Pride and Prejudice (Bantam Classics)
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Pride and Prejudice Summary and Analysis

by Jane Austen

Volume III, Chapters 1-10

Summary

Chapter 1

Elizabeth is captivated by Pemberley's beauty, and daydreams about being its mistress. She almost feels regretful.

The Pemberley housekeeper gives them a tour of the house, all the while praising Mr. Darcy and Georgiana. She describes Darcy as sweet-tempered, generous and good-natured, remarking that she has "never heard a cross word from him." Still thinking of Darcy as grumpy and ill-tempered, Elizabeth is surprised by this assessment. She is further impressed to learn how well Darcy treats his sister. Overall, her regard for Darcy increases as a result of the housekeeper's praise.

When the party is outside walking the gardens, Darcy unexpectedly appears from the road. Both he and Elizabeth are ill at ease, but she is impressed by the genteel civility in his inquiries. He soon enough takes his leave, and Elizabeth is mortified to realize he might think she came to the house to see him.

Though extremely distracted, Elizabeth attempts to make conversation with her aunt and uncle as they walk through the garden. After a long while, Darcy reappears, and both parties are better prepared for the encounter. Darcy asks to be introduced to the Gardiners, and Elizabeth is impressed by his politeness, since she assumed he would be turned off by their lower class. Darcy even invites Mr. Gardiner to fish at Pemberley while he is in the area.

As the party strolls, Elizabeth and Darcy walk together. She informs him that she did not expect him to be there, and he explains that he arrived early to prepare for some impending guests. He also hopes he might introduce her to Georgiana when she arrives the next day. Though surprised, Elizabeth accepts. When they reach the house, they talk awkwardly until the Gardiners catch up with them, at which point Darcy sees them off with great politeness.

The Gardiners are very pleased by and surprised at Darcy's civility, having heard of his disagreeable nature from so many people, including Elizabeth. They also believe the story they heard about Wickham. Elizabeth then insinuates that Darcy was not at fault in that affair.

Chapter 2

The next morning, Darcy brings Georgiana to the nearby inn where Elizabeth is staying. Elizabeth is surprised, since the girl had only just arrived. She is also anxious to make a good impression, and is relieved to discover that Georgiana is equally nervous. Elizabeth notes that she is shy, attractive, and graceful.

Soon, Bingley arrives as well. Almost immediately, Elizabeth's anger towards his disappears because of his naturally pleasant personality. Throughout the morning, the Gardiners become completely convinced that Darcy is in love with Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is happy to observe no sign of significant affection between Bingley and Georgiana. At one point, Bingley is able to speak to Elizabeth privately, and he inquires about Jane, insinuating that he regrets not having seen her for so long.

Further, Elizabeth is amazed at Darcy's civility toward the Gardiners. Expecting that he would disdain them for the same reasons he disdains her immediate family, she cannot imagine why his manners have changed. Before the visitors leave, Darcy invites Elizabeth and the Gardiners to dinner at Pemberley. They accept.

The Gardiners, seeing that Darcy is in love with Elizabeth, realize that Darcy is a much better man than they thought. Their new opinion is further validated when they discover that Wickham is held in low esteem in the area.

That night, Elizabeth stays awake trying to discern her feelings for Darcy. She admits that she is grateful to him not only for loving her, but also for seemingly continuing to love her even after the rudeness of her rejection. She is extremely impressed by his change of character, but is still not sure whether or not she loves him.

Mrs. Gardiner decides that she and Elizabeth should visit Georgiana the following morning, in return for her great politeness in coming to see them immediately after her arrival.

Chapter 3

The next day, Georgiana receives them civilly at Pemberley, although she is very shy. Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley also say very little to them, so most of the conversation takes place between Mrs. Gardiner, Elizabeth, and one of Darcy's acquaintances, Mrs. Annesley. Throughout the visit, Elizabeth both hopes and fears that Darcy will join them.

Darcy does eventually join them, and Bingley's sisters carefully scrutinize his actions during that time. When Caroline notices how Darcy is attempting to facilitate conversation between Elizabeth and Georgiana, she asks Elizabeth a question about the militia. Elizabeth answers with composure, noting how both of the Darcys are pained by the allusion to Wickham.

After Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner leave, Caroline criticizes Elizabeth to Georgiana, but Miss Darcy has already developed a good opinion of Elizabeth, largely on her brother's commendations. Caroline then repeats her criticisms to Darcy, but he compliments Elizabeth as one of the most handsome women he has ever met and then walks away.

Chapter 4

Elizabeth receives two letters from Jane at the same time. The first is short and panicked, the second more composed, but they together deliver terrible news: Lyda had eloped from Brighton with Wickham.

Though they had expected the couple to elope to Scotland (where minors could marry without parental permission), the family now worries that Wickham actually has no intention of marrying her at all. Though she hates interrupting their trip, Jane begs Elizabeth and the Gardiners to return home immediately, in part so Mr. Gardiner can help Mr. Bennet search for Lydia in London.

After reading the letter, Elizabeth rushes out the door, but finds Mr. Darcy waiting there. Noting her flurried state, Darcy convinces her that they should send a servant for the Gardiners, and then helps her calm down. She then confesses the situation to Darcy, who becomes extremely distressed and regretful, worrying that he might have prevented this situation if he had told everyone the truth about Wickham.

As Elizabeth listens to him talk, she realizes that this new disgrace on her family will make it impossible for him to ever renew his proposal, since he would never connect himself to a disgraced family. In this moment, she realizes that she loves him.

After a few minutes, Darcy takes his leave, promising to keep the secret. Elizabeth watches him go with regret, doubting that they will ever meet again on such friendly terms.

Elizabeth is certain that Wickham does not plan to marry Lydia. Knowing Lydia's gullibility, Elizabeth assumes that Wickham must have misled her.

The Gardiners soon return, and agree to leave immediately after Elizabeth tells them the news.

Chapter 5

On the journey back to Longbourn, Mr. Gardiner attempts to convince Elizabeth that Wickham must have a genuine intention of marrying Lydia, but Elizabeth is not convinced. She 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. There has be no news since her letters, and Mr. Bennet is currently searching for Lydia in London. Though Kitty and Mary do not seem extremely upset over the situation, Mrs. Bennet has taken things badly, and will not leave her room. When they visit her there, she blames Colonel Forster and his wife for neglect, not thinking that Lydia is the type of girl to do such a thing. She is worried that Mr. Bennet will eventually challenge Wickham to a duel and die. To reassure her, Mr. Gardiner promises to help Mr. Bennet in London.

When Elizabeth and Jane are alone, they discuss the situation in more detail. Jane shows Elizabeth the note which Lydia left for Mrs. Forster; it shows extreme thoughtlessness and frivolity, but also proves that she had every intention of marrying Wickham.

Chapter 6

The next morning, Mr. Gardiner sets off for London. Mrs. Gardiner decides to remain for a few more days at Longbourn, in order to help Elizabeth and Jane.

In Meryton, Wickham's reputation quickly changes, and everyone now considers him "the wickedest young man in the world."

A few days later, a letter from Mr. Gardiner arrives, explaining that he and Mr. Bennet plan to inquire at every major hotel about the couple. Mr. Gardiner also plans to inquire whether Colonel Forster can learn anything from others in the militia.

They next receive a letter from Mr. Collins, offering condolences and also criticizing their lack of parental attention. He also implies his relief that Elizabeth turned down his proposal, since her acceptance would have tied him to this now disgraced family.

Mr. Gardiner's next letter announces that Colonel Forster was unable to collect any information about where they might be staying. Gardiner has also learned that Wickham owes over 1,000 pounds in gambling debts, which could explain why he is in hiding.

Elizabeth remains miserable throughout this period, constantly aware that this situation probably ruins any chance of a marriage to Darcy.

Mr. Bennet decides to return home, leaving the search to Mr. Gardiner. At the same time, Mrs. Gardiner returns home to London with her children. When Mr. Bennet returns, he confesses to Elizabeth that he blames himself for the situation.

