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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

NOTE: Darcy's letter criticized not only Elizabeth's mother and younger sisters, but her father as well. Although she is her father's favorite and very close to him, Elizabeth also sees his failures-with his younger daughters and with his wife. In this chapter the mood changes to a serious look at the quality of the Bennets' marriage and the relationship of husband and wife.

Mr. Bennet does not behave properly toward his wife. As a girl she had all the charms of youth and beauty to win him, but her ignorance and shallowness soon cooled his affection and respect. He has not consoled himself for the failure of his marriage by drinking, gambling, or pursuing other pleasures-as some men might. But he does indulge himself in ridiculing his wife-in front of their daughters. For a husband to behave in this disrespectful way to his wife encourages her children also to lose respect for their mother. To Elizabeth, this is the wrong way for a husband and father to behave. Her parents are not an example of a happy marriage.



Now Elizabeth's worry about Lydia at Brighton, combined with Mrs. Bennet's and Kitty's complaints about not being there too, make for great unpleasantness at home. Elizabeth begins to look forward to her promised summer tour with the Gardiners, which has been postponed and will also be shorter than planned. They will not have time to go to the Lakes but only as far as Derbyshire.

At this point Elizabeth cannot help thinking of Pemberley, Darcy's estate in Derbyshire-and even of Darcy himself. She laughs at herself for these thoughts. Surely she can set foot in his county without his noticing her! This raises the question of whether she wants him to notice her.

NOTE: Not long ago Elizabeth was sure she never cared to see Darcy again. Now her feelings seem to be changing.

At last the Gardiners arrive, place their four young children in Jane's care, and set off with Elizabeth in their carriage. Soon they come to Lambton, the town Mrs. Gardiner remembers from her girlhood. Pemberley is only five miles away, and Mrs. Gardiner wants to revisit it. A nervous Elizabeth makes excuses not to go there, until she learns from the chambermaid that the Darcy family is away. With the danger of meeting Darcy removed, she agrees to go.

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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
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