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Pride and Prejudice | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapter 16

Professor Bradley Greenburg of Northeastern Illinois University provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 16 of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice | Chapter 16 (Volume 1, Chapter 16) | Summary



At the Phillips' supper the next evening, Wickham sits next to Elizabeth and seems interested in engaging her in conversation. He reveals to her the nature of the relationship he has with Darcy. He explains that his father worked for Darcy's father, and their sons essentially grew up together. However, at the time of the elder Mr. Darcy's death, Wickham was denied his promised position at the rectory that the Darcy family oversees. Wickham claims that the younger Mr. Darcy did not fulfill this promise and gave the position to someone else. He claims that the younger Darcy found some kind of loophole in the arrangement that also meant Wickham did not receive the money he was promised. Wickham expresses his lack of respect for Darcy and his sister, saying that people in their neighborhood are disgusted by their pride. Elizabeth expresses outrage at the way Wickham was treated and concurs in his assessment of Darcy's prideful attitude. Wickham also tells Elizabeth that Lady Catherine de Bourgh is Darcy's aunt and that Lady Catherine hopes to marry her daughter to Darcy, combining the two families' fortunes.


The presence of Wickham is intriguing at this point in the story. He finds in Elizabeth a sympathetic audience for his negative stories about Darcy. Elizabeth's rapid attachment to Wickham is surprising. Although she barely knows him, she accepts his story about Darcy, which helps to solidify her increasingly negative impressions of Mr. Darcy. She may pride herself on her clear thinking, but she forms impressions far too quickly.

In this chapter, readers also learn that Lady Catherine de Bourgh is Darcy's aunt. Darcy's mother is an aristocrat, which means Darcy is not merely gentry but a member of the nobility. It's no wonder, then, that Caroline Bingley finds him so attractive. It's also no wonder that Lady Catherine would plan a marriage between her daughter and her nephew—it would keep wealth in the family, and a marriage between first cousins was considered perfectly acceptable.

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