Pride and Prejudice | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapter 18

Professor Bradley Greenburg of Northeastern Illinois University provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 18 of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice | Chapter 18 (Volume 1, Chapter 18) | Summary



As it turns out, Wickham does not appear at the ball, and Elizabeth is disappointed. She wonders if his unease around Darcy led to his absence. She dances with Mr. Collins and is then surprised when Darcy asks her to dance. She accepts his offer. As they dance, Elizabeth probes him about his relationship with Wickham, but he seems uncomfortable with the topic. He also seems unsettled by the news that there may be an engagement between his friend Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet. Meanwhile, Mr. Collins, who has discovered that Darcy is the nephew of his patroness, Lady Catherine, audaciously introduces himself to Darcy. Caroline Bingley attempts to set Elizabeth straight about Wickham's role in his falling out with Mr. Darcy. At dinner, Elizabeth's mother talks loudly to Lady Lucas about what is sure to be an impending marriage between Jane and Bingley and is overheard, to Elizabeth's dismay, by Darcy. After dinner, Mary insists on playing and singing, eliciting snickers from the Bingley sisters.


The fact that Wickham does not appear at the ball at Netherfield, despite his earlier claim that he would not give way to Darcy, suggests he is avoiding Darcy.

Elizabeth is unsettled by her encounter with Darcy. She struggles to converse politely with Darcy because she is full of righteous anger on behalf of Wickham. When she asks Darcy whether he takes care never "to be blinded by prejudice," she is referring to his earlier statement that his "good opinion once lost is lost forever." Her interrogation is an example of dramatic irony, as readers have seen her own propensity to form opinions based on too little evidence. Later, when Caroline Bingley attempts to show Elizabeth another side of Wickham, Elizabeth refuses to believe it. The fact that Caroline blames Wickham's alleged bad behavior on his low birth does not help her case with Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is mortified by her family's behavior. Mr. Collins should not have introduced himself directly to Darcy, but rather waited for someone like Mr. Bennet to make the introduction. Mrs. Bennet is premature in talking loudly about Jane's engagement to Bingley—extremely premature, as it turns out. And Mary's pitiful performance makes her a laughingstock.

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