Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice Summary and Analysis of Volume III, Chapters 11-18


Chapter 11

Lydia and Wickham leave for Newcastle, where his new regiment is stationed. Lydia's good-byes are not very affectionate, but Mrs. Bennet is sad to see her daughter move so far away. Mrs. Bennet learns from Mrs. Phillips that Mr. Bingley is planning to return to Netherfield in a few days. Jane tells Elizabeth that she does not want to see much of him, but Elizabeth remains optimistic that Bingley still loves Jane and that Darcy might have withdrawn his objection to the match. Mrs. Bennet plans to invite Bingley to dinner, even though it is still painful for Jane to hear his name.

After they arrive in Hertfordshire, Bingley and Darcy visit Netherfield. Elizabeth is hoping that Darcy might still harbor affection for her, but she is ashamed by Mrs. Bennet's cold treatment of him (especially since he is secretly responsible for Lydia's salvation). Similarly, Elizabeth is embarrassed by her mother's jubilant announcement of Lydia and Wickham's marriage. Darcy speaks little during the visit. Before they leave, Mrs. Bennet invites the two men to dinner, and they accept.

Chapter 12

Bingley sits next to Jane during the dinner party, convincing Elizabeth that he still admires her. Darcy and Elizabeth sit too far apart to speak, and circumstances prevent them from conversing after dinner. Elizabeth is anxious and annoyed because she wants to speak with him very badly. Mr. Darcy does reveal that he will be leaving for London soon, but will return 10 days later. Mrs. Bennet is extremely pleased with the dinner, and is sure that Bingley and Jane will soon be married.

Chapter 13

A few days later, Bingley visits again and stays for dinner. Mrs. Bennet contrives to get Jane and Bingley alone together, but is unsuccessful. The next morning, Mr. Bingley joins Mr. Bennet to hunt, and he stays again for dinner. This time, Mrs. Bennet is successful in arranging for Jane and Bingley to spend some time alone. When Elizabeth walks into the drawing room, she finds them engaged in earnest conversation. Bingley quickly leaves, and Jane reveals to Elizabeth and then the rest of the family that Bingley has proposed. Bingley returns to the room after obtaining Mr. Bennet's blessing, and the whole family is overjoyed. From then on, Bingley visits Longbourn every day.

Chapter 14

Early the next morning, Lady Catherine unexpectedly visits Longbourn. Though Mrs. Bennet is excited at the seeming compliment, Lady Catherine sternly asks Elizabeth to speak in private. They go for a walk. In her domineering and arrogant style, Lady Catherine repeats rumors she has heard about an impending marriage between Elizabeth and Darcy. Offended at the impropriety, Elizabeth curtly refuses to dignify the woman's inquiries. When Lady Catherine forbids Elizabeth to marry Darcy, Elizabeth ignores her. Furious, Lady Catherine leaves.

Chapter 15

The conversation with Lady Catherine upsets Elizabeth, who now worries that Lady Catherine's influence will give Darcy more reason not to repeat his proposal. Mr. Bennet asks to speak to Elizabeth privately. He reads her a letter from Mr. Collins, in which the pastor repeats the rumor of Darcy and Elizabeth's possible marriage and advises his cousin to refrain so as not to upset Lady Catherine. Mr. Bennet is terribly amused by the letter because he thinks that Elizabeth and Darcy still hate one another, but the missive pains Elizabeth.

Chapter 16

Darcy returns to Netherfield a few days later, and he and Bingley promptly visit Longbourn. Jane, Bingley, Darcy, Elizabeth, and Kitty take a walk together. Jane and Bingley lag behind the rest, and Darcy and Elizabeth eventually end up walking alone.

Finally able to converse privately, Elizabeth thanks Darcy for helping Lydia. Darcy wishes she had never learned about his interference, but admits that his generosity was solely a reflection of his feelings for her. Elizabeth is speechless, so Darcy continues to confess that his affections have not changed since his proposal and then asks Elizabeth whether or not her feelings have changed. When Elizabeth answers in the affirmative, Darcy is overcome with delight and speaks warmly and fervently about his love. He also explains that he gained the courage to propose again after hearing from Lady Catherine that Elizabeth had not explicitly denied any intention of marrying him. (It is notable that while this scene marks the engagement between Elizabeth and Darcy, neither explicitly discusses the subject.)

