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How is Lizzy embarrassed by her family at the Netherfield ball?

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herecomesheg | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 27, 2009 at 5:14 PM via web

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How is Lizzy embarrassed by her family at the Netherfield ball?

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted April 27, 2009 at 10:47 PM (Answer #1)

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The Netherfield ball (C.18), one of the most important incidents in the novel, takes place on Tuesday, 26th November. Lizzy and her whole family including her father and her sister Mary attend the ball. Elizabeth enters the drawing room of Bingley's house hoping to spend a pleasant evening with Wickham but to her disappointment she learns that he is not present.

This initial disappointment is compounded by her family members serially embarrassing her one after another by behaving in the most indecorous manner possible.

First, it was Mr.Collins who inspite of her admonishing him against it introduces himself to Darcy who treats him with contempt prompting Lizzy's vexation: "it vexed her to see him expose himself to such a man."

Afterwards when they sat down to dinner her mother caused her acute embarrassment and shame by constantly harping upon to Lady Lucas, the advantages of Jane marrying such a rich man like Bingley. Mr.Darcy sat opposite them and he was able to observe Mrs. Bennet's boorish behaviour and overhear all what she was saying and when Lizzy tries to caution her mother not to speak loudly for Mr. Darcy will be able to overhear all that she is saying, Mrs. Bennet loudly remarks, "What is Mr. Darcy to me, pray, that I should be afraid of him?" All Elizabeth could do was to "blush and blush again with shame and vexation."

After supper Mary who was not a competent singer took it upon herself to entertain the company with her songs. As Jane Austen observes, "Mary's powers were by no means fitted for such a display; her voice was weak, and manner affected. Elizabeth was in agonies." Finally her father had to ask Mary to stop.

Next, Mr. Collins exposed himself once again by making a long speech in which he boasted about his abilities and competency as a clergy man in a very vain manner forcing Jane Austen to observe:

"to Elizabeth it appeared, that had her family made an agrement to expose themselves as much as they could during the evening, it would have been impossible for them to play their parts with more spiriti, or finer success."

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