Why does Elizabeth refuse Mr.Darcy's proposal the first time?

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Darcy's proposal is an absolute disaster and he is shocked when Elizabeth unleashes her angry refusal of him, but she is absolutely right to feel indignant in the wake of the proposal.  Very early in the novel Elizabeth says she will only marry for love, and while Darcy does declare his affection, he ruins it all by saying that he loves despite her family's inferiority to his own; he loves her despite all his "endeavours" to "conquer" his love.  Elizabeth hears:  your family is an embarrassment and I tried really hard not to love but I do anyway.  Not exactly the stuff to make a lady swoon.  She knows she will reject him even before he finishes speaking.

When she does respond, she calls him out on each of the flaws in his proposal and his character.  She points out that his comments are insulting!  "You chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character?"  She continues from there to point out his role in breaking up Jane and Bingley.  And her final point of contention is the way he treated "poor Mr. Wickham."

In her opinion, his present and past behvior and treatment of her leave a lot to be desired, but it is also his behavior in regards to those around him.  Her preception, false though it is, is that Darcy is a rude, arrogant and mean-spirited man.  Her final taunt is that there is nothing in his character that would even tempt her to say yes. 

By chapter 34 we are about half way through the novel and things are not looking very hopeful for this couple.  We keep reading to see how Darcy and Elizabeth are going to recover from this more than unfortunate proposal.

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