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Pride & Prejudice: Chapter 21

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This commentary was prepared by Karmayogi of The Mother’s Service Society (India). See karmayogi.net or MSS Research. The Comments column is intended for brief insightful remarks on the text. For longer comments or questions use the Talk page of this article or create a new article and add a link in the comments section of this page or under the appropriate heading on P&P project mainpage.



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The discussion of Mr. Collins's offer was now nearly at an end, and Elizabeth had only to suffer from the uncomfortable feelings necessarily attending it, and occasionally from some peevish allusion of her mother. As for the gentleman himself, his feelings were chiefly expressed, not by embarrassment or dejection, or by trying to avoid her, but by stiffness of manner and resentful silence. He scarcely ever spoke to her, and the assiduous attentions which he had been so sensible of himself were transferred for the rest of the day to Miss Lucas, whose civility in listening to him, was a seasonable relief to them all, and especially to her friend.

1
  • Civility in listening to Collins is direct encouragement to him.

The morrow produced no abatement of Mrs. Bennet's ill-humour or ill-health. Mr. Collins was also in the same state of angry pride. Elizabeth had hoped that his resentment might shorten his visit, but his plan did not appear in the least affected by it. He was always to have gone on Saturday, and to Saturday he still meant to stay.

4
  • Mr. Collins not shortening the visit creates the opportunity for lovemaking.

21 collins Pride and Prejudice

After breakfast the girls walked to Meryton, to inquire if Mr. Wickham were returned, and to lament over his absence from the Netherfield ball. He joined them on their entering the town, and attended them to their aunt's, where his regret and vexation, and the concern of everybody, was well talked over. -- To Elizabeth, however, he voluntarily acknowledged that the necessity of his absence had been self-imposed.

8
  • The next day Wickham’s arrival eclipses Collins. Wickham reverses himself 180º. His explanation is perfectly acceptable to Elizabeth. There is no studying of character, motive, etc. she wants to honour him with the introduction to her parents. She is in love. She sees only the charm of Wickham. It directly brings the life response of Bingley leaving forever. The girls do not see their role in bringing it about. They diligently design a scapegoat in Caroline and Darcy.
  • Wickham voluntarily explained his absence to Elizabeth. This is behaviour of gentlemen not to wait for the other to ask. He is subtle enough to adopt the behaviour of a gentleman to hide his blatant falsehood. She is determined to adore him and adores him in toto. His ruse is understood as his forbearance by the heart in love. It is the logic of romantic attraction. Wickham pays her attention as she was the brightest. Her brightness is enough attraction except to stupid Bingley. It could have made him assume she was a heiress. She feels all the compliment of his attention. For once she was in love and tasted that noble sentiment though he who inspired was undeserving and felt none for her. Behaviour can be that powerful. Especially with such a handsome face and a striking countenance, it is not a wonder she totally fell for him once and for all
  • Wickham’s contradictory explanations are acceptable to Lizzy.
  • Love feels confirmation in contradiction.

"I found," said he, "as the time drew near, that I had better not meet Mr. Darcy; -- that to be in the same room, the same party with him for so many hours together, might be more than I could bear, and that scenes might arise unpleasant to more than myself."

11

She highly approved his forbearance, and they had leisure for a full discussion of it, and for all the commendation which they civilly bestowed on each other, as Wickham and another officer walked back with them to Longbourn, and during the walk he particularly attended to her. His accompanying them was a double advantage; she felt all the compliment it offered to herself, and it was most acceptable as an occasion of introducing him to her father and mother.

12
  • Love and liking not only see the falsehood, but see it as a highly commendable attribute.
  • Her approval is responded to by the plane of Time.
  • At the very first opportunity she wants to introduce Wickham to her father.
  • Love celebrates its success by expansion to others.

Soon after their return a letter was delivered to Miss Bennet; it came from Netherfield, and was opened immediately. The envelope contained a sheet of elegant, little, hot-pressed paper, well covered with a lady's fair, flowing hand; and Elizabeth saw her sister's countenance change as she read it, and saw her dwelling intently on some particular passages. Jane recollected herself soon, and putting the letter away, tried to join with her usual cheerfulness in the general conversation; but Elizabeth felt an anxiety on the subject, which drew off her attention even from Wickham; and no sooner had he and his companion taken leave, than a glance from Jane invited her to follow her up-stairs. When they had gained their own room, Jane, taking out the letter, said, "This is from Caroline Bingley; what it contains has surprised me a good deal. The whole party have left Netherfield by this time, and are on their way to town -- and without any intention of coming back again. You shall hear what she says."

