In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, how does Elizabeth demonstrate her wit in the qoute below from Chapter 58?
Elizabeth longed to observe that Mr. Bingley had been a most delightful friend; so easily guided that his worth was invaluable; but she checked herself. She remembered that he had yet to learn to be laughed at, and it was rather too early to begin. In anticipating the happiness of Bingly, which of course was to be inferior only to his own, he continued the conversation till they reached the house(Ch. 58)
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First, let me address the above post by saying that this quote is not an example of sarcasm, but rather of ironic wit. The difference between sarcastic wit and ironic wit, is that sarcasm is intended to hurt feelings. Elizabeth had no intention of hurting Darcy's feelings, she did however want to point out an amusing irony, even though a true irony.
In this quote Elizabeth is pointing out that Bingley is very easily influenced by Darcy. He was very easily persuaded by Darcy, first, when Darcy advised him not to marry Jane, and then once again when Darcy told him it would be okay to marry Jane. Darcy objected to Elizabeth's suggestion that Darcy gave Bingley "permission" to marry Jane, but Elizabeth believed it to be "pretty much the case" (Ch. 16, Vol. 3/Ch. 58). The irony is not so much that Bingley was so easily influenced twice, the irony is, as Elizabeth wants to point out, that Bingley is such a good friend of Darcy's to be so easily influenced. The irony is that being easily influenced isn't really being a good friend. One wants a friend who can act upon his/her own mind. Darcy is at fault for misapplying Bingley's own natural inclination and disposition, and Elizabeth wants to point that out. Instead, Darcy should start letting Bingley make his own decisions. But Elizabeth knows that Darcy is not quite ready to laugh at how he has controlled and persuaded Bingley.
Elizabeth is being witty because she sees an ironic connection between how Bingley acts as a friend and how Darcy treats him as a friend. It is an amusing connection, because Darcy, who has recently learned so much about his pride, and whom she has learned to love for his genuine heart, has not yet seen the connection.
Ch. 58 is a very important chapter in which Darcy proposes to Elizabeth the second time and on this occasion Elizabeth agrees to marry Darcy:
Elizabeth feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances.
One of the reasons why Elizabeth had rejected Darcy the first time he proposed marriage to her was that she was convinced that Darcy was responsible for preventing Bingley from marrying her sister Jane:
do you think that any consideration would tempt me to accept the man, who has been the means of ruining, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?'' [ch.34].
In Ch.35 Darcy explains to her that it was not he but Jane who by being inhibited and withdrawn was responsible for his advising his friend Bingley not to marry Jane:
Your sister [Jane] I also watched. -- Her look and manners were open, cheerful, and engaging as ever, but without any symptom of peculiar regard, and I remained convinced from the evening's scrutiny, that though she received his attentions with pleasure, she did not invite them by any participation of sentiment.
In the same letter [Ch.35] he accepts the fact that while they were at London during the Christmas season he had managed to convince Bingley against marrying Jane because of her "indifference" and that he had hid the fact from him that Jane was also in London and that she had tried to meet him at his house:
I readily engaged in the office of pointing out to my friend, the certain evils of such a choice. -- I described, and enforced them earnestly. -- But, however this remonstrance might have staggered or delayed his determination, I do not suppose that it would ultimately have prevented the marriage, had it not been seconded by the assurance, which I hesitated not in giving, of your sister's indifference. He had before believed her to return his affection with sincere, if not with equal, regard. -- But Bingley has great natural modesty, with a stronger dependence on my judgment than on his own. -- To convince him, therefore, that he had deceived himself, was no very difficult point.
Darcy meanwhile to prove that he truly loves Elizabeth makes Wickham marry Lydia and also convinces Bingley to marry Elizabeth.
In chapter 58, after Elizabeth has accepted Darcy's marriage proposal she asks Darcy how he had managed to convince Bingley to change his opinion concerning Jane and making him marry Jane - because only four months ago he had advised Bingley not to marry Jane.
To which Darcy replies that, that had never been a problem because Bingley was completely under his control:
His diffidence had prevented his depending on his own judgment in so anxious a case, but his reliance on mine made every thing easy. I was obliged to confess one thing, which for a time, and not unjustly, offended him. I could not allow myself to conceal that your sister [Jane} had been in town three months last winter, that I had known it, and purposely kept it from him. He was angry. But his anger, I am persuaded, lasted no longer than he remained in any doubt of your sister's sentiments. He has heartily forgiven me now.'' [ch.58]
It is then that this quotation, which is actually the 'thought' of Elizabeth occurs. Elizabeth is tempted to make a sarcastic remark concerning Darcy's power and control over his friend Bingley who rejects Jane because Darcy asked him to and then within a matter of a few months again accepts her because Darcy asks him to.
But Elizabeth is a prudent girl and she decides not to make any sarcastic remark just when Darcy is so happy that she has agreed to marry him. She decides quite rightly that it would be too premature to find fault with him on this issue.
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