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Free Study Guide-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen-Free Plot Summary
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Chapter 56

Summary

Lady Catherine comes charging in at Longbourn "with an air more than usually ungracious". As always, she is cold and haughty; she treats the Bennet family with open contempt, declining all offers of refreshment and remarking about the small size of their property. Lady Catherine asks Elizabeth to walk on the lawn with her. There she tells Elizabeth she has heard a ‘scandalous falsehood’ that Darcy has become engaged to her. She forces Elizabeth to negate the rumor and wants the assurance that Elizabeth will never consent if Darcy should propose. She declares that her daughter and Darcy have been intended for each other from the cradle. She bitterly derides the lack of class of the Bennets and speaks about Lydia’s elopement. The self-assured Elizabeth unflinchingly argues that there is no reason why Darcy or she should not make their own choice about marriage. Lady Catherine is incensed and calls Elizabeth a selfish creature who will ‘pollute’ the shades of Pemberley by her inferior presence.


Notes

This chapter presents the preposterous attack of Lady Catherine and Elizabeth’s noble response. Previously, Elizabeth has borne Lady Catherine’s impertinent intrusions into her private life because she was in the lady’s house, and decorum prevented her from answering back. When Lady Catherine attacks at Longbourn, Elizabeth retaliates with self-respect. In a calm, but assured, manner she vetoes the demands of Lady Catherine, who is stunned by Elizabeth’s undaunted courage. Ironically, Lady Catherine’s unsavory intrusion serves to foreshadow the engagement of Elizabeth and to tie up the plot. Since Elizabeth and Darcy have put aside their pride and prejudices, the stage is set for their union.

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