Last Updated on June 3, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1449
One morning, about a week after Jane’s engagement, Lady Catherine de Bourgh unexpectedly arrives at Longbourn. After engaging in some brief—and rather rude—small talk, Lady Catherine asks to meet with Elizabeth outside. Once they are alone, Lady Catherine declares that Elizabeth must know the reason for her unexpected visit. Astonished, Elizabeth replies that she does not. Lady Catherine says that she has heard a rumor that her nephew, Mr. Darcy, intends to marry Elizabeth, and she accuses the Bennet family of spreading this “scandalous falsehood.” When Elizabeth indignantly denies this, Lady Catherine grows angry, demanding to know whether Darcy has proposed to her. Elizabeth tries to evade her questions, and Lady Catherine accuses Elizabeth of intentionally trying to break up the planned union between Darcy and Anne de Bourgh. Elizabeth counters that if Lady Catherine’s daughter is not Darcy’s choice, he should be free to make another. Appalled, Lady Catherine insists that a marriage to Elizabeth would be a “disgrace” and that no one connected with Darcy would ever speak her name. Elizabeth admits that she is not engaged to Darcy, but when Lady Catherine asks her to promise never to enter into an engagement with him, Elizabeth flatly refuses. Having endured Lady Catherine’s insults for as long as she can bear, Elizabeth insists on returning to the house. Lady Catherine’s insults continue as she prepares to depart, and she declares that a union between Elizabeth and Darcy would “ruin” him and make him contemptible to the world.
Elizabeth cannot stop thinking about her conversation with Lady Catherine and wonders how much Darcy depends on his aunt’s guidance and approval. Mr. Bennet interrupts her silent musings, wanting to share a funny letter with her that he’s just received from Mr. Collins. In his letter, Mr. Collins says he has heard that Elizabeth intends to marry Mr. Darcy. Mr. Collins writes to warn Mr. Bennet that his patroness, Lady Catherine, does not approve of this “disgraceful” match. He also criticizes Mr. Bennet’s decision to allow Lydia and Wickham to visit. Mr. Bennet finds the entire letter very humorous, noting that Elizabeth’s supposed engagement to Darcy is particularly “amusing” because of Darcy’s “perfect indifference” toward her and her “pointed dislike” of him. Elizabeth pretends to be amused but secretly wants to cry, thinking that perhaps her father is entirely correct in believing Mr. Darcy to be indifferent toward her.
Not many days later, Mr. Darcy returns to Longbourn with Mr. Bingley. Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane, Bingley, and Kitty all set out on a walk together, and Elizabeth and Darcy find themselves momentarily alone. Elizabeth takes this opportunity to thank Darcy for his efforts in rescuing Lydia from her impossible situation. Darcy is at first dismayed that Mrs. Gardiner revealed his involvement, but Elizabeth assures him that her knowledge came through Lydia’s thoughtless words. Darcy rejects the gratitude she expresses on behalf of her family, admitting that his sole motivation was to secure Elizabeth’s own happiness. He asks whether Elizabeth still feels the same as she did when she rejected his proposal, and Elizabeth assures him that her feelings have changed greatly. Darcy is elated to hear this and explains that his hopes were raised after his aunt complained about Elizabeth’s stubbornness during their conversation. Darcy apologizes for his previous behavior toward Elizabeth—including his earlier proposal—and Elizabeth admits that she, too, is ashamed to think now of how she treated him. When their conversation turns to Bingley and Jane, Darcy reveals that he confessed his interference the previous winter to Bingley and admitted he was wrong to think Jane “indifferent.”
Back at home, Elizabeth worries about how her family will perceive her engagement to Mr. Darcy. She shares her feelings first with Jane, who is “absolutely incredulous,” as Elizabeth has always disliked Darcy. Elizabeth insists that her past feelings are not relevant and should be forgotten. Still stunned, Jane tries to arrive at a congratulatory acceptance of the news but questions whether Elizabeth really believes that she can be happy with him. Elizabeth swears that she and Darcy will be the happiest couple in the world and eventually convinces Jane of the sincerity of her feelings for Darcy.
