Pride and Prejudice Summary and Analysis
by Jane Austen
Volume II, Chapters 1-10
Volume II, Chapter 1 Summary:
Jane receives another letter from Miss Bingley confirming that they will definitely not return before the end of the winter, and boasting about the whole family's increasing intimacy with Miss Darcy and the hopes of an engagement between her and Mr. Bingley. When Elizabeth and Jane are finally able to speak alone, Jane confides her disappointment to Elizabeth. In spite of Elizabeth's arguments, Jane refuses to believe that the Miss Bingleys and Mr. Darcy are responsible for persuading Mr. Bingley not to propose to Jane.
Some comfort is provided to the household by Mr. Wickham's society. Soon the whole town knows Wickham's story about Darcy and is happy to believe it and judge Darcy to be completely in the wrong.
Volume II, Chapter 1 Analysis:
This chapter highlights the differences in character between Jane and Elizabeth. Even in a matter which touches her so closely, Jane refuses to make judgments about others or to think ill of them. In spite of so much evidence to the contrary, she believes that the Miss Bingleys would never purposely try to dissuade Mr. Bingley from marrying her if he really were partial to her. She therefore concludes that his attachment to her must have simply been a product of her imagination. Jane points out to Elizabeth that her tendency to judge people so harshly may be a detriment to her happiness, an observation which proves to be true.
Austen also brings to light once again the complete ineptitude of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet as parents. Faced with a daughter who is suffering from a broken heart, Mrs. Bennet does nothing but aggravate the matter by constantly reminding her of it. Mr. Bennet, aloof as usual, simply comments to Elizabeth "Your sister is crossed in love I find. I congratulate her. Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love a little now and then." This sarcastic and unconcerned attitude regarding Jane's sufferings is much less than would be expected of a good father.
Volume II, Chapter 2 Summary:
Mr. Collins leaves Longbourn with his usual solemnity.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Mrs. Bennet's brother and his wife, come to Longbourn to visit. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner are both sensible, intelligent and refined. Elizabeth and Jane are very fond of them. Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth speak about Jane and Bingley. Mrs. Gardiner offers to bring Jane back to London with her in order to cheer her with the change of scene. Elizabeth hopes that while in London Jane will run into Bingley.
During the course of the visit Mrs. Gardiner observes Elizabeth with Wickham and notices her preference for him. Mrs. Gardiner enjoys speaking with Wickham about mutual acquaintances and about Mr. Darcy and his father.
Volume II, Chapter 2 Analysis:
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner provide a sharp contrast to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. When they visit Longbourn, they seem to fulfill all the parental functions which Mr. and Mrs. Bennet fail to perform. While Mrs. Bennet only makes Jane's suffering worse by constantly speaking of Bingley, Mrs. Gardiner is very sensitive to Jane's feelings and takes positive action to help her by inviting her to go and stay with them in London. Further, Mrs. Gardiner observes Elizabeth's conduct with Mr. Wickham and gives her sound and prudent advice regarding their relationship. Mrs. Bennet, on the other hand, is still cross with Elizabeth for having refused to marry Mr. Collins, and never offers her or any of the other Miss Bennets decent advice about their relationships. Mr. Bennet's sarcastic indifference is also in constrast with Mr. Gardiner's quiet solicitude for Jane's well-being and his desire to have her stay with them in London in order to get a change of scene.
Volume II, Chapter 3 Summary:
Mrs. Gardiner speaks with Elizabeth about the imprudence of becoming attached to Wickham because of his poor financial state. Elizabeth makes no promises that she will not become attached to him, but does promise to try to prevent the attachment as much as possible.
Mr. Collins returns to Hertfordshire for his wedding. Charlotte Lucas makes Elizabeth promise to visit her at Hunsford
Jane writes to Elizabeth telling about her stay in London. Caroline Bingley is extremely inattentive to her, pretending first that she is unaware of Jane's presence in London, and then waiting a fortnight to make a promised visit, which itself is rudely short.
