Pride and Prejudice: Group Read Chapters 50 – 56: Summary, Musings & Discussion

How Wickham and Lydia were to be supported in tolerable independence, she could not imagine. But how little of permanent happiness could belong to a couple who were only brought together because their passions were stronger than their virtue. The Narrator, Chapter 50


Mrs. Bennet is ecstatic over Lydia and Wickham’s marriage, but Mr. Bennet will not admit them to Longbourn until Elizabeth and Jane convince him otherwise. Lydia lets slip that Mr. Darcy was at her wedding. Elizabeth writes to Mrs. Gardiner who in turn reveals Mr. Darcy’s involvement in securing the wedding. She realizes that he is exactly the man to suit her. After silly theatrics, Lydia and Wickham depart for Newcastle. Bingley and Darcy return to Netherfield and call on the Bennet’s. Bingley proposes to Jane. Lady Catherine arrives at Longbourn determined to make Elizabeth promise not to marry Mr. Darcy. Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted? Elizabeth will not oblige her wishes.


Lydia and Wickham are married, but what a “patched up business” it is. Mrs. Bennet is ecstatic, Mr. Bennet is peeved, Elizabeth and Jane embarrassed and all of Meryton think they are an unfortunate family. Lydia and Wickham are allowed to visit at Longbourn only after Elizabeth and Jane convince their angry father that more harm would be done socially if he refuses to admit them. This was a wise move by team Bennet. The couple arrive and amazingly act like nothing is amiss. They truly have no scruples. While Elizabeth watches her younger sister and new brother-in-law’s unprincipled behavior, she continues to reflect upon her experience at Pemberley and comes to an important conclusion.

She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved; and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance. The Narrator, Chapter 50

She has come full circle from hate and prejudice to love and respect. Now that she realizes he is the exact man to suit her, he is beyond her reach. She surmises that he would never want to be connected to her family with Mr. Wickham as a brother-in-law and Lydia as a sister-in-law.

Elizabeth was disgusted, and even Miss Bennet was shocked. Lydia was Lydia still — untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless. She turned from sister to sister, demanding their congratulations; and when at length they all sat down, looked eagerly round the room, took notice of some little alteration in it, and observed, with a laugh, that it was a great while since she had been there. The Narrator, Chapter 51

Careless Lydia let’s slip that Mr. Darcy was at her wedding and Elizabeth is stunned by the connection, writing to her aunt Gardiner for all the details. Her aunt complies with a detailed account of Mr. Darcy’s involvement to locate the couple and convince them to marry. She also learns that he has paid for everything but insisted that Mr. Gardiner be given the credit for it. Mrs. Gardiner is convinced that he did it for Elizabeth’s sake, even though Darcy claimed that it was his fault for not making Wickham’s bad reputation known. Honorable man either way.

Prospects for Jane and Elizabeth look grim. Their chances to attract a suitable marriage after thoughtless and wild Lydia’s elopement have ruined the family’s reputation. They have little money for a dowry and few connections outside of Hertfordshire. When news reaches them that Mr. Bingley has returned to Netherfield Jane tries to be unaffected and unmoved. When he calls and brings his friend, Elizabeth does not know what to think.

Her astonishment at his coming — at his coming to Netherfield, to Longbourn, and voluntarily seeking her again, was almost equal to what she had known on first witnessing his altered behaviour in Derbyshire. Chapter 53

And when he is there, neither of them say much to each other nor actively engage in conversation. Our Elizabeth reserved? It must be love.

She was in no humour for conversation with any one but himself; and to him she had hardly courage to speak. The Narrator, Chapter 53

Elizabeth tries to analyze his behavior. She is baffled that he would not seek her out and talk as openly as they had at Pemberley.

“If he fears me, why come hither? If he no longer cares for me, why silent? teasing, teasing, man! I will think no more about him.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 54

She rationalizes, as only women can, that she is feeling something he is not. Why would he be interested in her again after she refused him so vehemently the first time? No man could be THAT forgiving and gracious.

“A man who has once been refused! How could I ever be foolish enough to expect a renewal of his love? Is there one among the sex who would not protest against such a weakness as a second proposal to the same woman? There is no indignity so abhorrent to their feelings!” Elizabeth Bennet. Chapter 54

And then he departs for London with no real re-connection between them. Bingley on the other hand remains, continues to court Jane and then proposes! This was a surprise. Jane had not thought he was partial again and she continued to act in her usual and unaffected manner, certainly not encouraging him as much as Charlotte Lucas would have approved of. Elizabeth is truly happy for her sister but of course finds the irony in it.

