the unexpected and awkward meeting at Pemberley (most uncomfortable for them, so delightful to me! =P); first meeting between Lizzy and Georgiana; and, of course, Miss Bingley’s most decidedly set down! (Darcy must be an incredible shot! =D)

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  4. I agree with all said above. I don’t think Darcy ever fell out of love with Elizabeth, only tried to convince himself that he had made a dreadful mistake in having affections for her. That comment when he handed her the letter with the rebuttals of her accusations, he says that she need not worry that it included renewals of those offers that were so repugnant to her earlier. That sounds exactly like a man who’s been spurned.

    Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I think the longer they are apart, the more Darcy realizes that Elizabeth has qualities that none of the ton have. I think that Caroline Bingley’s humor and airs become staler after getting to know Elizabeth.

    The biggest thing I love about this novel is that humility is so instrumental in the plot. Both Darcy and Elizabeth are too satisfied with themselves as they are, but neither of them realize it. Darcy is truly an honorable man and he is willing to be corrected more than he is to hold onto the fact that someone socially inferior has found him to be other than he believes he is. THAT makes him the man that I would fall in love with. How can Elizabeth respond other than to love him once she sees his recognition of his faults.

    My favorite quote? How to choose. I think it is the opening quote: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a fortune must be in want of a wife.” The wit and truth of that statement set a perfect tone.

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  5. “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.” — Proverbs 9:8

    Mr. Darcy had a choice, he could resent Elizabeth’s rebukes and become bitter, he could say that she was so rude herself that he didn’t need to listen to anything she said about his behaviour, or he could wisely listen and learn.

    Mr. Darcy was a man willing to admit to his mistakes and change. He was wise enough to heed Elizabeth’s rebuke and change his ways, and generous enough not to resent her ill opinion.

    “I have always observed, that they who are good-natured when children, are good-natured when they grow up; and he was always the sweetest-tempered, most generous-hearted boy in the world.” —Mrs. Reynolds, Ch. 43.

    Elizabeth had a good foundation for the respect and esteem which she came to feel for him.

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  6. I think everyone above has it right. Darcy doesn’t have a change of heart, but maybe a change of mind. Elizabeth’s refusal hit home for Darcy (after he got over being angry) and he realizes how arrogant he’s come off to her. Seeing her on the grounds of Pemberley must have been a confusing, yet amazing occurrence for him–what a blessing fate offers Darcy! He knows he needs to show her what a gentleman he truly is. It helps that Elizabeth has come to terms with some of the truths from Darcy’s letter and seeing what a sense of taste (gentlemanly & natural beauty) he has doesn’t hurt either. :)

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  7. I don’t think his heart changed. I think he amended his failings when he realized that Elizabeth was right. Somehow, the payoff for making changes was earning another chance to show Elizabeth how he changed.

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  8. A man who can grow and change due to his love for a woman is a rare find. I’d like a Mr. Darcy of my own, please!

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  9. I think that Mr. Darcy has had time to think about Elizabeth’s reproof, internalize it, and attempt to better himself for her sake. It takes quite a man to do what he did!

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  10. I agree with Rebecca that he has had time to step away from the anger and hurt of her rejection and is of a strong enough character to see that some of her accusations had merit.

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  11. I also agree with all of the above. Here is Lizzie feeling a bit vulnerable by going to visit Pemberley. Once there, she sees a side of Mr. Darcy through Mrs. Reynolds’s opinion of him as well as of the excellent grounds and furnishings. All of these spoke volumes to her whether verbal or non-verbal about Mr. Darcy’s upbringing and character. Then she sees Mr. Darcy’s portrait to reinforce her new discoveries. Then just when she thought she was still safe, she has the unexpected encounter with Mr. Darcy. The tender awkwardness must have given him just the indication that he never expected to receive — hope! Lizzie’s demeanor must have caused all of Mr. Darcy’s feelings to rush to the surface but in a restrained manner as well as the desire to make her feel more comfortable. Girded by the strength of being at his own home, he could play the host while hopefully demonstrating to Lizzie that he was not the man she had described during her refusal of his first proposal.

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