I would have given the exact same answer Elizabeth did and for the exact same reasons. All she knew of Darcy was what Wickham had told her and her own experience of his arrogance and snobbery. Sure, he was rich, but Elizabeth could not marry a man she could not stand.
Darcy's Proposal and Elizabeth's Reaction in "Pride and Prejudice"
Do you think Elizabeth is justified in her response to Darcy's proposal in "Pride and Prejudice"?Or should she have considered his offer more seriously?
It could be argued that Elizabeth should have accepted Darcy's proposal the first time, simply because her family was in dire need of a future home. However, the whole point of Jane Austen's writing is for her characters to be allowed to have that which her society did not allow, ex., Elizabeth marrying Darcy, out of love, a mismatch socially, which is allowed, and a second chance to have a rich husband with a palatial home. Jane Austen deliberately allows a happy ending in her books, that is part of the charm of reading her novels.
Elizabeth by her nature could not accept the proposal on the first round, because it is her spunk, her unwillingness to compromise her principles that make her so attractive to Darcy, along with her wit, her intelligence and her beauty. She, remember, is not the beauty of the family, Jane is. Therefore, her personality is defined by her intellectual capacity, in conjunction with her acceptable form. She is, Darcy says, one of the handsomest women he has ever met.
Therefore, rejecting him, was a risky move, but, in my opinion, Elizabeth was willing to remain single rather than marry out of need and not love.
The answer to that questions depends upon the view of marriage held by the opinion maker. If the view of marriage is that of Charlotte Lucas, then Elizabeth should have considered the proposal very seriously, and should have accepted. After all, Darcy was offering her a step up in society, and her new fortune would be beneficial to all her family.
On the other hand, judging by Elizabeth's standards, she was justified in refusing him. At the time of the first proposal, she knew little of Darcy beyond that fact that he was respectable and rich. He had always been haughty towards her and stand-off-ish. Beyond that, he had interfered with Jane's happiness, which he himself would later admit was wrong. As Elizabeth was insistent that "none but the deepest love will induce [her] into matrimony", she was right to refuse this man that she disliked.
I will add this last thought... many of Elizabeth's opinions about Darcy are based on prejudices and false accusations. She was justified - but perhaps she could have been a bit more "civil".
The central theme of all Jane Austen's novels is marriage.
In "Pride and Prejudice" she dramatises different perspectives to the institution of marriage.
At one extreme we have the marriages of Lydia and Charlotte for both of whom "marriage was the pleasantest preservative from want."
At the other extreme we have the marriage of Jane-a romantic one with a fairy tale ending.
But it is the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth which dramatises how romance and realism are finally blended in marriage.
Elizabeth's rejection and Darcy's letter of explanation enable both of them to really understand and respect one another.
So, most certainly Elizabeth's rejection of Darcy's first proposal is central to the structure of the plot and development of Darcy's and Elizabeth's personalities.