Chapter 7

Mr. Bennet receives an express letter from Mr. Gardiner, stating that he has found Wickham. Wickham has agreed to marry Lydia, provided she receive her equal share of the family wealth after Mr. Bennet's death, as well as 100 pounds per year. Because this amount is not exorbitant, Mr. Gardiner assumes that Wickham's debts must not have been as extreme as they believed. Mr. Bennet, however, assumes that Mr. Gardiner must have paid Wickham a large sum of money to ensure his compliance, and is both honored and humbled by that favor.

Mrs. Bennet is ecstatic is hear the news. She begins to think about ordering the wedding clothes.

Chapter 8

Mr. Bennet wants to determine how much Mr. Gardiner paid Wickham, so that the can pay him back.

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 wedding clothes than she is by Lydia's elopement.

Elizabeth now believes more than ever that a future with Darcy is impossible; he would not align himself with a family that includes Wickham. She has realized that Darcy is the best match for her, since their personalities would complement each other for their mutual advantage.

Another letter arrives from Mr. Gardiner, reporting that Wickham is planning to quit the militia to work as an ensign with a regiment quartered in the North. The letter also mentions that Wickham plans to pay off all his debts, both in Brighton and Meryton.

After entreaties from Elizabeth and Jane, Mr. Bennet permits Lydia and Wickham to visit Longbourn before leaving for the North.

Chapter 9

When Lydia and Wickham arrive, they show no sense of shame whatsoever; in fact, Lydia shamelessly expects congratulations from all her sisters. Jane and Elizabeth are extremely distressed by Lydia's conduct. Further, Elizabeth observes that Wickham's affection for Lydia is not nearly as strong as her affection for him.

Lydia tells 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 Darcy attended the wedding, but then confesses she was supposed to keep that secret. Shocked, Elizabeth writes to Mrs. Gardiner to solicit more details about Darcy's presence there.

Chapter 10

Mrs. Gardiner's letter arrives, explaining that Mr. Darcy was actually the one who discovered Wickham's whereabouts, by bribing Miss Younge (the woman who had helped Wickham to seduce Georgiana) for the information. When Darcy found the couple, he was unable to convince Lydia to leave, so he offered Wickham money to secure their marriage. Darcy then waited until Mr. Bennet had left London, at which point he revealed the plan to Mr. Gardiner, apologizing for not having revealed Wickham's character sooner.

Mrs. Gardiner concludes the letter by insisting that Mr. Darcy acted out of love for Elizabeth, and suggesting that she and Darcy would make a perfect match.

In reflecting on the letter, Elizabeth realizes how Darcy had to swallow his pride to ask anything of Wickham. However, she remains skeptical that he was motivated by love, and remains pessimistic about the chances of another proposal.

Elizabeth's reflections are interrupted by Wickham. They have a guarded conversation in which she insinuates what she knows of Wickham's past, but avoids provoking him further for Lydia's sake.

Analysis

Throughout these chapters, Austen continues to employ masterful dramatic irony as Elizabeth's feelings become clear to the reader even though they remain incomprehensible to herself. As her prejudice disappeared in the wake of Darcy's letter, her true feelings emerge: she knows that she and Darcy make a good match. In other words, it is arguable that Elizabeth does not fall for Darcy starting in these chapters, but rather that her attraction has been growing throughout the novel, but has remained oblique because of her prejudice.

Her visit is Pemberley serves as a mini-climax in this character arc, since it forces her to confront those feelings. Even before Darcy arrives, she falls in love with the landscape. It is clear that it serves as a metaphor for Darcy - it is elegant, sophisticated and evocative. Meanwhile, she learns so much about Darcy from the Pemberley housekeeper, which raises the blinders her prejudice had built even more.

Further, the chapters at Pemberley reveal that Darcy himself has changed considerably since their last encounter. His behavior to her and her family is remarkably civil and even outright friendly. His personable nature is so notable because he has clearly learned not to let his class prejudice blind him too quickly. Where he had earlier criticized her relations - including the working class Gardiners - he now invites them to enjoy Pemberley as his guests.

