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

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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How did Mr. Darcy propose to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice?

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Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth in an insulting and arrogant manner, telling her that he will marry her despite her embarrassing family. He is surprised when she reacts with utter fury and turns him down. Darcy later apologizes for his pride and arrogance, and when he proposes to Elizabeth a second time, he is accepted.

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Mr. Darcy's first proposal to Elizabeth does not go over well, to say the least. Elizabeth has already formed a distinctly negative impression of Darcy's character, having judged him early on to be prideful and standoffish. She is taken aback by the revelation that Darcy has feelings for her, but the manner of Darcy's proposal only reinforces her belief in his arrogance.

Mr. Darcy's excessive pride is evident during his proposal, which he frames as a magnificent favor that he is bestowing upon Elizabeth. Insultingly, he informs her that he loves her despite the obvious downsides to choosing her as a wife, citing in particular her social "inferiority" and "family obstacles." Though he pretends to be uncertain as to her response, Elizabeth notes that he is clearly confident she will accept him:

...she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security.

To Darcy's astonishment, rather than falling gratefully at his feet, Elizabeth refuses him. Darcy is indignant over her cold response, and when he questions her, Elizabeth cannot restrain her anger any longer. In addition to pointing out the rude style of his proposal, she cites Darcy's behavior toward Wickham and her sister Jane as reasons she would never consider marrying him. As they both become increasingly irate, Darcy defends himself, claiming that while Elizabeth's pride may have been wounded by the lack of flattery in his proposal, he was simply being honest:

Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections?—to congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?

Their conversation ends with Elizabeth furious at Darcy for his insulting proposal and Darcy outraged by Elizabeth's low opinion of him. Darcy later writes Elizabeth a letter more fully explaining his conduct toward Wickham and Jane. After hearing his account, Elizabeth realizes that while Darcy has certainly made mistakes, she was far too quick to cast judgement on him.

The proposal scene is thus a turning point for both characters, forcing each to confront their mistakes and acknowledge how their own flaws have led them to misunderstand one another. From this point onward, Darcy makes an effort to behave in a more open and humble manner, and Elizabeth makes an effort to be more open-minded after realizing how mistaken she was about Wickham and Darcy. When Darcy proposes for the second time, both he and Elizabeth have a much fuller understanding of each other's character and are truly in love. Confident in Darcy's goodness, Elizabeth is happy to accept his second proposal.

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