Elizabeth and Darcy finally speak about his disastrous first proposal, each apologizing for the lack of civility at the time. Mr. Darcy has been tortured by Elizabeth's reproofs from that night, but through his reflections, he has been able to realize the extent of his selfishness and conceit. Elizabeth similarly admits that Darcy's letter helped her overcome her prejudices. Darcy explains that he wanted to reveal his new attitude when they met at Pemberley. Finally, Darcy admits that he had been wrong to interfere in Bingley's happiness, and explains that he withdrew his objection before leaving for London. He also told Bingley that he believed Jane truly loved him, which is why Bingley arrived at Netherfield ready to resume his affections.

Chapter 17

That night, Elizabeth shares her news with an incredulous Jane. Elizabeth has to convince Jane of her feelings for Darcy. Once Jane realizes her sister is sincere, she is extremely happy. They spend half the night talking. The next morning, Darcy and Bingley visit Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet is once again annoyed that Darcy has tagged along and asks Elizabeth to take him for a walk so Bingley and Jane can be together. Elizabeth is quite happy to comply. Bingley greets Elizabeth with such warmth that she assumes he knows of her engagement. During their walk, Elizabeth and Darcy decide that Darcy will ask Mr. Bennet's consent in the evening while Elizabeth speaks to her mother.

After Darcy speaks with Elizabeth's father, Mr. Bennet asks to speak privately with Elizabeth. He confesses his shock at Darcy's request, thinking Elizabeth still hates him. After a long explanation, Elizabeth assures Mr. Bennet of her affection for Darcy. She also reveals the truth about what Darcy has done for Lydia. Mr. Bennet is surprised and happy for his daughter. That night, Elizabeth tells Mrs. Bennet about the engagement. Her mother is shocked, but quickly forgets her disdain for Darcy when she remembers the extent of his wealth. The next day, Mrs. Bennet acts quite politely towards Darcy and Mr. Bennet tries to get better acquainted with him.

Chapter 18

Elizabeth and Darcy converse playfully about how he fell in love with her in the first place, and why he took so long to propose the second time. Elizabeth asks when Darcy will tell Lady Catherine the news. He steps away to write to her, and Elizabeth writes a letter to Mrs. Gardiner. Caroline reacts with insincere affection to the news of Bingley's engagement, while Georgiana responds to news of her brother's engagement with genuine delight. Because Lady Catherine is so angry about the engagement between Darcy and Elizabeth, Mr. Collins and Charlotte decide to stay at Lucas Lodge for a while. Darcy proves quite adept at weathering Mr. Collins's silliness, as well as Mrs. Philips and Mrs. Bennet's vulgarity. After both marriages, Mrs. Bennet is extremely happy and proud.

The narrator then tells how each character fared in the wake of the marriages.

Mr. Bennet misses Elizabeth, and often visits her at Pemberley. Bingley and Jane leave Netherfield after a year and move to Derbyshire, because the proximity to Mrs. Bennet and the Meryton relations is too much to bear, even for them.

Kitty now spends most of her time with her elder sisters, and is much improved by their example and society. Mary stays at home and keeps her mother company on her visits. Lydia soon writes to Elizabeth to congratulate her on her marriage and unsubtly asks whether Darcy might use his money and influence to further help Wickham. Elizabeth does not ask her husband, but both she and Jane send Lydia money from their private allowances. Eventually, Caroline drops her resentful attitude of Darcy's marriage so that she can retain the right to visit Pemberley.

Georgiana and Elizabeth grow very close and become very fond of one another. Although Darcy breaks off relations with Lady Catherine for a while, Elizabeth convinces him to attempt a reconciliation, and she eventually visits them. Darcy and Elizabeth remain on intimate terms with the Gardiners, whom they thank for having facilitated their union.


