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Pride & Prejudice: Chapter 36

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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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If Elizabeth, when Mr. Darcy gave her the letter, did not expect it to contain a renewal of his offers, she had formed no expectation at all of its contents. But such as they were, it may be well supposed how eagerly she went through them, and what a contrariety of emotion they excited. Her feelings as she read were scarcely to be defined. With amazement did she first understand that he believed any apology to be in his power; and stedfastly was she persuaded that he could have no explanation to give, which a just sense of shame would not conceal. With a strong prejudice against everything he might say, she began his account of what had happened at Netherfield. She read with an eagerness which hardly left her power of comprehension, and from impatience of knowing what the next sentence might bring, was incapable of attending to the sense of the one before her eyes. His belief of her sister's insensibility she instantly resolved to be false; and his account of the real, the worst objections to the match, made her too angry to have any wish of doing him justice. He expressed no regret for what he had done which satisfied her; his style was not penitent, but haughty. It was all pride and insolence.

1
  • ‘Contrariety of emotions’ do not leave ideas defined.
  • Maybe she expected an apology.
  • Man expects his unjust victim to apologize to him.
  • Self acts by demanding the other to do its work.
  • Contrary emotions cancel each other, leaving no understanding.
  • It is not in the power of the human vital to grant any right to another.
  • She expects him to feel ashamed, but she ends up feeling it.
  • ‘Hardly left power of comprehension’. The prejudice takes all the energy.
  • Moving from one emotion to its opposite energies are expended.
  • Eagerness itself needs energy. Eagerness in another direction can give energy.
  • Impatient to know the next, prevents you from knowing what is before your eyes.
  • Justice is not an emotion. She is looking for confirmation of her opinion.
  • She expects him to be humble, humiliated, penitent, submissive, what a girl expects from the groom.
  • In Wickham it is less emotion and more facts. Jane stirs up the whole family.
  • ‘Her feelings as she read were scarcely to be defined’ as his own feelings as he wrote were scarcely to be defined. He was determined to make her love him by as much as he could change, none of which was in his power. While he felt the bitterest of emotions, he was trying to write the finest of words. The contradiction was in the extreme. None of her words in the recollection would do less than torture him while he wished to think of them as carriers of romance that is sweetest
  • As far as she knew him he was not one who was capable of any apology. She had destroyed his image of him. What could he write and whatever could he feel. She wanted him to apologize but he is incapable of any. Thus, she lost all powers of comprehension but her eagerness to know was in the extreme. Many people do not meet such a moment in their lives. Those who do are not prepared by life to meet it with any equanimity

But when this subject was succeeded by his account of Mr. Wickham, when she read with somewhat clearer attention a relation of events which, if true, must overthrow every cherished opinion of his worth, and which bore so alarming an affinity to his own history of himself, her feelings were yet more acutely painful and more difficult of definition. Astonishment, apprehension, and even horror, oppressed her. She wished to discredit it entirely, repeatedly exclaiming, "This must be false! This cannot be! This must be the grossest falsehood!" -- and when she had gone through the whole letter, though scarcely knowing anything of the last page or two, put it hastily away, protesting that she would not regard it, that she would never look in it again.

10
  • ‘Must overthrow every cherished worth of him’. Facts speak.
  • Astonishment at the fabrication, apprehension of facts, horror at self-discovery – oppressed her.
  • Discredit entirely’. She accepts it entirely.
  • ‘Grossest falsehood’ – what she heard from Wickham
  • Elizabeth’s response to the letter is a normal human response.
  • Mind is perturbed when it hears the opposite.
  • “She read an account of Mr. Wickham with somewhat clearer attention”. The reasons for clarity here are 1) Darcy’s hands are clean and she is totally false; 2) Her interest in Wickham is that of a lover 3) Even Wickham is secondary to her to Jane. With Jane, she is incapable of being reasonable
  • She is unable to accept that Wickham’s account is the grossest falsehood. Therefore, she exclaims, “This must be the grossest falsehood”. It is, but not Darcy’s account, but Wickham’s report. Inner reflects the outer

