Chapters 31 to 36 – Darcy
One day, Darcy visits the Parsonage to find Elizabeth
alone, and she takes the opportunity to enquire whether Bingley will return to Netherfield. It doesn’t seem hopeful.
Darcy makes a point of seeking out Elizabeth whilst on her walks, and she
becomes agitated by this.
However, one day she meets Colonel Fitzwilliam, and the conversation turns
to Darcy. He reveals that Darcy is a good friend to have.
He has helped Bingley escape “a most imprudent marriage”, and Elizabeth immediately realizes that he is referring to Jane, although the Colonel knows less. When she is alone, she is full of anger and breaks down in tears, feeling unable to attend dinner at Rosings, so she sends her apologies that she is unwell. When Darcy hears this, he comes to visit her, totally taking Elizabeth by surprise. She is further shocked by Darcy’s declaration of love for her and his proposal of marriage. What further shocks Elizabeth is the manner of his proposal. He speaks of his struggle to deny his feelings, and despite Elizabeth’s “inferiority '' it being a degradation '' there are immense family obstacles”, he is still inclined to make the proposal. Elizabeth has the feeling that she should feel grateful to Darcy for his proposal, but she responds by saying, “I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.” Now it’s Darcy’s turn to be surprised and he asks for reasons for his rejection. She responds by saying it was twofold - firstly, by breaking up Jane and Bingley’s relationship, and secondly, because of his cruel treatment of Wickham. Darcy angrily leaves, and Elizabeth is overwhelmed with emotion.
The next day, she receives a letter from Darcy in which he explains his role
with his friend Bingley where he advised him that in his view, Jane did not love him. He now realizes that this is an error, and bows to Elizabeth’s view of her sister’s feelings, as clearly sisters are very
close. However, he stands by the criticisms that he aired concerning Elizabeth’s mother, and the three younger sisters, believing that they act improperly in public, and are a source of embarrassment.
So far as Wickham is concerned, the truth of the matter is that the position
offered to Wickham on the death of his father was refused. Wickham did not wish to become a preacher, and wished to study law. Darcy gave him '3,000 for his purpose.
This he squandered and tried to elope with Darcy’s sister. Colonel Fitzwilliam can confirm all these facts.
Elizabeth reads the letter several times, and comes to the conclusion that
certain facts are irrefutable, and therefore, the whole letter must be true. She suddenly realizes that she has been blind in regard to her feelings towards Darcy.
Elizabeth’s visit to Kent has involved a steep learning
curve, and over these weeks, the reader has noted that Elizabeth is maturing and now has the ability to change her strong views. This is evident in respect of her view of Charlotte’s marriage. If she can
blend this maturity with her spirit, she will become a formidable woman. She is not like the rest of her party, intimated by Lady Catherine, and stands up to her, causing some embarrassment to the rest of her
company. However, her sparring with Lady Catherine is merely a preliminary encounter, which will be repeated towards the end of the story.
Through Elizabeth’s ability to converse vibrantly with Lady Catherine and
Darcy, Austen enables the plot to advance. In fact the dialogue between Elizabeth and Darcy is a key element of Pride and Prejudice.
The reader experiences some frustration regarding Elizabeth and her failure
to see Darcy’s feelings for her.
She regards his attentiveness as an annoyance. Before these two can come together, both must undergo a change. Elizabeth has to lose her prejudice, and Darcy has to lose his pride. Darcy’s timing regarding his proposal of marriage is poor. It comes when Elizabeth’s anger and annoyance at Darcy is at its height.
These chapters mark the climax of the plot. It is important that the
reader pays particular attention to Chapter 35, which is almost entirely made up of Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth. Up until now, the book has been narrated from Elizabeth’s point of view, but Darcy’s letter
gives the reader an insight into his character, and by the time we have reached the end, we realize that Darcy is by far the best male character in the novel, and a good match for Elizabeth.
The reader wants these two to end up together, but how can this now happen with what has passed between them?
It is clear from the letter that Darcy is concerned that she will not read,
so he soon appeals to her sense of justice. Remember, Elizabeth has accused him of ruining the happiness of her most beloved sister, of reducing Wickham to poverty through cruelty, and manipulating Bingley in
order to suit their social circle. Darcy comes over as an honest man, and he does not flinch from illustrating the shortcomings of some of the members of the Bennett household, to which Elizabeth has to agree.
However, in the end, the letter is an apology showing that he is willing to give up some pride. Will Elizabeth be less prejudiced?
Again Austen uses irony regarding the two main themes of the book – pride
and prejudice – for Darcy has accused Elizabeth of being proud, and Elizabeth accuses Darcy of being prejudiced against Wickham. So, in different ways, both main characters have been guilty of pride and prejudice.