Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen
Contributed by Tereasa Jacob
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Chapter 50-55
Summary

Summary: Chapters 50–51

Elizabeth suddenly recognizes that her feelings toward Darcy have changed so drastically that she would accept if he were again to propose. She is well-aware, however, that another proposal is unlikely to happen given the disgrace that Lydia’s behavior has caused for her family.

Mr. Gardiner notifies Mr. Bennet by letter that Wickham has a new commission in the North of England. Lydia asks for permission to visit Longbourn before she and her new husband move north. After discussion and disagreement, Mr. Bennet finally agrees to allow them to come. Lydia and Wickham are at Longbourn for ten days, and they seem not to know or care how much trouble they have caused. Lydia mentions to Jane and Elizabeth that Darcy was at her wedding. Amazed, Elizabeth writes to Mrs. Gardiner to ask for more information.

Summary: Chapters 52–53

Mrs. Gardiner informs Elizabeth that it was not Mr. Gardiner but rather Darcy who tracked down Lydia and Wickham and paid Wickham the money he required in order to agree to marry Lydia. She hints that Darcy’s motivation for this is his love for Elizabeth. Extremely surprised, Elizabeth is uncertain whether she should be pleased or upset.

After Lydia and Wickham leave for the north, there is news that Bingley plans to return to Netherfield Park to stay for a few weeks. Mr. Bennet says that he will not visit him, upsetting his family. A few days after Bingley arrives, however, he and Darcy visit Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet is rather rude to Darcy while incredibly attentive to Bingley. Of course, she is entirely unaware that he was responsible for saving Lydia. Before the two gentlemen leave, they engage to dine at Longbourn in the near future.

Summary: Chapters 54–55

When Darcy and Bingley come to dine at Longbourn, Bingley sits beside Jane and is very attentive to her. Darcy sits far away from Elizabeth, at the other end of the table. This makes it impossible for them to talk. Elizabeth accepts that Darcy will not propose to her again. It is especially unlikely, she feels, that he would want to marry her when she has already once refused him.

A few days later, Bingley visits again and Mrs. Bennet asks him to dine with them. He says that he already has an engagement for that day but says he will come on the next. He arrives so early in the morning that the women of the house are not yet dressed. Mrs. Bennet manages to leave him alone with Jane for a while, but he does not propose. The next day, though, he goes out shooting with Mr. Bennet and then stays for dinner with the family. After the meal is finished, he is again alone with Jane. It is now that he proposes and says that he will ask for Mr. Bennet for her hand. When he asks her father, Mr. Bennet happily gives his permission for their marriage. Jane declares to Elizabeth that she is “the happiest creature in the world.”

Analysis

Elizabeth realizes that Darcy is “exactly the man, who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her.” This is incredibly ironic, as she rejected his earlier proposal of marriage in a way that indicated that she hated him. This irony is clear to her: “she became jealous of his esteem, when she could no longer hope to be benefited by it…she wanted to hear of him, when there seemed the least chance of gaining intelligence.”  She assumes that Darcy’s feelings for her have changed and that her new emotions have developed too late. The way she feels about him now resemble how he did about her earlier in the story. Elizabeth believes that even if Darcy still loved her, he would not allow himself to propose again because of the disgrace of Lydia’s elopement. Lydia’s behavior seems like a reminder of the Bennet family’s shortcomings and impropriety, which were among Darcy’s original reasons for hesitating to propose to her in the first place. She recognizes that he probably sees what happened as yet another sign of her family’s poor breeding and likely thinks that it would be an embarrassment for him to be closely connected to them.

While Elizabeth is slow to allow herself to hope that Darcy might still want to marry her, it is clear to the reader that Darcy’s love for Elizabeth remains strong. He provided the money needed to cover the expenses of Lydia’s wedding, and Mrs. Gardiner, who we know is a paragon of common sense and reason, declares that there could be only one reason why he would do that: his feelings for Elizabeth. Deep inside Elizabeth cannot help but suspect the same thing: “Her heart did whisper, that he had done it for her.” She forces herself to abandon this suspicion, however, as she feels that it would be impossible for Darcy to consent to become closely connected with her family and with Wickham, who was now her brother-in-law.

The fact that Bingley has proposed to Jane and that they are now engaged is a sign that Darcy is no longer concerned about the low social status of the Bennet sisters. It seems that he has overcome this significant obstacle, and that he refrained from doing anything to stop Bingley from marrying Jane. This stands in stark contrast to his earlier action of splitting up Bingley and Jane in order to prevent his friend from becoming connected to the Bennet family. He is now willing to let their love overcome their class difference, despite the shame of Lydia’s elopement.While Elizabeth is not allowed to assume anything as a result of Jane’s engagement, readers are permitted to think that another proposal will happen soon.

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