In a letter to Mrs. Gardiner Elizabeth relates that Mr. Wickham's affections for her have subsided and have been transferred to another young lady, Miss King, who recently acquired 10,000 pounds. Elizabeth concludes that she must not have been in love with him, because her feelings are still cordial toward him.
Volume II, Chapter 4 Summary:
After a couple of dull winter months in Hertfordshire, Elizabeth is looking forward to going with Sir William Lucas and his second daughter to visit Charlotte. She parts very amiably with Wickham, reinforced in her belief that he is a "model of the amiable and the pleasing." The travelers stop for a night in London to see the Gardiners. Elizabeth is pleased to see that Jane is looking well. Mrs. Gardiner informs her, however, that Jane does undergo periods of dejection occasionally. Mrs. Gardiner is critical of Wickham so quickly shifting his attentions to Miss King, but Elizabeth defends him. Elizabeth is pleasantly surprised to be invited to accompany the Gardiners on a tour of the country during the summer.
Volume II, Chapters 3-4 Analysis:
Austen conveys much of the plot in these chapters through letters, enabling her to keep the reader informed of what both Elizabeth and Jane are doing, even though they are in different places. All of Jane's experiences in London are conveyed through her letter to Elizabeth. Jane finally admits that Elizabeth was right about the insincerity of Caroline Bingley's friendship, although, as usual, she makes excuses for her inattention saying that she must only be acting so rudely for the sake of her brother.
Mr. Wickham's quick transferral of his affections to Miss King after she has acquired 10,000 pounds provides important insight into his true character. While Elizabeth had clearly been his favorite, Wickham must have realized that her social position gave him little chance of being able to marry her. Of course, this knowledge did not prevent him from forming an attachment to her in the first place. Because he paid no attention at all to Miss King before she inherited the money, his motives for beginning to show a preference for her must be purely mercenary. Elizabeth does not seem to find fault with him for his actions, however, even Mrs. Gardiner points out the purely mercenary reasons for his actions. Having been sufficiently flattered by his preference for her and having formed a positive judgment of him, it seems that even in the face of such strong evidence she is unwilling to rethink her positive judgment of him. It is ironic that while Elizabeth is unable to make excuses for her good friend Charlotte for her choice to marry based on financial concerns, she sees no problem in Wickham's feigning attraction to a woman simply because her sizeable inheritance.
Volume II, Chapter 5 Summary:
The next day Elizabeth, Sir William and his daughter Maria set out for Hunsford to visit Charlotte. Upon arriving Mr. Collins welcomes him to the house with his usual verbose formality. Charlottenow Mrs. Collinsseems to endure Mr. Collins' silliness very well, and to take pleasure in managing the house. On reflection, Elizabeth concludes that Charlotte is handling things well.
Elizabeth's reflections are interrupted by shouts from Maria telling her to look outside because Miss de Bourgh is there in her carriage. Elizabeth is happy that Miss de Bourgh looks sickly and cross, thinking that she'll make a perfect wife for Mr. Darcy. After the carriage drives away Mr. Collins congratulates them because they have all been invited to dine at Rosings the next day.
Volume II, Chapter 6 Summary:
The day of the dinner at Rosings is spent mostly in listening to Mr. Collins, who is trying to prepare his guests for the grandeur they are about to encounter. While Maria and Sir William are extremely nervous about meeting Lady Catherine, Elizabeth sees nothing to be intimidated about, being unimpressed by "the mere stateliness of money and rank."
Lady Catherine is "a tall, large woman, with strongly-marked features," and her manner of receiving her visitors is one which does not fail to remind them of their inferior rank. Miss de Bourgh is extremely thin and small. Mrs. Jenkinson, who lives with them, has an unremarkable appearance and spends most of her time fussing over Miss de Bourgh.
At dinner nothing much is said other than continuous compliments about the food from Mr. Collins, which are echoed by Sir William. After dinner Lady Catherine speaks about her opinion on every subject which comes to mind and offers advice to Charlotte about even the smallest details of household management. She then barrages Elizabeth with impertinent questions about her and her family. Elizabeth answers with composure but without fear of giving her own opinion. For the rest of the evening they play cards.
