Chapters 44 to 46 – Caroline’s last throw of the dice
Darcy is exceedingly polite, and clearly in his own territory he is full of
confidence, and is the perfect host.
Of course the Gardiners represent the respectable and sane branch of the Bennett family. They meet with Darcy’s younger sister and she is totally different from Wickham’s description of her.
Bingley and his sisters arrive, and Elizabeth notices through the
conversations the odd wistful reference to her sister Jane. The Gardiners, unlike Elizabeth, soon sense Darcy’s love for Elizabeth. Elizabeth too experiences uncertainty concerning Darcy, and is unable
to sleep. She is also pleased that there is no sign of romance between Bingley and Darcy’s sister.
There is still tension between Elizabeth and Caroline Bingley, and Elizabeth
can now smugly attribute this to jealousy.
Caroline’s attempts to drive a wedge between Darcy and Elizabeth are now desperate. She even makes reference to Wickham, but this just compounds to make her look foolish, and Elizabeth’s calm response highlights Caroline’s jealousy. When Darcy makes the remark that Elizabeth is “one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance”, Caroline realizes that her cause is lost.
Elizabeth receives letters from Jane revealing that Lydia has run away with
Wickham to London, and they are not married. Mr. Bennett has gone in pursuit.
Elizabeth is horrified, and she goes to her uncle for comfort, but is met my Darcy. She breaks down and tells him what has happened. Instead of disapproving, he is supportive and Elizabeth realizes that she loves him, but this scandal will ruin everything. She departs with the Gardiners for Longbourn.
These chapters mark a major turning point for
She realizes that her initial dislike of Darcy was through blind prejudice. This has now dissolved and she discovers that she loves him, but because of this family scandal, she thinks that her chance of happiness has gone. She must consider that her family is poison for the likes of Darcy and his social circle. Darcy had himself in his letter pointed out the shortcomings of certain members of the Bennett household, and just when this seemed to be less important due to his genuine friendship with the Gardiners, Lydia disgraces the family with her elopement.
Darcy feels responsible for Wickham’s actions, for he should have publicly
dishonored him when he tried to elope with his sister.