Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen
Contributed by Tereasa Jacob
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Chapter 56-61
Summary

Summary: Chapter 56

A week after Jane’s engagement to Bingley, the Bennets receive a sudden visit from Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The noblewoman insists that she be able to speak Elizabeth alone, and says she would like them to walk outside together to talk. It is there that Lady Catherine tells Elizabeth that she has heard a rumor that Darcy wants to marry her. She states that this rumor is ridiculous, as Darcy would never marry a young woman with such a low station in life and because he is expected to marry her own daughter.

Elizabeth is successful in her attempts to conceal her surprise, and she continues to act in a very cool and confident manner towards Lady Catherine. While she admits that there is no engagement between herself and Mr. Darcy, she refuses to comply with Lady Catherine’s demand that she promise never to become engaged to him. Lady Catherine is furious and says that Elizabeth is obligated to do what she says by “the claims of duty, honour, and gratitude.” She says that the Bennets’ low connections would ruin Darcy “in the opinion of all his friends, and make him the contempt of the world.” Elizabeth stands up for herself and her family, asserting “I am a gentleman’s daughter.” She shows her determination to be independent of the control of snobs such as Miss Bingley, Mr. Collins, and Lady Catherine, saying “I am…resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.” Lady Catherine leaves without having accomplished her object, and Elizabeth tells no one about their conversation.

Summary: Chapters 57–58

Soon after this, Mr. Bennet receives a letter from Mr. Collins that implies an engagement between Elizabeth and Darcy is imminent. Mr. Bennet is highly amused by this, and he shares it with Elizabeth, thinking that she will laugh. He expresses his opinion on the absurdity of the idea of Elizabeth being engaged to Mr. Darcy, a man “who never looked at any woman but to see a blemish, and who probably never looked at you in his life.”

Darcy arrives at Netherfield again, to stay with Bingley. The two young gentleman visit Longbourn, and everyone enjoys a walk together. Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves lagging behind the others, and Elizabeth takes the opportunity to thank him for his generosity in what he did for Lydia. Darcy says that it was the fact that Lydia is Elizabeth’s sister that made him do it. He declares that his feelings for Elizabeth are still the same as they were when he proposed. Elizabeth replies that her own feelings are very different than they once were, and that she accepts his proposal of marriage.

Summary: Chapters 59–60

The evening, Elizabeth reveals to Jane that Darcy has asked her to marry him. Very surprised, Jane has difficulty believing that Elizabeth could truly love Darcy. Elizabeth assures her that she does. The following day, Elizabeth and Darcy go for another walk together, and then Darcy goes to see Mr. Bennet and ask for his consent to the engagement.

Mr. Bennet responds very much like Jane, and simply cannot believe that Elizabeth could want to marry Darcy. Darcy convinces him that she feels entirely differently than she did in the past, and that she does indeed love Darcy. She also tells him about how Darcy paid off Wickham to marry Lydia. When Mrs. Bennet is told about Elizabeth’s engagement, she is so stunned that she cannot speak for a few moments, but she soon bursts into an exhibition of delight.

Elizabeth and Darcy discuss the way their love began and how it went on to develop. Darcy writes to Lady Catherine, announcing his engagement. Mr. Collins is informed of the news by a letter from Mr. Bennet. Mr. Collins and Charlotte visits Longbourn to give their congratulations to the couple (and to get away from a furious Lady Catherine).  Mrs. Phillips and the Lucas family also come to call. 

Summary: Chapter 61

After both weddings take place, Bingley purchases his own estate near Darcy’s estate of Pemberley, and Jane and Elizabeth are able to see each other frequently. Catherine is deliberately kept away from Lydia, as it is felt that the latter is a bad influence. She spends a lot of time at Jane and Elizabeth’s homes, and she matures and becomes more sensible. Lydia and Wickham remain irresponsible and frustrating, constantly asking for more money from Darcy and going to see the Bingleys on so frequent a basis that even Bingley wishes he didn’t have to see them so often. Elizabeth and Georgiana become close friends. Eventually, Elizabeth even manages to interact on polite terms with Miss Bingley. After a time passes, Lady Catherine comes to accept her nephew’s marriage and visits Pemberley. The Gardiners are always considered Darcy and Elizabeth’s close friends. The young couple is grateful for the fact that they helped bring them together by encouraging Elizabeth’s visit to Pemberley.

Analysis

It is because Lady Catherine is the last of the obstacles standing between Elizabeth and Darcy that Elizabeth’s confrontation with her is such an important moment. Additionally, it helps to further illuminate the tensions caused by the difference in their respective social statuses. Evident in everything Elizabeth says are all the excellent qualities that we have seen in her: lack of pretense, dislike of snobbery, wit, and intelligence. As Lady Catherine knows that she has the advantages of money and birth, she is outraged by Elizabeth’s presumption in asserting herself. In her obsession with social status and wealth, she fails to perceive and appreciate all the wonderful aspects of Elizabeth’s complex character. . While Elizabeth has no way of knowing that Darcy will ever propose to her again, her dignity and pride in herself and her family, as well as her love for Darcy, give her the strength to stand up to Lady Catherine. When Elizabeth bravely asserts her beliefs, she demonstrates her self-respect and strength of will.

After the drama of Elizabeth’s confrontation with Lady Catherine, it almost seems like Darcy’s second proposal, the moment that should be the novel’s climax, is a bit of a letdown. As explained earlier, however, Jane Austen usually does not fully describe successful proposals. This is in line with how the narrator only summarizes the positive response that Darcy receives. It has been argued by some critics that the third and final parts of the novel is too simplistic: that there is too dramatic a change in Darcy’s character. However, it can be countered that the pride we see in Darcy at the beginning is partially fueled by Elizabeth’s prejudice. As this prejudice fades away, Darcy’s arrogance does as well.

In Austen’s novels, romance tends to triumph over all obstacles, both personal and social. We certainly see this in Pride in Prejudice: love overcomes both Elizabeth’s prejudice and Darcy’s pride. When Elizabeth’s family still thinks that she dislikes Darcy, they anxiously ask her whether she is marrying him for love. For Austen, while practicality, money, and class are always important, love is always the most critical factor.

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