How does Mr.Collins interpret Elizabeth's refusal of his marriage proposal to her?

lit24 | Student

In Ch. 19 Collins proposes to Elizabeth who straightaway makes it plain to him that she is not interested in marrying him. However, Collins assumes wrongly that Elizabeth is only pretending that she does not like him and he tells Elizabeth,

"however your natural delicacy may lead you to dissemble"

Its a classic example of a situation of comical dramatic irony: the completely unromantic lout that Collins is he thinks that Elizabeth is pretending to be coy and hard to get!

A little later, after he has formally proposed to her and has been firmly rejected by Elizabeth he replies to her arrogantly and complacently in the following words:

``I am not now to learn,'' repliedMr.Collins with a formal wave of the hand, ``that it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favour; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time. I am therefore by no means discouraged by what you have just said, and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long.''

Once again, Collins assumes that Elizabeth is really attracted to him and wants to get married to him but that she is only playing hard to get and teasing him in the conventional manner of all young women.

However, Elizabeth firmly rejects him saying that she is not the conventional young lady who likes to be proposed to twice and that her rejection of him is final:

``your hope is rather an extraordinary one after my declaration. I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies (if such young ladies there are) who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal.

Even then Collins doesn't give up and remarks that when he next proposes to her she will accept him:

``When I do myself the honour of speaking to you next on this subject I shall hope to receive a more favourable answer than you have now given me;

To which Elizabet exasperatedly replies:

Do not consider me now as an elegant female intending to plague you, but as a rational creature speaking the truth from her heart.''

Finally the truth of the matter sinks into the thick headed Collins and he quits the place in deep embarrassment.

Read the study guide:
Pride and Prejudice

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