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William Collins (Pride and Prejudice)

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Collins is a great character. He is the son of an illiterate, miserly father, who was Bennet’s younger brother. As the only male in the family, Longbourn is entailed to him. He has exuberant and irrepressible physical energy that has acquired only a crude top-dressing of behavior through a formal education that did little to improve his mind. He has the expansive, exuberant enthusiasm of an undeveloped mind that is no longer in control of its own thoughts. His physical impulses, rather his physical energies, decide the course of his mental volition. Having just recently attained a living as parson at Rosings Park, Collins is overwhelmed by his own accomplishments and his association with Lady Catherine. His visit to Herefordshire appears to be his first appearance in high society. Mrs. Philips modest gesture of inviting him to dinner marks a new highpoint in his life.

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To Collins, his future inheritance, present living and his patroness are great assets, which made him bold enough to propose to Eliza and confident that she would accept. When all his strengths are summarily rebuffed by one who possesses none of them, his confidence is momentarily shaken and he dares not propose to another member of the family. Seeking the security of more modest aspirations, he proposes Charlotte instead. Mrs. Bennet is all approval for Collins, particularly because both are physical. She may even admire his mental equipment, which others despise, as it is something she would wish to acquire. Elizabeth sums up Collins’ character with economy and precision when she describes him as “a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly man".[1]


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Footnotes

  1. P&P, p.121

P&P refers to the Oxford World's Classics edition of Pride and Prejudice, first published in 1980

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