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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

It is evening, the Collinses have gone to Rosings, and Elizabeth is alone. She is rereading all of Jane's letters, looking for-and finding-evidence that Jane is unhappy. She is growing more and more angry, when suddenly Darcy, the object of her anger, walks in. He has presumably come to learn if she is feeling better. He asks, she answers, and he begins to walk restlessly around the room. Finally he comes to a halt and bursts out: "In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."

Elizabeth is too shocked to speak. Taking this as encouragement, he goes on to tell her all the reasons why he should not have made this proposal. He gives her a most unloverlike description of her family and the inferiority of her social standing as compared with his own. His pride is showing.

Elizabeth is now indignant. What angers her above all is his obvious confidence that she will not refuse him. Now it is his turn to be taken aback: she rejects him. She tells him that even if she did not positively dislike him, she would not marry him, and she gives her reasons. Her first is that he has deliberately ruined the happiness of her beloved sister by separating Bingley from her. Her second is that he cruelly deprived Wickham of the secure future that the elder Mr. Darcy had planned for him.



She ends by telling him that there was no way he could have proposed to her that would have persuaded her to accept him. From the beginning of their acquaintance, his arrogance, conceit, and disregard for the feelings of others have convinced her that he was the last man in the world she could ever marry.

Astonished and mortified, Darcy wishes her health and happiness and leaves the house.

NOTE: In this scene the antagonism of Darcy's pride and Elizabeth's prejudice reaches its climax. It is a scene to note, not only for the strong feelings it brings to the surface, but for its dramatic form. It has been transferred to stage and screen with almost no change. The two leading characters stand face to face, hiding nothing, speaking their true feelings about each other.

Darcy has revealed not only his love but all his objections to a marriage to Elizabeth, yet he is certain that she will accept him. Elizabeth is surprised by his offer, although we have been warned of his feelings toward her. She is flattered by a proposal from a man of his position, but at the same time insulted by his references to her family and her inferior social position, and outraged by his obvious confidence that she will not refuse him. And so, instead of expressing gratitude for his love and regret at causing him pain, she rejects him with all the strongest words at her command.

Both characters speak out of powerful feelings here. Some critics complain that Jane Austen never gets to the hearts of her characters. You might use this scene as evidence to the contrary.

Now the reader is truly in suspense. How can the bitter confrontation between these two leading characters be resolved? Will Darcy continue to be in love with Elizabeth when she has made it so clear that she detests him? And if he continues to love her, how can he ever overcome her antagonism toward him? What defense can he offer for the behavior that she has so severely criticized? What can he possibly have to say for himself?

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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
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