What Darcy seems to have recognized is the superiority of personal conduct over social standing. Arguably, Darcy's politeness at Pemberley might have dried up quickly had the Gardiners been as obnoxious as Mrs. Bennet usually is. However, their civility and sophistication prohibits Darcy from shifting into snobbishness, and indeed, he and Mr. Gardiner grow closer as the novel progresses. When Darcy brings Georgiana to visit Elizabeth so quickly, it is an acknowledgement of her superior character, at the expense of a rigid social expectation that makes such a quick acquaintance otherwise strange. In other words, Darcy is willing to bring his beloved sister immediately to an inn, something a figure like Lady Catherine would never do. However, what matters to Darcy is the people staying there, and less the decorum of the visit.

This new attitude is underlined by its contrast to Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, whose class consciousness remains as static as ever. More than before, these women are depicted as petty and downright rude, not even bothering to receive Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner as their guests. Further, Caroline's childish attempts to demean Elizabeth after the latter leaves are ugly. The disconnect between breeding and behavior clearly becomes one of the novel's primary themes at this point.

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. What has changed is that Darcy now sees the world similarly. Where he 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.

This complex understanding - which recognizes the importance of class even while somewhat eschewing it - reflects Austen's complicated relationship with class. While Pemberley is certainly a metaphor for Darcy, some critics note that Elizabeth's most significant change of heart comes in imagining herself as mistress of the property. In other words, she is arguably seduced by wealth in the same way other women are. Austen clearly prized social standing and wealth - after all, she constructs a novel in which her heroine ends up the richest one of all. To a contemporary reader, this attitude might seem hypocritical, but it is very much a reflection of the life Austen lived, having been in the lower echelons of the upper class but losing that status over the years as her family had trouble.

Further, her attitude towards women remains complicated. As previously noted, there are actually very few strong female characters in the novel. Most of them - Mrs. Bennet, the younger Bennet sisters, Lady Catherine - are quite frivolous, and obsessed with superficial trappings. Some critics have argued that Elizabeth harbors a deep-seeded hatred of 'female' behaviors, as defined by her cynical father. These behaviors include frivolity, obsession with materialism, and the use of allure to hook a man. And yet perhaps this is itself something of a criticism, of a world that forces women to prize the superficial because it is their only tool. The tragedy that befalls Lydia is certainly an illustration of the danger a young woman faced in the early nineteenth-century if she was not careful.

In early nineteenth-century England, a young lady's elopement (especially following a period of unmarried co-habitation) could ruin both her future and that of her family. It is not only reputations that are ruined; other women in the family also had to potentially pay for the sin. Elizabeth is quickly concerned that this will ruin the chance of a subsequent proposal from Darcy. Arguably, she would be correct if Darcy had not changed so considerably since their last encounter.

Mr. Darcy's reaction to the news, however, gives reason for optimism. First, he bears the news with some equanimity, rather than condescension. And the fact that he himself engineers Lydia's rescue shows that he has learned to control not only his prejudice, but also his pride, because of his love for Elizabeth.

Lydia's selfishness actually engineers change in other characters as well. While Mrs. Bennet's reaction confirms her foolishness and incompetence, Mr. Bennet is shocked out of his indolence, and realizes only too late that he has been neglecting his duties as a father. He does his best to remedy the situation, but Mr. Gardiner here becomes the primary patriarch of the family, as he organizes the search and ultimately helps Darcy engineer the victory. As a side note, the fact the only men are able to grow from tragedy (with the exception of Elizabeth, of course) provides further illustration of Austen's limited depiction of women.

Overall, Austen has a fairly cynical view of people. As many critics have noted, her characters are mostly well drawn caricatures, unchanging and rather broad in their characteristics. Similarly, the speed at which the townspeople change their view of Wickham, whom they previously consider an "angel of light," suggests that Austen believes most people slaves to social convention and opinion.

For Austen, the alternative to being a slave to such superficial concerns seems to be strong individuality and virtue. Lydia is only concerned with looking good before others, and almost damns her family because of that. Mrs. Bennet, whose happiness after Lydia's engagement is almost disgustingly blind, provides again a model of a parent with little moral direction. The opposite of this is a moral virtue that helps people live well together in 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 also to the characters of all his/her close relations, since those relations have an obligation to educate their children. In Lydia's case, her lack of virtue seems in large part the result of her mother's foolishness and her father's indolence, but also of a society that demeans women and praises scandal over strong individuality (like Elizabeth's).

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