Pride and Prejudice Summary and Analysis
by Jane Austen
Volume III, Chapters 1-10
Volume III, Chapter 1 Summary:
Elizabeth is captivated by the beauty of Pemberley, and feels that it would not be bad to be the mistress of such a house. She almost has a feeling of regret. The housekeeper gives them a tour of the house and talks to them about Mr. Darcy and Miss Darcy. She describes Mr. Darcy as exceptionally sweet-tempered, generous and good-natured, remarking that she has "never heard a cross word from him." Elizabeth is surprised, having retained her assumption that Darcy is ill-tempered. Elizabeth is also impressed with Darcy's excellent treatment of his younger sister. After hearing so much praise of Darcy from his housekeeper, Elizabeth thinks of his regard for her with more warmth than ever.
As they go out to see the gardens, Mr. Darcy unexpectedly comes forward from the road. Both he and Elizabeth are ill at ease, but she is impressed at the genteel civility in his inquiries. After exchanging a few civilities he takes leave. Elizabeth is mortified and wonders what he might think of her for having come to visit the house.
Elizabeth is extremely distracted but attempts to be sociable and make conversation with her aunt and uncle as they walk through the garden. After a long while she is surprised to see Mr. Darcy coming toward them. They are both better prepared for this encounter. Mr. Darcy asks Elizabeth to introduce him to the Gardiners. In spite of the fact that they are a much lower class than he, he enters into conversation with them and even tells Mr. Gardiner that he is welcome to come to Pemberley and fish as long as he is in the area.
Elizabeth and Darcy begin walking together, and she informs him that she thought he would not be at home. He explains his reason for returning early and then asks her if he can introduce his sister to her when she arrives the next day. Elizabeth is surprised at this offer but accepts. When they reach the house they have an awkward conversation while waiting for the Gardiners to catch up with them, and then he sees them off with great politeness.
The Gardiners are very pleased and surprised at Darcy's civility, having heard from so many people, including Elizabeth, that he is so disagreeable, and still believing Wickham's story. Elizabeth tells them in a very guarded way that there is reason to believe that Darcy is not at fault in his dealings with Wickham.
Volume III, Chapter 1 Analysis:
Austen again presents her readers with strong dramatic irony by making Elizabeth's feelings for Darcy plain to the reader but incomprehensible to herself. It is clear that reflection on the contents of Darcy's letter have made Elizabeth change her feelings toward him considerably. When she visits Pemberley, she cannot help thinking of what it would be like to be the mistress of such a beautiful house. She tells herself that she does not regret her refusal of Darcy's proposal, but the more she sees of the house and the more she learns about his amiable and generous character from his housekeeper, the less firm her resolve against him becomes.
When Darcy runs into Elizabeth in the garden, she is surprised by his civility, and especially by his kind inquiries about her family. These inquiries are particularly noteworthy considering the harsh criticism which he made of her family during his proposal and in his letter. Further, when Darcy meets Elizabeth and the Gardiners later in their walk, Elizabeth is surprisingly pleased at how kind he is to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, especially considering that these are precisely some of the relations which he had previously thought to be a reason for shame. Elizabeth is surprised that Darcy wants her to make his sister's acquaintance, but realizes what a compliment this is to her. She is flattered and gratified by her treatment of her and of her aunt and uncle, and her feelings are clearly warming up to him.
Darcy, for his part, seems to have changed considerably since the day he proposed to Elizabeth. His cool reserve, haughtiness of manner, and extreme consciousness of class differences seem completely gone. Elizabeth is puzzled at this change, and cannot think what the reason for it might be. Could her approbation of his rudeness when proposing to her have made such a huge impact? There seems to be no other possible explanation. Darcy's regard for Elizabeth seems to be in no way diminished.
Volume III, Chapter 2 Summary:
Mr. Darcy brings his sister to visit Elizzbeth at the inn the very morning of her arrival. Elizabeth is caught by surprise, not thinking that they will come until the next day. She is extremely nervous because she wants Georgiana to form a good opinion of her. The Gardiners begin to suspect that Darcy has a partiality for Elizabeth, seeing no other explanation for such attentions. Elizabeth is relieved to see that Miss Darcy is as nervous as she is. Miss Darcy is shy, attractive and graceful, with unassuming and gentle manners. Soon Mr. Bingley comes to visit as well. All of Elizabeth's anger at him disappears upon seeing him. The Gardiners, through their observations and conversation, become completely convinced that Darcy is in love with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth observes the conduct of Bingley and Georgiana toward one another, and is happy to find no sign of particular regard on the part of either. When Bingley has a moment to speak to Elizabeth without the others' hearing, he inquires about Jane and seems to regret that it has been so long since he has seen her.