14
  • A direct result of commendation of Wickham is the departure of Bingley.
  • Man is oblivious to the traits in him that initiates tragedies.
  • Caroline writes from Netherfield. She could have written from London. Caroline may cut the relationship, but Netherfield where Jane stayed for five days does not like to sever the relationship.
  • Jane tries to maintain the usual cheerfulness.
  • Cheerfulness does not allow work to be spoiled.
  • To Elizabeth Jane is more important than Wickham.
  • No wonder Wickham was lost soon.
  • Jane’s wedding is primarily by the strength of Elizabeth’s good will.
  • Wickham leaves as soon as Elizabeth withdraws her attention.
  • Putting the letter away, she tried to join with her usual cheerfulness in the general conversation”. To Jane it was an opportunity of wedding, not romantic attachment. Had it been so she would have been shocked. Here she comes back with her usual cheerfulness because to her it is a lost opportunity.
  • “Elizabeth was drawn off even from Wickham”. To her, her sister’s Joy is more important than her love of Wickham. It was she who was in love not he. Had it been mutual, Elizabeth would be more involved in love. “A very frequent and most unreserved correspondence” is spoken of by Caroline. In fact, she rarely wrote. That is why she speaks of frequent correspondence
  • Men do not write to women. Caroline writes to Jane.
  • Mrs. Gardiner expected a letter from Darcy to Elizabeth which is unusual.
  • Caroline’s incentive is to cooperate with Darcy.
  • All her attentions to Darcy were rewarded by his fulfilling one desire of Caroline.

21 jane reads letter Pride and Prejudice

She then read the first sentence aloud, which comprised the information of their having just resolved to follow their brother to town directly, and of their meaning to dine that day in Grosvenor street, where Mr. Hurst had a house. The next was in these words: "I do not pretend to regret anything I shall leave in Hertfordshire except your society, my dearest friend; but we will hope, at some future period, to enjoy many returns of the delightful intercourse we have known, and in the meanwhile may lessen the pain of separation by a very frequent and most unreserved correspondence. I depend on you for that." To these high-flown expressions Elizabeth listened with all the insensibility of distrust; and though the suddenness of their removal surprised her, she saw nothing in it really to lament; it was not to be supposed that their absence from Netherfield would prevent Mr. Bingley's being there; and as to the loss of their society, she was persuaded that Jane must soon cease to regard it, in the enjoyment of his.

20
  • Polite manners are not enough to hide real attitudes.
  • “Some future period” means not anymore.
  • ’Very frequent correspondence’ announces absence of it.
  • Elizabeth’s assessment of Bingley’s regard for Jane is true.
  • It is not uncommon for Caroline to have taken leave of Jane personally. Caroline, perhaps, enjoyed fully the triumph.
  • Elizabeth is right about the depth of Bingley’s feelings, wrong about his independent will.

"It is unlucky," said she, after a short pause, "that you should not be able to see your friends before they leave the country. But may we not hope that the period of future happiness to which Miss Bingley looks forward may arrive earlier than she is aware, and that the delightful intercourse you have known as friends will be renewed with yet greater satisfaction as sisters? Mr. Bingley will not be detained in London by them."

24
  • Elizabeth erroneously expects that Bingley will not be detained by them. It is not her understanding, it was her expectation.
  • To Jane, the written word matters which became true in another way “in some future” it was renewed.
  • Caroline’s letter is a tissue of polite lies. She was to swallow all her ploys in the end as Bingley married Jane and not Georgiana. Falsehood hurts only the speaker not his object.
  • It is true that Charles is very much under the control of the sisters and Darcy. But it is also true if a submissive person is dominated overmuch, subconsciously it falls on the perpetrator. In the case of Caroline she was in the end unable to prevent Jane’s marriage, but she furthered Elizabeth’s marriage with Darcy ousting herself.
  • Even Darcy, who tried to prevent Bingley’s marriage with Jane, finds his own marriage would be possible only after Bingley’s marriage. It is a law of life which no one has the power to circumvent

21 jane elizabeth Pride and Prejudice

"Caroline decidedly says that none of the party will return into Hertfordshire this winter. I will read it to you.

27

"'When my brother left us yesterday, he imagined that the business which took him to London might be concluded in three or four days; but as we are certain it cannot be so, and at the same time convinced that when Charles gets to town he will be in no hurry to leave it again, we have determined on following him thither, that he may not be obliged to spend his vacant hours in a comfortless hotel. Many of my acquaintance are already there for the winter; I wish I could hear that you, my dearest friend, had any intention of making one in the croud -- but of that I despair. I sincerely hope your Christmas in Hertfordshire may abound in the gaieties which that season generally brings, and that your beaux will be so numerous as to prevent your feeling the loss of the three of whom we shall deprive you."

