Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy with neutral expressions on their faces

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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Pride and Prejudice reaches its first climax in Volume 2. In what scene does this climax occur, and what questions hang in the reader’s mind afterward?

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Volume II covers from Chapter 24 to 42. It begins with confirmation of the Bingleys having left Netherfield House and settled in London. Jane goes to London and is snubbed. Elizabeth goes to Rosings to Charlotte and Collins where she meets Lady de Bourgh whose nephews, Darcy and Fitzwilliam, are visiting her. It ends with Lydia going off to Brighton and Elizabeth off to Derbyshire with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner.

In between is Elizabeth's greatest adventure. In Chapters 34, 35 and 36 Elizabeth receives a proposal from Darcy, then receives a letter from him, then studies its contents. As tumultuous as the proposal is,

"I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."

"You have said quite enough, madam. I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been."

even greater things unfold as Elizabeth reads Darcy's letter. The scene revealing her reactions, narrated after we read the whole letter uninterrupted, is the climax in Volume II (Chapter 36). Elizabeth's beliefs are challenged by Darcy's letter and her whole perspective is brought into question, therefore, her whole understanding of herself is challenged and brought into question. This is the most important part in the story thus far and leads to the consideration of what Lizzy will become; what she will make of herself.

Some questions the reader is left with after reading the letter--and rereading it a dozen times along with Elizabeth!--and hearing Elizabeth's reaction to it, are: What is true? How will Elizabeth and Darcy be reconciled if it is true? How could Wickham be so scandalous? Will Elizabeth and Darcy meet again? Will their pride and prejudice be conquered or will it prevail?

She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think without feeling she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd.


After wandering along the lane for two hours, giving way to every variety of thought—re-considering events, determining probabilities, and reconciling herself, as well as she could, to a change so sudden and so important, fatigue, and a recollection of her long absence, made her at length return home ....

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