Elizabeth is amazed at Darcy's civility toward the Gardiners, relations which he had previously spoken of with disdain, and she cannot imagine the reason for his change in manners. Before the visitors leave Darcy invites Elizabeth and the Gardiners to dinner at Pemberley, and they accept.
The Gardiners, seeing that Darcy is in love with Elizabeth, reevaluate their former negative opinion of him, which had been based on the accounts of their friends in Hertfordshire. They are satisfied that he is a much better man they had previously thought, and also find that Wickham is not held in such good esteem in the area.
Elizabeth stays awake trying to discern her feelings for Darcy. She realizes that she is grateful to him for having loved her and loving her still even after the rudeness of her rejection. She is extremely impressed by his change of character, and esteems him highly, but is still not sure whether or not she loves him.
Mrs. Gardiner decides that she and Elizabeth should wait on Miss Darcy the following morning in return for her great politeness in coming to see them immediately after her arrival.
Volume III, Chapter 2 Analysis:
Elizabeth's regard for Darcy seems to be increasing daily, though she is not quite aware of it. Her extreme nervousness and desire to make a good impression when Miss Darcy comes to visit belies the fact that she now wants to impress and please Mr. Darcy. He is continuously on her mind, so much so that she is kept awake at night trying to figure out her feelings for him.
Austen's portrayal of the interactions between Elizabeth and Darcy in these chapters foreshadows a second proposal.
Austen also gives the reader hope for renewed affections between Jane and Bingley. Upon observation, Elizabeth finds that Bingley and Miss Darcy clearly have no partiality toward one another. Moreover, Bingley's conversations with Elizabeth offer ample hints that he is still in love with Jane and would very much like to see her again.
Volume III, Chapter 3 Summary:
During their visit to Pemberley Miss Darcy receives them with civility, although she is very shy. Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley say very little, and the conversation is carried on mostly by Mrs. Annesley (an acquaintance), Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth. Elizabeth both hopes and fears that Mr. Darcy will join them.
After a while Mr. Darcy does join them, and his actions are closely scrutinized by Miss Bingley and Miss Hurst. When Miss Bingley notices that Mr. Darcy is trying to get Elizabeth and Georgiana to converse, she asks Elizabeth a question about the militia. Elizabeth answers with composure, and notices that both Mr. Darcy and Georgiana are pained by the allusion to Wickham.
After Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner take their leave, Miss Bingley speaks negatively about Elizabeth to Georgiana, but Georgiana's opinion is fixed firmly in Elizabeth's favor by her brother's commendations. Miss Bingley also repeats her criticisms of Elizabeth to Darcy, and after much provocation he coolly answers that he considers Elizabeth one of the most handsome women he has ever met, and then walks away.
Volume III, Chapter 3 Analysis:
Austen again brings the theme of class barriers to the fore in this chapter, demonstrating how the status accorded on the basis of class may have little or no connection to a person's virtue or merit. Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley are extremely class-conscious and look down upon Elizabeth and the Gardiners for their lower social status. Yet the very pettiness and lack of civility which Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley show are proof that they lack any genuine good breeding or nobility of character. Throughout the novel, Elizabeth has shown little concern for the merely superficial aspects of class barriers, and bases her judgments on what she believes to be the quality of a person's character.
While Mr. Darcy used to have an attitude about class similar to that of Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, it seems that his relationship with Elizabeth has effected a substantial change in him. While he still respects status distinctions and rules of propriety, he is now able to look beyond class prejudices and to judge people according to their moral worth rather than their social class.
Volume III, Chapter 4 Summary:
Elizabeth receives two letters from her sister relating that Lydia has eloped with Wickham. At first they expected that the two were planning to go to Scotland to get married (because minors can marry without parental permission in Scotland). However, after gaining further intelligence they find that there is reason to doubt that Wickham has any intention of marrying her at all. Jane asks Elizabeth and the Gardiners to return home as soon as possible, and requests that Mr. Gardiner help her father search for Lydia and Wickham in London.