In this perturbed state of mind, with thoughts that could rest on nothing, she walked on; but it would not do: in half a minute the letter was unfolded again, and collecting herself as well as she could, she again began the mortifying perusal of all that related to Wickham, and commanded herself so far as to examine the meaning of every sentence. The account of his connexion with the Pemberley family was exactly what he had related himself; and the kindness of the late Mr. Darcy, though she had not before known its extent, agreed equally well with his own words. So far each recital confirmed the other; but when she came to the will, the difference was great. What Wickham had said of the living was fresh in her memory, and as she recalled his very words, it was impossible not to feel that there was gross duplicity on one side or the other; and, for a few moments, she flattered herself that her wishes did not err. But when she read and re-read with the closest attention the particulars immediately following of Wickham's resigning all pretensions to the living, of his receiving in lieu so considerable a sum as three thousand pounds, again was she forced to hesitate. She put down the letter, weighed every circumstance with what she meant to be impartiality, deliberated on the probability of each statement; but with little success. On both sides it was only assertion. Again she read on; but every line proved more clearly that the affair, which she had believed it impossible that any contrivance could so represent as to render Mr. Darcy's conduct in it less than infamous, was capable of a turn which must make him entirely blameless throughout the whole.

15
  • ‘Thoughts that could rest on nothing’ – It happens when the thought is ill-defined.
  • When the fact is Wickham is false, she wants to believe he is truthful. So the fact and her idea do not fit together.
  • ‘Collecting herself’ – Her present thought structure is dashed to pieces.
  • Prejudice is a force that compels one NOT to see, to see something different or opposite to what is.
  • She commanded herself – commanded against prejudice.
  • Gross duplicity is there. Only that she is looking for it elsewhere.
  • Facts are formidable. Whether it is global warming or rise in pay, look at the facts.
  • On both sides, it was assertion – now she equates falsehood and truth.
  • Pakistan and India, the criminal and the victim are equated before law till the judgement.
  • To discover FACTS is to be WISE. They change the perspective upside down.
  • She wants Darcy to confirm Wickham’s report. When she finds it is not so, she discredits it
  • Falsehood violently hopes that truth must confirm and accept it, but in reality the opposite happens

36 reading Pride and Prejudice

The extravagance and general profligacy which he scrupled not to lay to Mr. Wickham's charge, exceedingly shocked her; the more so, as she could bring no proof of its injustice. She had never heard of him before his entrance into the -- -- shire Militia, in which he had engaged at the persuasion of the young man who, on meeting him accidentally in town, had there renewed a slight acquaintance. Of his former way of life nothing had been known in Hertfordshire but what he told himself. As to his real character, had information been in her power, she had never felt a wish of enquiring. His countenance, voice, and manner, had established him at once in the possession of every virtue. She tried to recollect some instance of goodness, some distinguished trait of integrity or benevolence, that might rescue him from the attacks of Mr. Darcy; or at least, by the predominance of virtue, atone for those casual errors under which she would endeavour to class what Mr. Darcy had described as the idleness and vice of many years' continuance. But no such recollection befriended her. She could see him instantly before her, in every charm of air and address; but she could remember no more substantial good than the general approbation of the neighbourhood, and the regard which his social powers had gained him in the mess. After pausing on this point a considerable while, she once more continued to read. But, alas! The story which followed, of his designs on Miss Darcy, received some confirmation from what had passed between Colonel Fitzwilliam and herself only the morning before; and at last she was referred for the truth of every particular to Colonel Fitzwilliam himself -- from whom she had previously received the information of his near concern in all his cousin's affairs, and whose character she had no reason to question. At one time she had almost resolved on applying to him, but the idea was checked by the awkwardness of the application, and at length wholly banished by the conviction that Mr. Darcy would never have hazarded such a proposal, if he had not been well assured of his cousin's corroboration.

23
  • Extravagance, profligacy are unpardonable in her eyes. He is only that. He could entirely hide it.
  • Past consecration is powerful. Only now she thinks of his life, there is no positive news about him.
  • To know the past is important. She knew none.
  • She knows of him from himself only. She never thought of it.
  • She was blind, never desired to know.
  • Charm, attraction, fascination are powerful but one-sided.
  • ‘Virtue of the countenance’ is deceptive.
  • Goodness, integrity, virtue so far she never thought of.
  • The greatness of human nature is it will be drawn to falsehood and evil, fully knowing it.
  • Life is perceptive, sensitive, indicative – Miss Darcy came up only the previous day.
  • That awkwardness of application is the reality of life.
  • There is no reason to question the Colonel’s integrity – again an assumption.
  • She now accepts Darcy’s assertion and condemns Wickham.
  • That is the way of life.
  • What prevails is not Truth, but Elizabeth’s Truth.
  • She had no inclination to know the truth of Wickham. It is truly the attitude of a lover
  • She went totally on impression. There was no vestige of truth in his life
  • Only that morning she talked about Miss Darcy. The talk arose as it was in the air