Having adequately foreshadowed the happy ending, Austen shuttles her plot forward to its conclusion. From Bingley's encounter with Elizabeth in the earlier section, it is clear that Bingley still cares for Jane, and Austen's use of dramatic irony has made it clear that Darcy and Elizabeth have always cared for one another.

However, there have only been external obstacles keeping Bingley and Jane apart and the misunderstanding is quickly resolved. Elizabeth and Darcy, however, face internal challenges: their own pride and prejudice. In these final chapters, Austen makes it extraordinarily clear that both characters have changed. Darcy's clear regard for the Gardiners is an external indication of his change, while Elizabeth's new timidity reveals her newfound shame. It is notable that Elizabeth becomes far less active in these final chapters, a shift that leads some critics to observe that the novel's second half is slower than the first. However, the reason for Elizabeth's more tempered demeanor is that she is no longer so quick to jump to conclusions.

Of course, that is not to say that Elizabeth has been entirely defanged. In fact, Lady Catherine's visit provides an indication that Elizabeth remains firmly convinced that personality and behavior are far more important than rank. While Mrs. Bennet is foolishly impressed at the wealthy woman's appearance, Elizabeth is quickly turned off by Lady Catherine's rudeness and snaps at her. Ironically, Lady Catherine's attempt to prevent Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage only serves to facilitate it. This is no accident, because Elizabeth's willingness to attack pomposity is one of the qualities that drew Darcy to her in the first place. It is important that she indicates her love for him through an instance of that very tendency.

Darcy's second proposal to Elizabeth serves to confirm how fully these two characters have been able to overcome their pride and prejudice. Darcy admits to Elizabeth that her reproofs to him in refusing her proposal, particularly her statement, "had you acted in a more gentlemanlike manner," affected him profoundly. Darcy reveals that his upbringing has been the source of his pride. He learned to scorn everyone outside of his own social circle. It was only when Elizabeth pointed out his faults that he was able to recognize this aspect of his character. Darcy's progression is an example of Austen's Aristotelian ethics. Aristotle wrote that friends help each other to see and remedy their faults of character; friendships are important because they lead to improvement in both parties. Elizabeth's liveliness of character counteracts Darcy's tendency to be overly serious, and his excellent education and superior knowledge of the world will prove to be highly beneficial for her, as well.

In some ways, it is strange that Austen ends her novel with a line about the Gardiners. They do not become major characters until almost halfway through the novel, and we know far less about them than we do of even a character like Wickham. And yet they provide a perfect vehicle through which Austen delivers her message: class is not as important as behavior. As working people who are firmly middle class, Darcy might have looked down upon the Gardiners early in the novel. However, at the end, the Darcys treasure their relationship with the Gardiners most of all. The point is clear: they both emphasize quality of personality over the trappings of wealth.

The happy ending also provides some argument that Austen's attitudes about class and women are not as progressive as some critics might like to believe. Again, Austen clearly does not see class as the sole judge of a person's character, and yet she does posit it as a virtue by the end of the novel. She certainly approves of the education that money affords and the dignity of behavior it allows. Similarly, she never quite makes a statement about the unfairness of a woman's place in the world. By engineering an ending where the injustice of the entailment is avoided, Austen does not have to make any vaguely political statements.

Instead, what concerns Austen is an individual's duty to him or herself. In the end, Elizabeth and Jane end up happiest. These characters share is an unwillingness to compromise their principles. Lydia, who gives herself completely to frivolity and immorality, will have to live with a deceitful husband. Charlotte, who marries simply for pragmatic financial reasons, will have to bear the insufferable formality and long-windedness of Mr. Collins for the rest of her life. Ironically, Elizabeth and Jane end up with husbands who are both wealthy and suited to them precisely because they refuse to think of marriage as a business transaction or a mark of social status. Instead, they determine what matters to them, and use that criteria to find the right husband. In this way, Austen ends her work with a firm optimism that a woman (of a certain class, at least) can manage the world's limitations through integrity and self-awareness.