What are the conversational roles between Mr. Collins and Elizabeth in Chapter 19 of Pride and Prejudice?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 19 of Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins, Elizabeth's cousin, is conversing as a suitor for Elizabeth's hand in marriage (laws had not yet made marriage between cousins illegal). Elizabeth is reluctantly listening to Mr. Collins' marriage proposal because her mother insisted that she stay and listen. Her role is the conversation at first is listener and later respondent as she attempts, without any success, to courteously reject Mr. Collins' offer.

The conversation is interesting in part because Collins insists upon perceiving Elizabeth as an "elegant" and "fashionable" young lady who refuses marriage because she intends to build suspense in the suitor's love and accept him on the second or third proposal.

The other part of the interest is that no matter what Elizabeth says, Collins cannot perceive of anything outside the preconception he--and his vanity--has carried into the conversation with him: He is convinced, and insists upon remaining so, that he is a man whom Elizabeth can not possibly refuse based on his ability to stir affectionate feelings and to offer an irreproachable position in life. In other words, he thinks that Lizzie must like him and that he is a great catch with a lot to offer.

Even when Elizabeth denounces him and any "elegant female" designs and appeals to Collins in the identity of a rational "creature," he can only hear and think in terms of the ideas in his own mind. He can not by any means perceive Elizabeth outside of the borders, or the boundaries, of the multiple stereotypes he has conceptualized in his mind and by which he orders his life.

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Pride and Prejudice

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