Describe Mr. Collins's proposal to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Unfortunately, you asked three questions and are only allowed one per post, so I had to edit the second two. Please feel free to ask those questions separately in additional posts.

In chapter nineteen of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Mr. Collins comes to the Bennets' estate to ask Elizabeth Bennet to be his wife. Unfortunately, he picked the one daughter who was most likely to scorn his proposal, no matter how good the proposal was--and it was not very good. In fact, Collins's proposal is more like a business offer.

He begins by giving her a list of the reasons he thinks he should get married, including the fact that he is a clergyman and feels as if he should set the proper example for marriage to his parish. He is also firmly convinced that marriage "will add very greatly to [his] happiness." His third reason, which he suggests is even more important than the first two, is that his benefactress, Lady Catherine de Bourgh has twice "condescended to give [him] her opinion (unasked too!) on this subject."

Her advice to Collins was to "[f]ind such a woman as" he is able, bring his potential wife to meet her, and then she will, in essence, approve his choice. (Lady Catherine's constant help and advice is one of the best things Collins has to offer Elizabeth, he says.) In passing, Collins remarks that Elizabeth's "wit and vivacity" are "acceptable," but only as long as they are toned down by her suitable and solemn reverence for Lady Catherine. 

Collins goes on to explain that the only reason he came here to seek his bride (for there are many acceptable women nearer where he lives) is because Collins will one day inherit this estate and he wants to ensure that, when Mr. Bennet dies, the girls and their mother will have a home offered to them because Collins has married a Bennet girl and will be generous.

He ends his proposal by assuring Elizabeth that he has accepted the fact that she will provide him no income and will graciously forego contesting her dowry since he is "well aware" that her father could not pay much. He assures her that he will never hold a grudge against her for not contributing to his finances.

On that head, therefore, I shall be uniformly silent; and you may assure yourself that no ungenerous reproach shall ever pass my lips when we are married.''

Of course this is a ridiculous proposal, with no mention of love--or even like. It is a business proposition which benefits one person, him, and he acts as if he is doing Elizabeth a favor by making her the offer.

Even worse, of course, is the fact that he refuses to accept her answer (which is obviously no, and she even manages to sound polite when she tells him she doubts if she could ever make him happy). He says he plans to ask again:

"I know it to be the established custom of your sex to reject a man on the first application,"

This is not a proposal which will captivate a heart and ensure wedded bliss; this is a business offer, and only someone who needs to marry under these conditions would ever accept him.

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Pride and Prejudice

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