Elizabeth rushes to the door to go out to find Mr. Gardiner, but as she does so Mr. Darcy appears. She tells him with great agitation that she must go immediately in search of Mr. Gardiner, but he recommends that a servant be sent. That being done, Elizabeth collapses into a chair and when she is able to she explains the situation to Darcy. He is extremely distressed, thinking that if he had revealed more of what he knew about Wickham's character this could have been prevented. Elizabeth, observing Darcy, believes that such an action on her sister's part will make a renewal of Darcy's proposal impossible. Feeling this loss, she realizes that she loves him.
After a few minutes Darcy realizes that he is doing no good by his presence and takes his leave, promising to maintain secrecy on the matter and wishing that he could do more to help. Elizabeth watches him go with regret, doubting that they will ever meet again on such friendly terms.
Elizabeth has no doubts that Wickham does not plan to marry Lydia. She knows that Lydia would not have gone off with him if she were not under the pretense that they were going to be married, but Elizabeth also realizes that Lydia is easy prey for Wickham's deceptions.
The Gardiners quickly return and Elizabeth relates the sad news to them. Mr. Gardiner promises to do all he can to help, and they quickly prepare for their journey.
Volume III, Chapter 4 Analysis:
In early nineteenth-century England, a young lady's elopement is cause for great scandal to the entire family. The shock and dismay of Elizabeth and the entire family are quite understandable. Yet this event has been well prepared for in the novel by the descriptions of Lydia's flirtatious and frivolous character, and by knowledge of the dangers of Lydia's going to Brighton, which Elizabeth pointed out to her father. Upon hearing the news, Elizabeth is mortified not only for her sister's sake but also for her own sake, thinking that such an occurrence will make a renewal of Darcy's proposal impossible. It is ironic that only when she thinks all hope is lost of being married to him does she realize that she really does love him.
Mr. Darcy's reaction to the news, however, gives reason to believe that all hope is not gone for Elizabeth. His main concern is to comfort her and to express his desire of doing something to help the situation. Considering his previous connections to Wickham, there is reason to believe that he may have the ability to fulfill those desires.
Volume III, Chapter 5 Summary:
On the way back to Longbourn, Mr. Gardiner attempts to convince Elizabeth that Wickham must have a genuine intention of marrying Lydia, but Elizabeth, knowing what she does of Wickham, is not convinced. Elizabeth reproaches herself for not having revealed what she knew of Wickham's true character.
They arrive at Longbourn the next day and Jane is very happy to see Elizabeth. So far there is no new news about Lydia's whereabouts. Mrs. Bennet has taken things badly and will not leave her apartment. When they go to see her, she tells them that she blames the Forsters for neglect, not thinking that Lydia is the type of girl to do such a thing. She is alarmed that when Mr. Bennet finds them he will fight with Wickham and be killed. Mr. Gardiner tries to reassure her, and promises to do what he can to help Mr. Bennet in London. Kitty and Mary do not seem extremely upset over the situation.
When Elizabeth and Jane are alone they discuss what has happened in more detail. Jane shows Elizabeth the note which Lydia left for Mrs. Forster. Lydia's letter shows extreme thoughtlessness and frivolity, but also proves that she had every intention to marry Wickham.
Volume III, Chapter 5 Analysis:
While Mr. Gardiner entertains hopes that Wickham may be planning to marry Lydia, he does not know Wickham's true character. Elizabeth, realizing that Wickham has no reason to marry Lydia because the connection is not at all financially advantageous, is not so optimistic.
Mrs. Bennet's reaction is consistent with her character and reinforces her portrayal as a completely incompetent parent. Rather than trying to be of use and to strengthen her family on such a difficult occasion, she refuses to leave her apartment and worries herself with fanciful conjectures about a duel between Wickham and Mr. Bennet. She is irresponsible, and rather than helping her family is only more of a burden, leaving Jane to take care of everything.
Volume III, Chapter 6 Summary:
The next morning Mr. Gardiner sets off for London. Mrs. Gardiner plans to remain for a few more days at Longbourn in order to help Elizabeth and Jane.
