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In another scene of domestic comedy, Mr. Bennet is teasing his wife again, but by this time he has done his social duty and introduced himself to Bingley. Mrs. Bennet expresses her joy in the same way she expressed her disappointment earlier-excessively. She is already planning when she can invite the newcomer to dinner.
Mr. Bingley returns Mr. Bennet's visit, but he does not see the young ladies. They, however, try to watch him from an upstairs window, although all they can see is that he wears a blue coat and rides a black horse.
NOTE: By having the sisters watch Bingley from a window, Austen shows us how restricted they are, compared with the young men such as Bingley, who have much more freedom.
The girls are dying to know what Mr. Bingley is like. Mr. Bennet can't be bothered with what he considers silly questions. But their neighbor, Lady Lucas, comes calling, and she tells them what her husband has told her about Mr. Bingley. He seems to fulfill all their hopes. He's young, handsome, and friendly-and he'll be bringing several gentlemen and ladies to the next village ball.
In a quick transition, we are at the ball. Mr. Bingley arrives with his two sisters, the husband of one of them, and Bingley's aristocratic friend, Mr. Darcy. Rumor runs swiftly around the assembly room: tall, handsome Mr. Darcy is twice as rich as Mr. Bingley and owns a large estate in Derbyshire.
NOTE: How much money Darcy has is the first fact we learn about him. Is that usually the first thing we want to know about a person? Do you think the people in Jane Austen's time and social class were more mercenary than we are today? More realistic? Or was a person's income really the most important thing about him? One thing we can say for sure is that in Austen's time-even more than in our own-the amount of money a person's family had determined that person's rank in society. To know a person's income therefore gave a very good idea of how that person stood in the world.
All too soon, Darcy offends the company by his proud and disdainful manners. While Bingley dances every dance (and two dances with Jane Bennet, as everybody notices), Darcy dances once with each of the ladies in his own group and refuses to be introduced to any others. He gives the cold shoulder to Elizabeth, telling Bingley, "She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me." Elizabeth overhears this remark and repeats it as a funny story, so that we can't tell whether her feelings are hurt, or whether she has already written Darcy off as too disagreeable to be bothered with.
NOTE: With a few quick strokes of dialogue and action, this scene sets up several contrasts: Bingley's attitudes are contrasted to Darcy's; Jane's personality is contrasted to Elizabeth's. What's more, two beginning love affairs are contrasted: While the romance of Jane and Bingley starts smoothly, Elizabeth and Darcy manage to antagonize each other from the very beginning. We can look forward to seeing them strike sparks from each other whenever they meet.