Volume II, Chapters 5-6 Analysis:
Through her descriptions of the interactions at the dinner and particularly through the dialogue between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine, Austen paints a vivid portrait of Lady Catherine as an extremely arrogant, egotistical and dictatorial woman. For the entire evening, Lady Catherine does nothing but remind her guests of their inferior rank. And it seems that the only conversation which she tolerates from others is praise of herself or agreement with her opinions. During the dinner she is quite pleased with the exaggerated and continuous praise of Mr. Collins and Sir William. After dinner she speaks about her "opinion on every subject in so decisive a manner as proved that she was not used to have her judgment controverted." Her means of giving advice is nothing short of despotic, and her impertinent questioning of Elizabeth reveals an utter lack of respect for the Bennet family.
In the course of the conversation between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth, the reader also learns more about the neglectfulness of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet in fulfilling their duties as parents. Although Lady Catherine is quite rude in her manner of criticism, it is true that Mrs. Bennet took no care to see that her daughters received a good education. She would probably have been unable to supervise her daughters' education considering that she herself is lacking in it, yet she did not even place enough value on her daughters' education to hire a governess for them. While Mr. Bennet is hardly a foolish man and sees the value of education, he also did nothing to help in the education of his daughters. While this lack of support from their parents seems to have been overcome by the diligence and self-motivation of Jane and Elizabeth, it seems doubtful that the younger three sisters will fare as well.
Volume II, Chapter 7 Summary:
Sir William Lucas stays only for a week at Hunsford, but Elizabeth stays for quite some time longer. She passes the time pleasantly, conversing with Charlotte and taking long walks through the gardens. They all dine regularly at Rosings about twice a week, and all dinners follow the model of the first.
After having stayed a fortnight at Hunsford Elizabeth hears that Mr. Darcy is planning to visit Rosings. She looks forward to his coming because he will provide a new face at the dinner parties and because she wants to see how he acts with Miss de Bourgh, whom he is expected to marry. When Mr. Darcy arrives with his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, the two gentlemen immediately call at Hunsford. Elizabeth asks Darcy whether or not he has seen Jane in the past few months, in order to see if he betrays any knowledge about what happened between Jane and the Bingleys. He looks a bit confused but simply answers that he has not seen her.
Volume II, Chapter 8 Summary:
It is about a week before Elizabeth and Mr. and Mrs. Collins are invited again to Rosings, since Lady Catherine is no longer in need of company. During the evening Colonel Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth have a very enjoyable conversation. Lady Catherine seems annoyed that she is not a part of the conversation, and interrupts them in order to join in. Mr. Darcy looks a bit ashamed at his aunt's impertinence and ill-breeding in treating Elizabeth as an inferior.
At Colonel Fitzwilliam's request, Elizabeth begins to play the piano. As she playing Darcy walks away from Lady Catherine in order to go up to the piano and watch her. They have a very lively conversation, teasing each other playfully about their characters. Soon Lady Catherine interrupts demanding to know what they are talking of, and Elizabeth immediately resumes playing. Lady Catherine offers generous criticisms and advice about Elizabeth's playing. Elizabeth tries to observe how Mr. Darcy reacts to Miss de Bourgh, and she finds in him no sign of affection for her.
Volume II, Chapter 9 Summary:
The next morning, when only Elizabeth is at home, Mr. Darcy comes to visit alone. He had thought that the other ladies were also at home. They converse for a while about several subjects, including his quick departure from Netherfield last November, and Charlotte's marriage to Mr. Collins. When Elizabeth tells Darcy that, contrary to his opinions, Charlotte is not exactly close to her family since they lack the income to travel frequently, he tells Elizabeth emphatically that she must not have such strong local attachments. Elizabeth is surprised and he quickly cools his tone of voice and changes the subject to a general conversation about the countryside. Charlotte and Marie return from their walk Mr. Darcy stays for a few minutes and then leaves. Charlotte tells Elizabeth that Mr. Darcy must be in love with her, but Elizabeth convinces her that such is not the case.