36 wickham Pride and Prejudice

She perfectly remembered everything that had passed in conversation between Wickham and herself, in their first evening at Mr. Philips's. Many of his expressions were still fresh in her memory. She was now struck with the impropriety of such communications to a stranger, and wondered it had escaped her before. She saw the indelicacy of putting himself forward as he had done, and the inconsistency of his professions with his conduct. She remembered that he had boasted of having no fear of seeing Mr. Darcy -- that Mr. Darcy might leave the country, but that he should stand his ground: yet he had avoided the Netherfield ball the very next week. She remembered also that, till the Netherfield family had quitted the country, he had told his story to no one but herself; but that after their removal it had been everywhere discussed: that he had then no reserves, no scruples in sinking Mr. Darcy's character, though he had assured her that respect for the father would always prevent his exposing the son.

35
  • Just then, she recollected how improper it was for Wickham to talk ill of Darcy at his first meeting
  • Each of Wickham’s lies now stands out one by one as lies
  • Impropriety of speaking to a stranger – It is she who made him talk.
  • The indelicacy of putting him before – Charm makes indelicacy delicate.
  • Wickham is not at fault. It is his business to dupe. She is the culprit.

How differently did everything now appear in which he was concerned! His attentions to Miss King were now the consequence of views solely and hatefully mercenary; and the mediocrity of her fortune proved no longer the moderation of his wishes, but his eagerness to grasp at anything. His behaviour to herself could now have had no tolerable motive; he had either been deceived with regard to her fortune, or had been gratifying his vanity by encouraging the preference which she believed she had most incautiously shewn. Every lingering struggle in his favour grew fainter and fainter; and in farther justification of Mr. Darcy, she could not but allow that Mr. Bingley, when questioned by Jane, had long ago asserted his blamelessness in the affair; that proud and repulsive as were his manners, she had never, in the whole course of their acquaintance -- an acquaintance which had latterly brought them much together, and given her a sort of intimacy with his ways -- seen anything that betrayed him to be unprincipled or unjust -- anything that spoke him of irreligious or immoral habits: that among his own connexions he was esteemed and valued -- that even Wickham had allowed him merit as a brother, and that she had often heard him speak so affectionately of his sister as to prove him capable of some amiable feeling; that had his actions been what Wickham represented them, so gross a violation of everything right could hardly have been concealed from the world; and that friendship between a person capable of it, and such an amiable man as Mr. Bingley, was incomprehensible.

41
  • She remembers now nothing that condemned Darcy while in Netherfield. Even Wickham praised Darcy as a brother

36 darcy Pride and Prejudice

She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think without feeling that she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd.

45
  • The truth in Miss King took her away.
  • Either he was deceived of her fortune or gratified by the vanity.
  • The truth is she is interested in Darcy. She wanted to know the truth.
  • She made him talk. He talked what he is master of.
  • A long list of facts come to the mind:
  • Was determined not to see:
    • -- Attention to Miss King – hatefully mercenary;
    • -- Mediocrity of her fortune;
    • -- Either Wickham was deceived of Elizabeth’s fortune or he had been gratifying his vanity.
    • -- Her incautious preference;
    • -- Bingley long ago told Jane of Darcy’s blamelessness.
    • -- Darcy is of value in his own family.
    • -- Darcy is an affectionate brother.
    • -- Bingley’s friendship.
  • Elizabeth realised the truth, and was ashamed of her own vanity. It was due to the attention of one, and the neglect of the other

36 elizabeth Pride and Prejudice

"How despicably have I acted!" She cried; "I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! Who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable distrust. How humiliating is this discovery! Yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself."