“And this,” said she, “is the end of all his friend’s anxious circumspection! of all his sister’s falsehood and contrivance! — the happiest, wisest, most reasonable end!” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 55

The family is even more ecstatic and in Mrs. Bennet’s eyes Jane and Bingley have superseded Lydia and Wickham as her favorite daughter and son-in-law.  Of course she thinks of the financial and social benefits. What carriages Jane will have. What pin money. Everything is appearances to Mrs. Bennet. She is off in a flash to tell her sister Mrs. Phillips the good news, who, then proceeds to pass it on to the Meryton grapevine.

The Bennets were speedily pronounced to be the luckiest family in the world, though only a few weeks before, when Lydia had first run away, they had been generally proved to be marked out for misfortune. The Narrator, Chapter 55

Ha! And now in Austen’s usual style she follows good news with bad when Lady Catherine de Bourgh pays an unexpected call on the Bennet family, specifically targeting Elizabeth.

“A report of a most alarming nature reached me two days ago. I was told that not only your sister was on the point of being most advantageously married, but that you, that Miss Elizabeth Bennet, would in all likelihood be soon afterwards united to my nephew — my own nephew — Mr. Darcy.” Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Chapter 56

What transpires is one of the most brilliantly written “battle of wits” in literature. Lady Catherine with all of her arrogance and officious interference is determined to make Elizabeth agree not to enter into an engagement with her nephew. Elizabeth won’t even acknowledge her right to ask such questions.

“I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 56

So much dignified impertinence, but totally appropriate. We silently root for our heroine. When Lady Catherine sees that she will not comply to her wishes, she stoops to conquer by attacking Elizabeth’s family.

“Not so hasty, if you please. I have by no means done. To all the objections I have already urged, I have still another to add. I am no stranger to the particulars of your youngest sister’s infamous elopement. I know it all: that the young man’s marrying her was a patched-up business, at the expence of your father and uncle. And is such a girl to be my nephew’s sister? Is her husband, is the son of his late father’s steward, to be his brother? Heaven and earth — of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?” Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Chapter 56

The shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted! Ha! One of my favorite lines in the novel. If anyone does not understand the reference, shades are used in this instance in the ancient visage meaning ancestors. Lady Catherine is implying that by Elizabeth marrying her nephew their ancient family line would be tainted by Elizabeth’s bad blood. Snob.

Elizabeth does take the field and the war handling herself with more dignity and aplomb than an aristocrat three times her age and experience. Bravo. This amazing intercourse between them does however, give her renewed hope. A rumor of Mr. Darcy’s intended proposal is encouraging. He is not one to discuss this with anyone lightly, so it could be true. But who could have betrayed her to the great Lady?


Text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2010,

16 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice: Group Read Chapters 50 – 56: Summary, Musings & Discussion

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  1. I love the Lady Catherine confrontation section;it’s very much like a gentlemen’s duel of honor,isn’t it?

    Lady C comes calling in all of her indigent glory, makes Elizabeth go outside to speak with her(in that “prettyish sort of wilderness) and starts her attack right off the bat there.

    Lizzie manages to thrust and parry verbally very well,especially with those weaker bits of logic in her Ladyship’s argument-the engagement of a “peculiar kind” between Darcy and her daughter Anne-until Lady C pins her down on the “are you engaged to him” point. Lizzie then wins by withdrawing from the discussion and Lady C has to cut her losses with “I leave no compliments to your mother!” Grievous injury,indeed:)

    I wonder if anyone ever seriously asked Darcy about marrying Anne at some point;it seems like an unspoken about directly expectation but was it truly the wish of his mother or just another one of Lady C’s presumptions?


  2. “I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer.” I think Elizabeth wins it here. She shows moxy by lifting her chin and knowingly defying her with dignity. I think Lady Catherine is on the defensive from here on out. I love the 1995 BBC version of this scene.


  3. I think she wins it when she says, “I will make no such promise.” But I love Lady Catherine’s line: “I send no compliments to your mother!” – a throwaway line good foor any occasion.


  4. It’s like watching a tennis match – Lady Catherine keeps trying to smash an ace and Elizabeth deftly answers with a lob or a drop shot that Lady Catherine has no way of returning.