Colonel Fitzwalliams calls on the ladies frequently because he enjoys their company. Elizabeth can tell that he admires her. He reminds her of Wickham. Neither Elizabeth nor Charlotte are able to figure out why Mr. Darcy calls on them so often. Charlotte keeps suggesting that Mr. Darcy must be partial to her, but Elizabeth simply laughs at the idea.
Volume II, Chapter 10 Summary:
Elizabeth often unexpectedly meets Mr. Darcy during her walks in the Park, in spite of the fact that she has told him where she usually walks in hopes of deterring him from taking the same path. When they meet he not only stops to say hello but also walks all the way back to the house with her. During one conversation he asks questions which seem to imply that in the future when she comes to Kent she will be staying at Rosings. Elizabeth thinks that he may be alluding to the prospect of her marriage to Colonel Fitzwilliam.
On another walk Elizabeth runs into Colonel Fitzwilliam. He speaks to her about the fact that because he is a younger son he cannot ignore financial concerns in his choice of whom to marry. Elizabeth thinks that this statement may be made for her sake. They also speak of Miss Darcy, and then of Bingley. Colonel Fitzwilliam tells Elizabeth that Darcy recently saved a good friendprobably Bingleyfrom an imprudent marriage.
When she is alone and reflecting on the conversation, Elizabeth is sure that it was due to Darcy's influence that Bingley did not propose to Jane. Her reflections distress her so much that she begins to have a headache, and her headache combined with her desire to avoid seeing Mr. Darcy lead her to stay at home even though they have been invited to Rosings that evening.
Volume II, Chapters 7-10 Analysis:
In these chapters Austen masterfully employs dramatic irony, making it increasingly clear to the reader that Darcy is falling in love with Elizabeth, in spite of the fact that all narration takes place from Elizabeth's point of view and that Elizabeth has no suspicions whatsoeveron the contrary!that Darcy is in love with her. While the signs of Darcy's regard for her are obvious, Elizabeth's prejudice completely blind her from seeing it. She is puzzled by his frequent visits to the Parsonage, but only laughs at Charlotte's suggestions that he must be visiting because he admires her, since it doesn't seem that he particularly enjoys socializing. When they are conversing alone together at the Parsonage and he seems to become very intense in suggesting that Elizabeth should not consider the distance between Kent and Hertferdshire too far, she has no inkling whatsoever that he might be thinking of how she would react to the need to move to Kent after her marriage. She is equally mystified by the fact that even though she has told Darcy where her usually walking path is, she still often meets him there. The obvious conclusion that he is meeting her on purpose of course never crosses her mind. Even after the conversation in which Mr. Darcy alludes to the idea of her staying at Rosings the next time she visits Kent, she does not think that it could have anything to do with a possibility of her becoming his wife. Instead, she explains his comments to herself by assuming that he must be referring to Colonel Fitzwilliam's regard for her.
Colonel Fitzwilliam clearly does admire Elizabeth, and she is fond of him as well. His conversation with her in the Park, however, makes it clear that he cannot marry her because she is not wealthy enough. Colonel Fitzwilliam is the second son, meaning that he will not receive his father's estate as an inheritance. He is too used to living comfortably to marry a woman with a low income, and therefore must be limited in his choices. Through the character of Colonel Fitzwilliam Austen again brings the reader's attention back to the theme of marrying for money versus marrying for love. Everything in Austen's society seems to favor marrying for money or at least social connections, yet her novel is a strong critique of these attitudes. Further, Austen highlights the inequality between men and women in freedom to choose whom they want to marry. Colonel Fitzwilliam complains that his choices are limited by his financial needs. Yet for women in early nineteenth-century England, there was little choice at all. They simply had to hope that a man who is reasonably amiable and attractive with a decent amount of wealth would fall in love with them. For a woman, choosiness meant running the risk of being a poor old maid.
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- Summary and Analysis of Volume I, Chapters 1-6
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- Summary and Analysis of Volume II, Chapters 1-10
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