All in Meryton quickly changed their opinion of Wickham from "an angel of light" to "the wickedest young man in the world," now finding fault with so many of his actions.
A letter from Mr. Gardiner arrives in a couple of days, explaining that they plan to inquire at every major hotel about Lydia and Wickham. Mr. Gardiner also plans to ask Mr. Forster if anyone in the militia has any idea of where he would be staying in London.
They receive a letter from Mr. Collins, offering condolences and also criticizing the lack of parental attention to Lydia. He also alludes to the fact that he is now glad Elizabeth turned down his proposal, since being married to her would connect him with this disgrace.
Another letter arrives from Mr. Gardiner saying that Mr. Forster has had no luck in finding any possible close friends or relations with whom Wickham and Lydia might be staying. He also mentions that Wickham has extra reasons for secrecy because of over 1,000 dollars in gaming debts, along with other debts to the town merchants.
Mr. Bennet decides to come home and leave the rest of the searching to Mr. Gardiner. At the same time, Mrs. Gardiner returns home to London with her children.
Elizabeth's misery at the situation is greatly increased by the knowledge that it probably ruins her chances of marriage to Darcy.
When Elizabeth speaks to her father, he tells her that he thinks himself completely to blame.
Volume III, Chapter 6 Analysis:
Mr. Bennet has been shocked out of his indolence by Lydia's elopement, and realizes only too late that he has been neglecting his duties as a father and that he is partially responsible for what has happened. He tries to make up for previous negligence by doing what he can to remedy the situation as much as possible and ensure that Wickham marries Lydia. Still, even now it is Mr. Gardiner who takes over the father's role in the Bennet family, continuing the search for Lydia while Mr. Bennet returns home.
Austen also provides a bit of humorous social commentary, remarking on how quickly the townspeople change their opinion of Wickham. Having previously considered him to be an "angel of light," they instantly reverse their opinion of him and think him to be the worst man in the world. Further, they all claim that from the beginning they were actually a bit suspicious of his character. Austen definitely does not have a high regard for the veracity or soundness of public opinion.
Volume III, Chapter 7 Summary:
Mr. Bennet receives an express letter from Mr. Gardiner, stating that he has found Wickham and that Wickham will agree to marry Lydia on condition that she receives her equal share of Mr. Bennet's wealth after his death along with 100 pounds per year. Mr. Gardiner assumes that Wickham's debts are not so bad as everyone had thought.
Mr. Bennet comments that Mr. Gardiner must have paid Wickham a large sum of money to make him comply, since what Wickham is asking is extremely little.
When Elizabeth and Jane relate the news to Mrs. Bennet, Kitty and Lydia, Mrs. Bennet is ecstatic. She begins to think about ordering the wedding clothes.
Volume III, Chapter 7 Analysis:
Mr. Bennet's assumption that Mr. Gardiner must have paid Wickham a large sum of money to get him to agree to marry Lydia makes perfect sense, considering the situation. Wickham probably has at least 2,000 pounds worth of debts, and seems prone to have particularly mercenary motivations in his relationships, as his sudden "affection" for Miss King shows. Yet while Mr. Bennet assumes that Mr. Gardiner himself must have given Wickham enough money to make marrying Lydia seem worth his while, the reader has reason to believe that someone else who has a great deal more money than Mr. Gardiner might be responsiblethat is, Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy's intervention is especially probable considering his sense of responsibility for having failed to reveal Wickham's true character and his attachment to Elizabeth.
Volume III, Chapter 8 Summary:
Mr. Bennet wants to find out how much Mr. Gardiner paid to get Wickham to agree to the marriage and to pay him back as much as possible.
After listening throughout dinner to Mrs. Bennet's talk of wedding plans and suitable houses in the neighborhood for Lydia and Wickham, Mr. Bennet informs her that he will not receive the couple at Longbourn, nor give Lydia money for wedding clothes. Mrs. Bennet is more disgraced by her daughter's lack of new clothes for the wedding than by her elopement.
Elizabeth reflects on the fact that with Wickham as a member of the family, there is no possibility that Darcy will propose to her again. His proposal of four months ago would now be most gratefully received. She realizes that Darcy is the man who would most suit her, and that their personalities would complement each other for their mutual advantage.
