Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen
Contributed by Tereasa Jacob
Chapter 35-42
Summary

Summary: Chapters 35–36

The next day, Elizabeth is given a letter by Darcy when she runs into him on a walk. Elizabeth begins to read it as he walks away. In this letter, Darcy fully admits to his attempting to dissuade Bingley from pursuing his romance from Jane, but he declares his belief that Jane’s attachment to Bingley would not have led to heartbreak. He admits that he wanted Bingley to avoid marrying into the Bennet family, as it lacks not only wealth but propriety in many ways, as well. With regard to Wickham, Darcy says that he provided for the young man after the elder Mr. Darcy’s death, but that a quarrel arose when Wickham tried to elope with Georgiana, Darcy’s sister, to obtain her fortune.  Elizabeth is shocked by this, and Darcy’s account of Wickham’s behavior makes her re-evaluate her decision to trust the latter young man. She is still angry about Darcy’s attitude with regard to Jane and Bingley, but her feelings for Darcy do begin to change somewhat.

Summary: Chapters 37–39

Darcy and Fitzwilliam depart from Rosings. A week after this, Elizabeth leaves the parsonage, despite the fact that Lady Catherine attempted to insist she stay an additional two weeks. Prior to her departure, Mr. Collins tells her that he and Charlotte are so happy that they seem to have been made for one another (a clear delusion or falsehood). He says he hopes Elizabeth one day has as happy a marriage as he has.

Elizabeth stops at the Gardiner’s home in London for a short time, and then she and Jane leave for home. They are met by Catherine and Lydia later in their journey, and then must listen to them talk about nothing but officers all the way home in their father’s coach. It is found that the regiment is going to Brighton for the summer, and that Lydia and Catherine are hoping that their parents will let them go there, too. Lydia announces that Wickham is no longer pursuing Miss King, and that the young lady is now in Liverpool, staying with her uncle.

Mr. and Mrs. Bennets welcome Elizabeth and Jane home. Later on, the Lucas family comes over for dinner. Lydia talks a great deal about their coach ride and says that Elizabeth and Jane must come with them to Meryton to see the officers. Elizabeth does not want to see Wickham, and so she refuses.

Summary: Chapters 40–42

Elizabeth confides in Jane the truth about Wickham. They discuss whether they should tell anyone else about it, and they decide against doing so. Mrs. Bennet continues in her displeasure about Mr. Bingley’s decision to leave and how Jane seems to have lost her opportunity to marry him. She also talks about how upset she continues to be about the fact that Mr. Collins is married to someone other than Elizabeth.  We find that Lydia has been invited by Colonel Foster’s wife to spend the summer in Brighton. Mr. Bennet decides to let her go, assuming that Colonel Foster will make sure she stays out of trouble.

Analysis

Darcy’s letter begins in a process in which both he and Elizabeth become more humble and mature in their attitudes towards one another. Elizabeth’s refusal to marry him surprised him and embarrassed his pride, and the letter he gives Elizabeth shows that she has misjudged him in many ways. She begins to see Darcy in a new light.

Some critics of the novel say that it is unrealistic to think that a man as proud as Darcy would have written a letter like this, with so many private details. Even if that were true, however, the purpose of the letter could be to act as a device through which Austen can reveal large amounts of information about Darcy while vindicating the character. It can be argued, though, that the letter is, in fact, realistic because it was written in the “dreadful bitterness of spirit” and that this would account for the fact it seems out of character. Regardless of whether or not it is realistic, though, the letter is successful  in revealing the truth about Darcy and Wickham’s relationship, and it as a result encourages the reader to feel sympathy for Darcy rather than for the other young gentleman. Another interesting point to be aware of is the fact that while the idea of a man and young woman eloping was cliched in Austen’s time, it serves an important purpose in this novel: the fact that Wickham tried to elope with Georgiana gives Darcy an additional motive (other than love) for assisting Lydia after she runs away with Wickham.

After Elizabeth reads the letter, she and Darcy are separated for the time they need in which to think and change their feelings and behavior. Austen sets the scene for Lydia’s romance with Wickham and shows the contrast between Elizabeth’s approach to Darcy with Lydia’s girlish and reckless regard for Wickham. Elizabeth’s approach to matters of love is passive. She consents to go to Pemberley only when she thinks that Darcy will not be present. Lydia, however, actually pursues the officers she likes so much. When she finds that Wickham is no longer interested in Miss King, she tries to stake her claim to him. She says, “I will answer for it that he never cared three straws for her.”

The fact that Mr. Bennet is unaware of how infatuated Lydia is with Wickham and gives her permission to go to Brighton to be near the militia is a result of the fact he has irresponsibly separated herself from his family. Elizabeth and Jane’s decision not to tell others about Wickham also makes them somewhat responsible for what happens.  Darcy also stays silent about Wickham, starting a sort of alignment with Elizabeth.

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