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Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

Chapters 56–61

Summary Chapters 56–61

Darcy and Elizabeth discuss how their love began and how it developed. Darcy writes to inform Lady Catherine of his engagement, while Mr. Bennet sends a letter to Mr. Collins to do likewise. The Collinses come to Longbourn to congratulate the couple (and escape an angry Lady Catherine), as do the Lucases and Mrs. Phillips.

Summary: Chapter 61

After the weddings, Bingley purchases an estate near Pemberley, and the Bennet sisters visit one another frequently. Kitty is kept away from Lydia and her bad influence, and she matures greatly by spending time at her elder sisters’ homes. Lydia and Wickham remain incorrigible, asking Darcy for money and visiting the Bingleys so frequently that even the good-humored Bingley grows tired of them. Elizabeth becomes great friends with Georgiana. She even comes to interact on decent terms with Miss Bingley. Lady Catherine eventually accepts the marriage and visits her nephew and his wife at Pemberley. Darcy and Elizabeth continue to consider the Gardiners close friends, grateful for the fact that they brought Elizabeth to Pemberley the first time and helped to bring the two together.

Analysis: Chapters 56–61

Lady Catherine is the last of the many obstacles facing the romance between Darcy and Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s confrontation with her marks the heroine’s finest moment. This encounter crystallizes the tensions that their difference in social status has created. All of the qualities that Elizabeth has embodied thus far—intelligence, wit, lack of pretense, and resistance to snobbery—are evident in her dialogue. Lady Catherine, with the weight of birth and money on her side, responds to Elizabeth’s brazenness with a snobbishness that reflects her unassailable preoccupation with social concerns and demonstrates her lack of appreciation for the richness of Elizabeth’s character. Elizabeth, of course, has not yet received a new proposal of marriage from Darcy and has no way of knowing if one is forthcoming, but her pride in herself and her love of Darcy allow her to stand up to the domineering Lady Catherine. With the expression of her beliefs, Elizabeth demonstrates the enduring strength of her will and self-respect.

After the dynamic confrontation between these two firebrands, Darcy’s proposal, theoretically the climax of the novel, is almost a letdown. As noted previously, Austen rarely stages successful proposals in full; accordingly, the narrator summarizes Elizabeth’s affirmative response to Darcy’s bid in a brief paragraph. Some critics argue that the novel becomes simplistic in this third and final part—that Darcy’s character changes too drastically from the arrogant figure of the opening chapters. One can also argue, however, that his initial pride feeds to some extent off of Elizabeth’s initial prejudice, and that as one dissolves as its bearer matures, so does the other.

It is the nature of Austen’s novels that romance must win out over all of the obstacles, whether social or personal, that it faces. Just as love triumphs over pride in social status for Darcy, it triumphs over prejudice for Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s friends and family, thinking that she dislikes Darcy, ask her if she is marrying for love; in the end, in Austen, despite the undeniably relevant social issues of class, money, and practicality, this question always proves most important.