Another letter arrives from Mr. Gardiner. He reports that Wickham is planning to quit the militia and that has a promise of an ensigncy in a regiment quartered in the North. The letter also mentions Wickham will pay off all his debts both in Brighton and Meryton.
After entreaties from Elizabeth and Jane, Mr. Bennet decides to allow Lydia and Wickham to visit Longbourn before leaving for the North.
Volume III, Chapter 9 Summary:
When the couple arrives, they show no sense of shame whatsoever and Lydia shamelessly expects congratulations from all her sisters. Jane and Elizabeth are extremely distressed at Lydia's conduct.
Upon observance, Elizabeth finds that Wickham's affection for Lydia is not nearly so strong as her affection for him. Lydia relates to Elizabeth all the details of the wedding. She is completely ungrateful for what the Gardiners have done, and even complains that they would not let her go out while she was staying with them. Lydia mentions in passing that Mr. Darcy attended the wedding, but then says that she was not supposed to tell anyone. Elizabeth writes to Mrs. Gardiner asking for more details about why Mr. Darcy was at the wedding.
Volume III, Chapters 8-9 Analysis:
Mrs. Bennet's happiness about her daughter's marriage demonstrates her complete lack of sense and disregard for honor and virtue. She completely forgets the scandalous way her daughter has acted and begins to occupy herself by planning what material to buy for Lydia's wedding clothes. When Mr. Bennet tells her that he will not give any money for Lydia's wedding clothes, she is more embarrassed that Lydia will have new clothes at the wedding than at her daughter's immoral conduct. When Lydia visits Longbourn, her mother congratulates and pampers her, and does not offer even one word of remonstrance. Under the guidance of such a mother, it is no wonder that Lydia lacks any sense of morality or propriety.
Volume III, Chapter 10 Summary:
Mrs. Gardiner's letter arrives, explaining all the particulars with regard to Mr. Darcy's involvement in the wedding. Mr. Darcy was the one who found out Wickham's whereabouts by bribing Miss Younge (the woman who had helped Wickham to seduce Georgiana) to tell him. When Darcy found the couple, he tried to convince Lydia to leave, but she refused. That being the case, Darcy tried to get Wickham to marry Lydia, which Wickham had no intention of doing. Darcy offered Wickham money in order to persuade him to marry Lydia. Darcy then waited until Mr. Bennet had left for Longbourn and went to inform Mr. Gardiner of all that had occurred, explaining that he felt guilty for not having exposed Wickham's character sooner.
Mrs. Gardiner concludes the letter stating that she is sure Darcy's actions are motivated by his love for Elizabeth, and relates to Elizabeth how much she thinks that he would be a good match.
In reflecting on the letter, Elizabeth is sensible of all the mortification and suffering which Darcy must have gone through in the process of getting Wickham to marry Lydia. She does not think, however, that his regard for her could possibly be the primary motive, and she still does not think that there is any hope that he will marry her.
Elizabeth's reflections are interrupted by Wickham. They have a guarded conversation in which she makes it clear that she knows more about Wickham's true past than he would like, but she avoids provoking him for Lydia's sake.
Volume III, Chapter 10 Analysis:
Lydia's comment in chapter 9 that Darcy attended the wedding seems to allow for no explanation other than Darcy's involvement in getting Wickham to marry her. When Mrs. Gardiner's letter arrives detailing all of Darcy's actions, all that the reader has been lead to suspect is confirmed.
Austen's novels develop an implicit theory of moral virtue, in which the virtues consist of what is necessary to live well within a community. The community, through word and example, inculcates those virtues in its members. A serious breach of virtue on the part of one person is an injury not only to that person's character, but to the character of all his/her close relations, since those relations have an obligation form and educate their children in such a way that they will be virtuous. In Lydia's case, her lack of virtue seems in large part the result of her mother's foolishness and her father's indolence.
Elizabeth, while happy that Lydia and Wickham will be married and further scandal prevented, is now sure that Darcy will never marry her and suffer through being Wickham's brother-in-law. Now that she feels Darcy would never marry her, she sees how perfect they would be for each other and would readily say yes to his previous proposal. Yet unfortunately, it is too lateor at least Elizabeth thinks so. Elizabeth does not believe that Darcy's assistance to Lydia was motivated by his regard for her, but this does seem to be a very likely motivation.
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