was much too embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her
companion added, “You are too generous to trifle with me. If your
feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once.
My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will
silence me on this subject forever.” Elizabeth feeling all the more
than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced
herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave
him to understand, that her sentiments had undergone so material
a change, since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive
with gratitude and pleasure, his present assurances.
This proposal and Elizabeth’s acceptance
mark the climax of the novel, occurring in Chapter 58.
Austen famously prefers not to stage successful proposals in full,
and the reader may be disappointed in the anticlimactic manner in
which the narrator relates Elizabeth’s acceptance. It is important
to remember, however, that the proposal and acceptance are almost
a foregone conclusion by this point. Darcy’s intervention on behalf
of Lydia makes obvious his continuing devotion to Elizabeth, and
the shocking appearance of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in the previous
chapter, with her haughty attempts to forestall the engagement,
serves to suggest strongly that a second proposal from Darcy is
The clunky language with which the narrator summarizes
Elizabeth’s acceptance serves a specific purpose, as it captures
the one moment of joyful incoherence for this supremely well-spoken
character. She accepts Darcy’s proposal “immediately,” the narrator relates,
but “not very fluently.” As Elizabeth allows herself to admit that
her love has supplanted her long-standing prejudice, her control
of language breaks down. The reader is left to imagine, with some
delight, the ever-clever Elizabeth fumbling for words to express
her irrepressible happiness.