Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Compare the marriage proposals of Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and Elizabeth's responses.

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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...

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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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