    I think Lady Catherine lost the argument because Elizabeth sensed her desperation in her coming all the way to Longbourn just to confirm and squash the rumor. Lady C, with all her high handedness towards everyone, obviously holds no sway over her own nephew, or else why could she not have asked him about the rumors himself? So, if she can’t intimidate her own nephew, she will try it on Lizzy. And I love Lizzy’s response:

    You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. How far your nephew might approve of your interference in his affairs, I cannot tell; but you have certainly no right to concern yourself in mine. I must beg, therefore, to be importuned no farther on the subject. (Chapter 56)

    Game, set, and match to Lizzy!

    I do have a question related to Lady T’s question – about the practice of arranged marriages from the cradle: was it a custom still in practice during the Regency era?

    Another thing I had forgotten was that Mrs. Gardiner described Mr. Darcy (in her letter to Lizzy) as obstinate and sly… I’ve never quite thought of him in those terms, but she’s actually very spot on!

    Favorite line in these chapters: Her heart did whisper that he had done it for her. =)


  5. Lady Catherine lost the argument when she thought it would be a good idea to go to Elizabeth. When Lady Catherine had to resort to taking that step, she had no power in the situation and was trying to bluff her way through and hope Elizabeth doesn’t notice, probably because she was panicking. It’s a lovely moment when Elizabeth realizes that. :)


  6. I believe Elizabeth has won the argument when she says, “If you believed it impossible to be true,” said Elizabeth, colouring with astonishment and disdain, “I wonder you took the trouble of coming so far. What could your ladyship propose by it?” I just love this scene between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine!


  7. I love it when Elizabeth says “You may ask questions, which I shall choose not to answer.” What a perfect way to combat the impertinence of Lady Catherine’s rude questions.


  8. Whether or not it proves that Elizabeth won the argument, my delight was the sudden information that Lady Catherine, in her outrage and indignation, accidentally provided, “He loves me! He really, really loves me!” I can imagine the dizziness and the sound of the blood rushing in her ears, and am astonished that she heard anything else at all . . . especially that she was able to provide such a delightfully audacious {though she certainly had every right} argument!


  9. I do think that Lady Catherine never had a chance in the argument. Despite what she saw of Elizabeth in Kent, She assumed that Lizzy would be like every other person she knew; Lizzy would kowtow to her demands and that would be that. But Lizzy is not Mr.Collins and she does not give in when she knows she is in the right. Lady Catherine was doomed as soon as she set off on her trip.


  10. Lady Catherine had an experience at Elizabeth’s hands similar to that of her nephew. She came to Elizabeth obviously expecting to get what she wanted (or she wouldn’t have taken all the trouble of coming out there)—”You are to understand, Miss Bennet, that I came here with the determined resolution of carrying my purpose; nor will I be dissuaded from it. I have not been used to submit to any person’s whims. I have not been in the habit of brooking disappointment.” Elizabeth replies, “That will make your ladyship’s situation at present more pitiable; but it will have no effect on me.”

    Mr. Darcy came to Elizabeth with his proposals, “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” (Ch. 34). Elizabeth replies, “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—”

    Poor Lady Catherine!


  11. I LOVE this cover for P&P, so I have to enter to win it!

    I think this confrontation between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine is a phenomenal example of outdated conventions and snobbery coming up against modern self-confidence and failing utterly. Elizabeth simply stand firm on the ground that she is right–this woman has no right to effect her personal decisions. I read somewhere about the use of pronouns in P&P, and that really stands out here: “YOU may ask questions which I shall choose not to answer.” Elizabeth just WINS, period. :)


  12. I think that Lady Catherine lost the argument in part because she was not used to anyone speaking up to her. She had gotten inflexible from years of being agreed with all the time and so had probably lost the fight before it even began.


  13. I agree with the above especially with “J” with Lady Catherine having lost just by making the trip to see Lizzie.

    In Chapter 31, Lizzie told us about her character when she was teasing Mr. Darcy while at Rosings: “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.”

    This explains exactly what came forth in Lizzie in the confrontation with Lady Catherine.

    Our Lizzie could have been a very successful litigator in our modern world. I can see her talent being very useful in a courtroom.


  14. There is a fanfiction of P & P in which Lizzie is a litigator. It is called The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, as I recall. While it was a fun read, be warned that it has a lot of detailed sex scenes. Not for the faint of heart. Darcy is the judge whom she has to regularly be one of the attorneys under. Takes place in LA or San Francisco, mostly.

    I like that Betty above brought together that quote with Lady Catherine. So appropriate.


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