What opinions is Darcy confirming when he agrees with this quote from Miss Bingley from Pride and Prejudice?
''No one can be really esteemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must posses a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.''
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The quote is part of a conversation which takes place between the Bingleys, Darcy and Elizabeth about what makes an accomplished or distinguished woman. Such a woman must ' greatly surpass what is usually met with' which means she must be more impressive than the women one 'usually' encounters (as if such women can't impress!).
Miss Bingley lists two sets of qualities which the acomplished woman must possess in abundance: ones to do with knowledge and ones to do with manner. A modern reader would consider her first list narrow: why not history or even business for example? They also reflect past -times and preoccupations of the upper class. Elizabeth is not upper class and does not possess some of these accomplishments: her piano playing is poor for example. As regards the second list, the'something' Miss Bingley refers to is no doubt refinement which again suggests the upper class.
Darcy broadly agrees, `All this she must possess...and.... she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading''. Darcy, still to be considered in a state of excessive pride (as the conversation takes place towards the beginning), yet recognises that Miss Bingley's list is not so 'substantial', not so important. What is more important to him is the quality of someone's mind, their intelligence; he proves this when he tells Elizabeth of her 'liveliness of...mind' and that is why he loves her (not for her accomplished piano playing!).
The quote included with this question actually is said by Caroline Bingley in Chapter Eight, when Elizabeth is staying with the Bingleys at Netherfield because of her sister's illness. Caroline Bingley is discussing what an accomplished woman looks like, and as her quote establishes, an accomplished woman must meet quite a few rigorous criteria. Darcy agrees with what she says, but goes on to add something else to the list of qualities:
"All this she must possess," added Darcy, "and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, int he improvement of her mind by extensive reading."
What is interesting is the way that Elizabeth responds to this. She pokes gentle fun at both Darcy and Caroline Bingley by suggesting that their idea of what an accomplished woman looks like is in fact impossible, and no women could meet such a rigorous set of criteria. Yet what Darcy's remark confirms is his pride and also his sense of social etiquette. He has a very clear idea of what a woman in society should look like, and it becomes clear that this is shaped more through his pride than through any actual sense of reality, as Elizabeth establishes. His views are symptomatic of a society where so much was expected of women but so little was afforded to them in the nature of freedom and independence.
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