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Pride and Prejudice | Chapter 34 (Volume 2, Chapter 11) | Summary

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Summary

The Collins household has left for Rosings. Elizabeth is at home by herself. Darcy shows up, inquiring about her health. He then shocks her by declaring his love for her and proposing marriage. Darcy's approach is to list the reasons that she is a poor choice for him—that is, her social inferiority and her family's reputation—and then to confess that, against his better judgment, he has fallen in love with her. Elizabeth's shock turns to resentment. She refuses his proposal, criticizes his role in separating Jane and Bingley, and also accuses him of mistreating Wickham. She calls him ungentlemanly. He suggests that had his proposal been less honest, perhaps she would have responded differently. She says he is mistaken, and he leaves the house angrily. Elizabeth is in tears and hides in her room to avoid seeing anyone once the hosts and houseguests return.

Analysis

This chapter represents the emotional climax of the novel, as the themes of social class, love versus marriage, and reputation collide.

Darcy's marriage proposal takes Elizabeth completely by surprise. Elizabeth is not just shocked; she is still angry about what she perceives as his role in breaking up her sister's romance. She is also insulted by the nature of his proposal. However, Elizabeth's claim that his manner of proposal is not "gentleman like" startles him because he prides himself in his honesty—or "candor," as Austen might say—and believes his reservations are "natural and just," words that reflect his absolute belief in the social hierarchy.

Elizabeth's response reminds readers that she still believes her initial prejudice against Darcy is correct: "From the very beginning—from the first moment ... of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that groundwork of disapprobation." In spite of all this, Elizabeth can't help being flattered that he proposed, leaving a small door open for the future.

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