47
  • Self-awareness grew:
    • -- prided on my discernment -- leads to a fall;
    • -- valued myself on my abilities – rate on inabilities;
    • -- disdained the generous candour of Jane – Jane is not naïve, Elizabeth is a fool.
    • -- gratified my vanity – it is self-gratifying.
    • -- useless blamable distrust – a gentleman is incapable of suspicion;
    • -- humiliating discovery – true humility
    • -- just humiliation – against the facts
    • -- wretchedly blind as if in love – ‘love’ is no more than wretchedness
    • -- vanity, not love, is the folly – one passes for the other
    • -- pleased by one’s preference, offended by the other’s neglect
    • -- courted prepossession and ignorance – where one feels safe
    • -- driven reason away – it is an inconvenient comparison
  • She remembered Charlotte’s advice in reading Darcy’s accusation that Jane was not in love with Bingley

36 jane Pride and Prejudice

From herself to Jane -- from Jane to Bingley, her thoughts were in a line which soon brought to her recollection that Mr. Darcy's explanation there had appeared very insufficient, and she read it again. Widely different was the effect of a second perusal. How could she deny that credit to his assertions, in one instance, which she had been obliged to give in the other. He declared himself to have been totally unsuspicious of her sister's attachment; and she could not help remembering what Charlotte's opinion had always been. Neither could she deny the justice of his description of Jane. She felt that Jane's feelings, though fervent, were little displayed, and that there was a constant complacency in her air and manner not often united with great sensibility.

56
  • About Jane, Darcy’s explanation is insufficient.
  • A second perusal for a coloured eye is fresh perusal.
  • The known fact – Charlotte’s advice – never comes to mind.
  • Jane’s policy is not to display.

When she came to that part of the letter in which her family were mentioned in terms of such mortifying, yet merited reproach, her sense of shame was severe. The justice of the charge struck her too forcibly for denial, and the circumstances to which he particularly alluded as having passed at the Netherfield ball, and as confirming all his first disapprobation, could not have made a stronger impression on his mind than on hers.

62
  • Shame is a valuable emotion.
  • She herself in vain asked her mother not to speak loudly at Netherfield.
  • She was covered with shame when the letter exposed her family

The compliment to herself and her sister was not unfelt. It soothed, but it could not console her for the contempt which had been thus self-attached by the rest of her family; and as she considered that Jane's disappointment had in fact been the work of her nearest relations, and reflected how materially the credit of both must be hurt by such impropriety of conduct, she felt depressed beyond anything she had ever known before.

64
  • Compliments will always be felt.
  • Good manners is to pay true compliments only.
  • A simple FACT is a great discovery for a liar, dishonest or superstitious person.
  • She noted the compliments to her and Jane

Elizabeth upset Pride and Prejudice

After wandering along the lane for two hours, giving way to every variety of thought -- re-considering events, determining probabilities, and reconciling herself, as well as she could, to a change so sudden and so important -- fatigue, and a recollection of her long absence, made her at length return home; and she entered the house with the wish of appearing cheerful as usual, and the resolution of repressing such reflections as must make her unfit for conversation.

66
  • Giving way to every variety of thought – Thoughts expressed is tension released.
  • Reconsidering events – stopping to lie to oneself.
  • She felt depressed as never before – Depression is not what she ever knew.
  • Determining probabilities – beginning to think normally.
  • She wishes to appear as usual – great resilience.

She was immediately told that the two gentlemen from Rosings had each called during her absence; Mr. Darcy, only for a few minutes to take leave -- but that Colonel Fitzwilliam had been sitting with them at least an hour, hoping for her return, and almost resolving to walk after her till she could be found. Elizabeth could but just affect concern in missing him; she really rejoiced at it. Colonel Fitzwilliam was no longer an object; she could think only of her letter.

67
  • Two gentlemen from Rosings – one she does not want to see, so she missed him. The other is not in her mind. She is in his mind. So he waited that long.
  • Had Fitzwilliam come out in search of her, she may not be seen. One cannot see another in whose mind he is not.
  • She could not even affect missing him. – It is a relief not to meet.
  • The Colonel is no longer an object – For two reasons: 1) Her mind is seriously occupied, 2) the Colonel is the source of the explosive news.
  • Another cause is his sight may bring to her mind Georgiana.
  • Could think only of the letter – Occupied with Self.
  • She rejoiced at missing Darcy – An embarrassment.
  • Darcy came to take leave but she was not there. After the proposal, he wrote a letter, met her in the park, and again tried to meet her. All that shows he was in no way giving her up. Life did not support it at the last time as he was overdoing it

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