29
  • Caroline’s description of Charles is true in the sense that once in London, he would forget anything.

"It is evident by this," added Jane, "that he comes back no more this winter."

32

"It is only evident that Miss Bingley does not mean he should."

33
  • Jane reads the written words, Elizabeth sees the intention.

"Why will you think so? It must be his own doing. He is his own master. But you do not know all. I will read you the passage which particularly hurts me. I will have no reserves from you."

34
  • To Jane, Bingley is his own master.
  • She is blind.

"'Mr. Darcy is impatient to see his sister; and, to confess the truth, we are scarcely less eager to meet her again. I really do not think Georgiana Darcy has her equal for beauty, elegance, and accomplishments; and the affection she inspires in Louisa and myself is heightened into something still more interesting, from the hope we dare to entertain of her being hereafter our sister. I do not know whether I ever before mentioned to you my feelings on this subject; but I will not leave the country without confiding them, and I trust you will not esteem them unreasonable. My brother admires her greatly already; he will have frequent opportunity now of seeing her on the most intimate footing; her relations all wish the connexion as much as his own; and a sister's partiality is not misleading me, I think, when I call Charles most capable of engaging any woman's heart. With all these circumstances to favour an attachment, and nothing to prevent it, am I wrong, my dearest Jane, in indulging the hope of an event which will secure the happiness of so many?"

40
  • Caroline writes about Darcy because in the writing it is sweet.
  • In writing about Bingley’s marriage, Caroline has the vicarious pleasure of her own wedding with Darcy.
  • That Caroline never mentioned it earlier shows there is no reality in the report.
  • At the level of argument, like Mrs. Bennet at the level of initiative, Caroline shuts out any possibility for Jane’s wishes.
  • She was eliminated as thoroughly from Bingley and Darcy.

"What think you of this sentence, my dear Lizzy?" Said Jane as she finished it. "Is it not clear enough? Does it not expressly declare that Caroline neither expects nor wishes me to be her sister; that she is perfectly convinced of her brother's indifference; and that if she suspects the nature of my feelings for him, she means (most kindly!) To put me on my guard? Can there be any other opinion on the subject?"

45
  • Jane is being disillusioned of Bingley’s love, not the insincerity of Caroline.

"Yes, there can; for mine is totally different. Will you hear it?"

49
  • Elizabeth’s view is opposite. Her strong belief in it brings it about.

"Most willingly."

51

"You shall have it in few words. Miss Bingley sees that her brother is in love with you, and wants him to marry Miss Darcy. She follows him to town in the hope of keeping him there, and tries to persuade you that he does not care about you."

52
  • As Caroline’s negative initiatives recoil on her, Elizabeth’s negative beliefs fortify what she believes in.
  • Elizabeth’s insights are true; but to throw her weight on them makes them come to life. Jane’s foolish disbelief helps them not come true.
  • The initiative to move to London is Darcy’s, not Caroline’s. Caroline being the rival of Elizabeth, she feels more intensely against Caroline. The spatial advantage of Caroline gets initial results; the psychological wins later for Elizabeth.
  • Any sister or any friend will try to prevent Bingley from marrying Jane. It is normal, even their duty. Only when it is true love such prevention will be wrong. Here it is a poor girl on the strength of her pretty face wanting to marry a rich man. On Elizabeth’s part, there is no justification. Has she not disapproved of Charlotte’s marriage, disapproved of Lydia’s marriage? What ultimately achieves Jane’s marriage is Darcy’s passion to marry Elizabeth. It was accomplished through the good will of Elizabeth and the passionate dynamism of her mother

Jane shook her head.

55

"Indeed, Jane, you ought to believe me. No one who has ever seen you together can doubt his affection. Miss Bingley, I am sure, cannot. She is not such a simpleton. Could she have seen half as much love in Mr. Darcy for herself, she would have ordered her wedding-clothes. But the case is this: -- We are not rich enough or grand enough for them; and she is the more anxious to get Miss Darcy for her brother, from the notion that when there has been one intermarriage, she may have less trouble in achieving a second; in which there is certainly some ingenuity, and I dare say it would succeed if Miss de Bourgh were out of the way. But, my dearest Jane, you cannot seriously imagine that because Miss Bingley tells you her brother greatly admires Miss Darcy, he is in the smallest degree less sensible of your merit than when he took leave of you on Tuesday, or that it will be in her power to persuade him that instead of being in love with you, he is very much in love with her friend."

