“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Elizabeth’s astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, coloured, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement, and the avowal of all that he felt and had long felt for her, immediately followed. He spoke well, but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority—of its being a degradation—of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.
Darcy’s proposal of marriage to Elizabeth in Chapter 34 demonstrates how his feelings toward her transformed since his earlier dismissal of her as “not handsome enough.” While Elizabeth rejects his proposal, this event marks the turning point in the novel. Before Darcy asks Elizabeth to marry him, she feels only contempt for him; afterward, she begins to see him in a new light, as certain incidents help illustrate the essential goodness of his character. At this moment, however, Elizabeth’s eventual change of heart remains unforeseen—all she thinks of is Darcy’s arrogance, his attempts to interfere in Bingley’s courtship of Jane, and his alleged mistreatment of Wickham. Her judgment of Darcy stems from her initial prejudice against his snobbishness, just as his pride about his high social status hampers his attempt to express his affection. As the above quote makes clear, he spends more time emphasizing her lower rank and unsuitability for marriage to him than he does complimenting her or pledging his love. “He was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride,” the narrator states; Darcy must prioritize love over his sense of superiority before he is worthy of Elizabeth’s hand.