What does Elizabeth's initial reaction to Pemberley reveal about the significance of property, particularly for women, in the world of Pride and Prejudice?
(Chapter 43[Volume 3] of Pride and Prejudice)
"They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something" (Ch. 43)
Elizabeth's reaction to the grandeur of Pemberley certainly reinforces the significance of property when considering marriage, proposals, and the future. Women, and especially those like the Bennett sisters who had little or no dowry to speak of, had to think in quite mercenary terms when making wedding plans; they could not necessarily afford to think with their heart, but also had to focus on monetary considerations, choosing for themselves a husband who could support and provide for them. The grounds at Pemberley effectively impress and 'wow' Elizabeth; she cannot help but have second thoughts about her hasty refusal of Mr. Darcy's hand upon seeing the grounds and the house.
“And of this place,” thought she, “I might have been mistress!" (Ch. 43).
She briefly reflects on what it would be like to live in so grand an estate, but practicality quickly replaces her daydream as she reminds herself that Darcy probably would not wecome the Gardiners to Pemberley very much, the thought of which saves Elizabeth "from something like regret" (Ch. 43). The immense value and prosperity of Darcy's estate, however, is almost enough to make Elizabeth reconsider her refusal of the proud man.