Mrs. Bennet then enters and declares that Darcy has accompanied Bingley to Longbourn again, much to her displeasure. She apologetically asks Elizabeth to entertain “that disagreeable man” all by herself so that Jane and Bingley won’t be disturbed. Elizabeth agrees, secretly finding the request quite humorous. Darcy plans to ask for Mr. Bennet’s permission to marry Elizabeth before the evening is over, and Elizabeth plans to break the news to her mother. She has no idea whether Darcy’s wealth will be enough to alter her mother’s negative impression of Mr. Darcy but knows that Mrs. Bennet’s manners are ill-equipped to navigate such delicate terrain.
That evening, Elizabeth watches as Darcy follows her father into the library. Elizabeth anxiously waits outside until Darcy reemerges with a smile—much to her relief. Darcy tells her that her father has requested her presence. Elizabeth finds her father looking anxious, and he asks whether she is out of her senses to accept a proposal from a man she hates. Elizabeth assures her father that she doesn’t like Darcy—she loves him. Though Mr. Bennet has given his approval to Darcy, he has misgivings about the match and encourages her to reconsider, warning Elizabeth that she could never be happily married to a man she doesn’t respect. To put her father at ease, Elizabeth explains how her feelings for Mr. Darcy have changed and deepened over time. Realizing that Elizabeth’s feelings are genuine, her father declares that he could never have parted with Elizabeth to anyone “less worthy” than Darcy. To cement her father’s now favorable impression of Darcy’s character, Elizabeth also reveals Darcy’s involvement in Lydia’s marriage.
After talking to her father, Elizabeth feels as though a heavy weight has been lifted off her and goes to give her mother the news. Mrs. Bennet is utterly amazed and apologizes for her previous dislike of Darcy. She asks what dish Darcy prefers so that she can have it ready for him the following day.
Later, Elizbeth playfully asks Darcy when he fell in love with her, and he replies that he was already in the middle of it before he realized it had begun. Darcy reveals that he came to Longbourn to determine if Elizabeth could ever love him and also to determine Jane’s feelings toward Bingley. He also acknowledges that Lady Catherine needs to be made aware of recent developments and writes to tell her the news. Meanwhile, Elizabeth writes to the Gardiners to tell them the news and invite them to spend Christmas at Pemberley. Caroline Bingley sends her insincere congratulations on Bingley and Jane’s engagement, and Jane replies with more kindness than Caroline deserves. By contrast, Georgiana is truly delighted to hear of her brother’s engagement to Elizabeth. When Lady Catherine receives her nephew’s letter, she is so angry about the engagement that Charlotte—secretly pleased at her friend’s good fortune—decides to visit Lucas Lodge until the storm blows over.
Jane and Elizabeth are both soon married. Mr. Bennet delights in visiting his favorite daughter at Pemberley, and Jane remains at Netherfield only a year before living so close to Mrs. Bennet leaves the Bingleys longing for change. They settle in Derbyshire, only thirty miles from Elizabeth. Kitty’s disposition improves once she is removed from Lydia’s influence and has the chance to spend time with her elder sisters in superior society. Lydia writes to congratulate Elizabeth on her marriage to Darcy and also to ask for money. Elizabeth tries to discourage future requests of this nature, but she does send Lydia some money from her personal savings. Lydia and Wickham move often, always seeking a cheaper place to live and spending more than they should. Caroline Bingley is “mortified” by Darcy’s marriage but still wishes to visit Pemberley, so she learns to treat Elizabeth civilly. Georgiana lives at Pemberley with the Darcys and develops the “highest opinion in the world” of her new sister. Lady Catherine writes a harsh letter to Darcy to condemn his choice of wife, and for a while, all communication between Darcy and his aunt is ended. However, Elizabeth eventually encourages him to reach out to her again, and they reconcile. Both Darcy and Elizabeth are eternally fond of the Gardiners, whom they credit with uniting them.
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