Pride and Prejudice | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapter 40

Professor Bradley Greenburg of Northeastern Illinois University provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 40 of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice | Chapter 40 (Volume 2, Chapter 17) | Summary

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Summary

Elizabeth finally decides to tell Jane what happened during her visit to Hunsford. She relates the proposal from Darcy and the new information she has about Wickham. As they discuss Darcy, Elizabeth admits that her enjoyment of deriding him prevented her from seeing the truth about his character. The sisters decide not to make public the information about Wickham's past behavior. Even though they don't approve of Wickham's behavior, they agree it is not their place to share this information. Jane is still feeling sad about Bingley's absence, but Elizabeth does not tell her sister what she learned from Darcy about Bingley.

Analysis

Elizabeth's admission about how much she enjoyed criticizing Darcy reveals the pride and enjoyment she takes in her own wit—something she shares with her father. In her father's case, the reader can see the obvious danger of valuing wit over responsibility to others. He could do more, for example, to rein in his younger daughters' excesses, rather than simply berating their silliness.

The sisters' decision not to reveal what they have learned about Wickham is well-intentioned. They feel it would be wrong to pass on secondhand information—that is, to gossip. This decision will come back to haunt them when Wickham takes advantage of Lydia.

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