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Free Study Guide-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen-Free Plot Summary
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Chapter 16

Summary

The following evening, the Bennet girls, Mr. Collins, and Wickham assemble at Mrs. Philips’ house. Collins finds an earnest listener in Mrs. Philips and rambles on about Lady Catherine and her grandiose mansion.

Wickham seats himself next to Elizabeth, and the two start conversing. Wickham tells her that he has been connected to Darcy’s family from infancy. Darcy’s late father, an excellent man, had bequeathed him a good part of his estate, but Darcy had treated him scandalously. Disregarding his father’s wishes, he gave away Wickham’s share to someone else. This act of backstabbing, Wickham says, compelled him to join the army, although he was brought up to take a role in the Church. When Elizabeth asks Wickham about Darcy’s sister, he replies that she is as proud as Darcy; she is now sixteen years old and is ‘highly accomplished’. He also reveals that Lady Catherine is Darcy’s aunt, and it is believed that Darcy will marry her daughter and, thereby, unite the two estates. Elizabeth returns home with her mind full of Wickham and what he has told her. She wonders how a sweet-tempered man like Bingley could take for a friend a disagreeable man like Darcy.


Notes

This chapter diversifies the plot. Wickham blackens Darcy’s character by giving Elizabeth a distorted account of what took place between himself and Darcy over the estate of Darcy’s father. Elizabeth, who is already prejudiced against Darcy, readily accepts Wickham’s account as truth, overlooking a fundamental discrepancy between what Wickham asserts and what he does. Wickham says that he does not intend to cast aspersions on Darcy’s character, but that is exactly what happens. Wickham also talks at length about Darcy’s pride. Elizabeth agrees with Wickham’s assessment, oblivious to her own prejudice that dwarfs her vision. The irony of the situation is that Darcy’s pride is a catalyst for prejudice, which, in turn, causes a chain-reaction. Wickham’s prejudiced account of Darcy’s prejudice against him, prejudices Elizabeth even more against Darcy, who seems to be prejudiced against everyone! Elizabeth and Darcy must work through a depth of pride and prejudice before their relationship can develop.

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