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Pride and Prejudice | Chapter 56 (Volume 3, Chapter 14) | Summary

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Summary

Lady Catherine pays an unexpected visit to Longbourn. She says that she wants to speak privately with Elizabeth. They go for a walk. Lady Catherine explains that she has heard a rumor that Darcy, her nephew, is going to propose to Elizabeth. She goes on to describe this idea as absurd, considering the Bennets' social status is so inferior to Darcy's. In addition, she expects that he will marry her daughter, Anne. The conversation is surprising to Elizabeth, who has no inkling that a proposal is planned. In fact, Darcy has been rather distant lately. Elizabeth is insulted by Lady Catherine's negative descriptions of her family. Lady Catherine attempts to make Elizabeth promise that she will not marry Darcy. Elizabeth refuses to promise any such thing. Lady Catherine is outraged by her defiance. Elizabeth holds her ground and also decides not to mention this strange conversation to anybody.

Analysis

The confrontation between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth is the perfect culmination of Elizabeth's personal growth. In the past, Elizabeth hasn't been afraid to disagree with the aristocratic lady. In this exchange, she shows even greater strength of character by directly flouting Lady Catherine's will. Though she is surprised by the rumor, her self-confidence, serenity, and superior intelligence allow Elizabeth to "out-argue" Lady Catherine: "Neither duty, nor honor, nor gratitude [to Lady Catherine] have any possible claim on me. .... No principle of either, would be violated by my marriage with Mr. Darcy." Elizabeth clearly shows where she stands on the issues of class and love; when it comes to the second, she will not allow the first to stand in her way.

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