Chapters 15 and 16 – Pride and Prejudice
Collins is now convinced to ask one of the Bennett girls to marry him.
Mrs. Bennett explains that Jane is as good as spoken for, so he diverts his attention to Elizabeth. Collins joins Elizabeth, Lydia and Kitty on a walk to Meryton, where the younger sisters are excited as they hope to meet some of the Officers stationed there, and in particular, George Wickham, a new arrival.
Wickham impresses Elizabeth with his good looks and charm, and has already
struck up a rapport with her, when Darcy and Bingley ride up. It is clear that Darcy knows Wickham, but they barely acknowledge one another.
The next day, the Bennett sisters visit their mother’s sister, Mrs. Philips,
and Wickham and some other officers are present.
Wickham and Elizabeth soon engage in conversation, and he reveals his relationship with Darcy. His father was Darcy’s father’s steward, and the two boys grew up together. Wickham was favored by Darcy’s father, and when he died he was to have received a position on the estate, but Darcy, out of jealousy, gave this job to someone else. Wickham states that Darcy and his sister are unpleasant people, and Elizabeth agrees with this opinion.
When Elizabeth tells Jane about this, she is sure there must be some
misunderstanding, for Bingley would not associate himself with someone so cruel.
These chapters are all about Elizabeth’s prejudice concerning Darcy.
She laps up all that Wickham says about Darcy, accepting it on face value.
She says to Wickham that Darcy is a proud man, not favorably spoken of by anyone, “Everybody is disgusted with his pride.” Elizabeth is always ready to champion somebody’s cause. This will be demonstrated with Jane, but she now shows this trait with Wickham, suggesting that he should take Darcy to Court over his lost inheritance. She also twists the words that Darcy spoke about his own temperament telling Wickham that he has “an unforgiving temper”.
In total contrast to her behavior with Darcy, Elizabeth is warm towards
Wickham, being sympathetic to his plight, and says of him, “a young man, too, like you whose very countenance may vouch for your being amiable.” Wickham further criticizes Darcy by saying, “all his actions may
be traced to pride; and pride has often been his best friend.”
Elizabeth then goes on to say that she is astonished by the high regard that
Bingley has for Darcy. She is supposed to be an intelligent woman, but her prejudice has blinded her to the obvious. She leaves the question, “How can they suit each other.. Mr. Bingley is a
sweet-tempered, amiable, charming man. He cannot know what Mr. Darcy is.”
The reader must think – Elizabeth, you cannot know what Mr. Wickham is?
We also learn in these chapters that Mrs. Bennett now has the opportunity of
seeing two of her daughters settled. Although Mrs. Bennett considered Collins loathsome, he has undergone a metamorphosis in her eyes now that he is a potential mate for daughter number two.
Collins gives some details concerning his patron, and her connection with
Lady Catherine’s daughter, Miss De Bourgh will eventually inherit a very large fortune and it is planned that the cousins will unite and therefore, join the two estates. This makes Elizabeth smile, and she thinks of poor Miss Bingley who will lose Darcy.