Compare the marriage proposals of Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and Elizabeth's responses.
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Both Collins's and Darcy's proposals are extremely condescending to Elizabeth. Both men give the impression that they would like to marry her in spite of the considerable drawbacks. In Collins's case, he hilariously declares "the violence of [his] affection" but reminds Elizabeth that she is poor and that her "loveliness and amiable qualifications" may not be enough to elicit another proposal.
In Darcy's case, his declaration of love to Elizabeth almost sounds like an admission of defeat. He says, "In vain I have 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." He has battled with his feelings because he sees her family as very inferior to his own. For Darcy, it is not so much a matter of money as the fact that he views Elizabeth's family as ill-mannered and lacking in propriety.
Elizabeth, of course, rejects both proposals, but she is much more vehement in her rejection of Darcy. She is not only angry about the tone of his proposal, but about the way he has treated Jane and Wickham.
Mr. Collins marriage proposal is arrogant - he is convinced that Elizabeth will accept - but it is also flowery and obsequious. He over-explains himself, laying out all his reasons for marrying and explaining the "violence of [his] affection." He insults Elizabeth's fortune by insisting that he is "indifferent to it." He ends by insisting "no ungenerous reproach shall ever pass my lips when we are married." He doesn't even wait for a response. His he assumes they are already engaged.
Mr. Darcy's speech is less flowery and more straightforward. He actually proposes, rather than just declaring that they shall be married. However, he is just as arrogant. He also disparages Elizabeth's family fortune and her family's behavior. He does not outwardly suggest that he assumes she will accept, but the overconfidence in his attitude intimates the same. Here is the narrator's comment of Darcy's attitude at the time: "He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security."
Elizabeth is kind to Mr. Collins and expresses gratitude for his attention. She has been amused by it all and therefore is not angry at his arrogance. Darcy, however, who has seemed to do so much to hurt people that she cares about, receives indignation and anger from Elizabeth, who refuses "to express a sense of obligation."
One of the main themes of the novel Pride and Prejudice is marriage. Austen portrays the many different attitudes to marriage that existed in her time through the medium of her characters. The proposals from Collins and Darcy represent the different attitudes towards marriage, as well as giving a greater insight into their personal characteristics and behaviour.
Collins is Austen’s most comical character and Austen places him at the top of her hierarchy of idiocy. Collins’ proposal is meant to produce a comical scene between him and Elizabeth as opposed to being a very important part of the plot development. Darcy’s proposal however, is one of the major plot developments and is delivered in an entirely different style, suggesting to the reader that it is an important and meaningful event.
Mr Collins’ proposal is one of the most humorous points in the novel. Even before he starts his proposal, Mr Collins shows himself to be a very unromantic man. Before asking Elizabeth for her consent to marriage, he asks for the approval of her mother. This was unromantic, but in Austen’s time it was considered polite to ask for the parents’ permission to propose first.
Austen’s has already established the absurdities in Mr Collins’ speech and manners previously in the novel. However, his proposal raises him to new heights of foolishness. Although, Elizabeth is desperate to get away at first, she is then overcome by the humour of the situation when Mr Collins begins to speak of his feelings running away with him. There are obviously no feelings involved in his offer other than self pride and condescension. Austen’s also states that as he prepare for his proposal, “he set about it in a very orderly manner, with all the observances which he supposed a regular part of the business”. For Mr Collins, this is a business transaction, not the culmination of his love for Elizabeth.
Mr Collins also attempts to make Elizabeth understand the reason for his desire to marry her. However, his explanation exudes a tone of condescension and only works against him.
Rather than complimenting Elizabeth, MR Collins insults her on several occasions throughout his proposal. He tells Elizabeth that her humour is considered to be bad manners and the Lady Catherine won’t accept it. Again, this only emphasises his arrogance and inability to understand and communicate with women
Mr Collins’ attempt at an emotional appeal was also insensitive. He states that he will open up to Elizabeth about his affections. Instead he speaks coldly of fortune and inheritance, emphasising his absent mindedness.
Mr Collins’ proposal was fuelled by his own economic motives, his desire to please the aristocratic Lady Catherine and by Mrs Bennett’s economic fears that Elizabeth will inherit little money when her father dies. However, most women in the nineteenth century would have accepted a proposal such as Mr Collins’ because they had to find a husband who could offer both security and a dependable income, or else they might have to marry beneath their social class.
Darcy’s proposal is one of the most important parts of the novel as it presents the plots climax. Austen has carefully structured the plot so that Darcy’s proposal comes at the height of Elizabeth’s anger towards him. The proposal itself is filled with pride just like Mr Collins’.
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