56
  • Those who are not simpletons at one level, law requires them to be at another level. At the level of interference with Bingley, Caroline has the upper hand. At the level his emotions go to Jane, she was invalid.
  • Wedding clothes are more important than the wedding or marriage.
  • The dress more easily excites than the relationship.
  • Excitement about the clothes exhausts the energy.
  • Elizabeth ‘s subconscious interest in Darcy is seen in the importance she has for Miss Anne.
  • Jane too is aware of Bingley’s interest in her, but does not openly acknowledge.
  • It is pleasing to hear her speaking of Bingley.

"If we thought alike of Miss Bingley," replied Jane, "your representation of all this might make me quite easy. But I know the foundation is unjust. Caroline is incapable of wilfully deceiving any one; and all that I can hope in this case is, that she is deceived herself."

63
  • Jane is unable to attribute deceit to Caroline as it is beneath her to do so when her mind does not see it.
  • Jane does believe that Caroline is incapable of will fully deceiving anyone. It is Jane’s contribution to the break. ONLY when she reverses this faulty understanding the circumstances begin to change. When a work is accomplished every event and attitude will be positive. All negative attitudes will reverse themselves essentially
  • Jane’s identification with Caroline is so total that any accusation of the one is an accusation of the other.

"That is right. You could not have started a more happy idea, since you will not take comfort in mine. Believe her to be deceived, by all means. You have now done your duty by her, and must fret no longer."

66
  • Jane asks how she could marry Bingley when his sisters are dissatisfied. In fact she does. The truth is work is accomplished by strength. All oppositions bend themselves to suit the situation

"But, my dear sister, can I be happy, even supposing the best, in accepting a man whose sisters and friends are all wishing him to marry elsewhere?"

70
  • Jane thinks of the consent of all the family for her marriage. She is unrealistically naïve and good; such people never lose.
  • No one can marry with the consent of the sisters. Elizabeth’s speaking it out gaining momentum kept Bingley away for ten months.
  • Jane is not unaware of that situation but wishes for the approbation of all members of the family. That keeps the life of the proposal alive.

"You must decide for yourself," said Elizabeth; "and if, upon mature deliberation, you find that the misery of disobliging his two sisters is more than equivalent to the happiness of being his wife, I advise you by all means to refuse him."

71
  • It is noteworthy that instead of imposing her own opinion on Jane, Elizabeth asks her to choose herself thus giving her freedom of action. It is one positive contribution to accomplishment

"How can you talk so?" Said Jane, faintly smiling. "You must know that though I should be exceedingly grieved at their disapprobation, I could not hesitate."

72

"I did not think you would: and that being the case, I cannot consider your situation with much compassion."

74

"But if he returns no more this winter, my choice will never be required. A thousand things may arise in six months!"

75

The idea of his returning no more Elizabeth treated with the utmost contempt. It appeared to her merely the suggestion of Caroline's interested wishes, and she could not for a moment suppose that those wishes, however openly or artfully spoken, could influence a young man so totally independent of every one.

77
  • Elizabeth contemptuously rejects the idea that Bingley would not return. Here Elizabeth, however right in her penetration, overlooks the inability of spineless goodness
  • Bingley is independent, his love is violent, his will is weak and dependent.

She represented to her sister as forcibly as possible what she felt on the subject, and had soon the pleasure of seeing its happy effect. Jane's temper was not desponding, and she was gradually led to hope, though the diffidence of affection sometimes overcame the hope, that Bingley would return to Netherfield and answer every wish of her heart.

79
  • Elizabeth’s assessment is based on her wish as well as understanding.
  • When her own prospects with Darcy gain weight, Jane’s too become proportionately real.
  • Health and emotions go together

They agreed that Mrs. Bennet should only hear of the departure of the family, without being alarmed on the score of the gentleman's conduct; but even this partial communication gave her a great deal of concern, and she bewailed it as exceedingly unlucky that the ladies should happen to go away just as they were all getting so intimate together. After lamenting it, however, at some length, she had the consolation of thinking that Mr. Bingley would be soon down again and soon dining at Longbourn; and the conclusion of all was the comfortable declaration that, though he had been invited only to a family dinner, she would take care to have two full courses.

81
  • The girls have not taken their mother into full confidence.
  • Elizabeth did it again before Lydia went to Brighton.
  • The absence of complete confidence between the children and parents is one cause for the tragedy. It is also the cause of its reversal.
  • Contemplation of Bingley’s return is to Mrs. Bennet two courses of dinner. Physical smallness is glued to the little details of physical objects
  • Mrs. Bennet is not intelligent enough to suspect the truth.
  • When each person takes his own decision, no centre of family decision can develop. What finally achieved is such a centre of action. Moving from the part – independent decision – to the whole – the centre of family decision – is the way of evolution of family culture.
  • Mrs. Bennet thinks of Bingley only in terms of dinner.
  • Thought is centred in action.

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