Friday, July 9, 2010

Reading the Classics with Paul- Pride and Prejudice part III

Enter the Gardiners who visit to talk about plays, fashion, and how clearly crestfallen Jane appears. The Gardiners offer to take her with them to London, which she takes them up on in hopes of running into Mr. Bingley.  Mrs. Gardiner doesn't approve of Wickham and lets Elizabeth know it.  We begin to feel the noose tightening ever so slightly.  There is a rising tension over the couplings that must needs manifest for the purposes of the narrative like the tension of a game of musical chairs.  And off Jane and the Gardiners toddle to London town.

Jane's epistolary recounting of her encounter with Miss Bingley pulls it a bit tighter, as does Mr. Collins' return and impending marriage.  Elizabeth writes to Mrs. Gardiner assuring her that Wickham's affections have shifted to another.  Elizabeth permits Wickham's desire for financial independence, a display of magnanimosity she did not afford Charlotte in her betrothal to Mr. Collins. We, the reader, however, might do well to keep an eye on that Mr. Wickham.  He may be a squirrelly one after all.

Elizabeth visits the Gardiners and she still leaps to the defense of Mr. Wickham's character in conversation with Mrs. Gardiner.  Elizabeth visits Mr. Collins and Charlotte.  They seem to be doing well.  Elizabeth sees Miss de Bough out of a window and says that she will make Darcy an appropriate match ("a very proper wife" were her exact words) as she looks sickly and cross.  While dinner is exceedingly handsome, Lady Catherine is rather the opposite in conversation, having condescended to dine with Elizabeth she proceeds to be condescending throughout.  Lady Catherine seems to be the anthropomorphic representation of the title of the book in a more unsightly manifestation.

Colonel Fitzwilliam shows up, as does Darcy, and soon everyone is dining again.  Darcy and Elizabeth share an awkward moment.  There's the assumption, soon after ascertained, over the marriage intervention just before Darcy drops the bomb.  I was reminded of Jane Eyre when Darcy proposes to Elizabeth out of the blue.  Elizabeth returns the favor and reveals her true feelings about Mr. Darcy.  To put it mildly, their feelings towards one another seem to be at odds, precluding the possibility of a happy marriage.  The distance between the two of them appears at this rather dramatic point in our narrative almost insurmountable vis a vis loving matrimony.  I almost wish I'd chosen this as our stopping point this week as it was a bit of a cliff hanger.

But Elizabeth is naturally stunned.  As she's mooing around the park like a hammered sheep, Mr. Darcy curtly places a written expositional dramatic monologue in her hand and then splits.  His letter is surprisingly detailed.  First, he admits to and defends his intervention with Bingley and Jane.  Then, we get the relationship between Darcy and Wickham from Darcy's point of view.  Given what we're beginning to suspect of Mr. Wickham's character, we are left mulling over the possibility of the truth of Mr. Darcy's testimony.  Elizabeth isn't convinced over the Bingley affair, but finds herself reassessing her estimation of both Mr. Wickham and Mr. Darcy.

How will Elizabeth react?  Is Darcy's version the more accurate one?

Well, true believers, stay tuned and find out in our next week's exciting installment of Pride and Prejudice.  Excelsior!

For this next week, we shall read  through Chapter 45 which, in my book, takes me up to page 252.


  1. I don't know, did people use to act like this. Hardly talk to one another about anything of importance and then ask them to marry? Seems Mr Collins did this, Mr Darcy did this and it also happened in "Jane Eyer". Was it something about the time frame or just these authors?

  2. I really don't know and I wish I did. It seems like this is not otherwise a period of rash decisions and certainly not one of short attention spans. But, yes, it does not appear uncommon at least in the literature of the time for people to up and propose out of the blue to people who didn't even seem to be prospects a minute ago.