Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

Chapters 18–23

Summary Chapters 18–23

Summary: Chapter 18

Much to Elizabeth’s dismay, Wickham does not attend the ball. Mr. Denny tells Elizabeth and Lydia that Darcy’s presence keeps Wickham away from Netherfield. Elizabeth’s unhappiness increases during two clumsy dances with Mr. Collins and reaches its peak when she finds herself dancing with Darcy. Their conversation is awkward, especially when she mentions Wickham, a subject Darcy clearly wishes to avoid. At the end of the dance, Elizabeth encounters Miss Bingley, who warns her not to trust Wickham. Elizabeth assumes that Bingley’s sister is only being spiteful, however, and chooses to ignore the warning. Jane then tells her sister that she has asked Bingley for information about Wickham. But everything Bingley knows about the officer comes from Darcy and is therefore (in Elizabeth’s mind) suspect.

Mr. Collins, meanwhile, realizes that Darcy is related to his patroness, Lady Catherine. In spite of Elizabeth’s best attempts to dissuade him, he introduces himself. Darcy treats Mr. Collins with contempt, but Mr. Collins is so obtuse that he does not notice.

At supper, Mrs. Bennet discusses the hoped-for union of Bingley and Jane so loudly that Elizabeth criticizes her, noting that Darcy is listening. Mrs. Bennet, however, ignores Elizabeth and continues rambling about the impending marriage. At the end of the meal, Mary performs a terrible song for the company, and Mr. Collins delivers a speech of epic and absurd pomposity. Elizabeth feels that her family has completely embarrassed itself.

Summary: Chapters 19–21

The next day, Mr. Collins proposes marriage to Elizabeth, assuming that she will be overjoyed. She turns him down as gently as possible, but he insists that she will change her mind shortly. Mrs. Bennet, who regards a match between her daughter and Mr. Collins as advantageous, is infuriated. She tells Elizabeth that if she does not marry Mr. Collins she will never see her again, and she asks Mr. Bennet to order Elizabeth to marry the clergyman. Her husband refuses and, befitting his wit and his desire to annoy his wife, actually informs his daughter that if she were to marry Mr. Collins, he would refuse to see her again.

A few days after the refused proposal, Elizabeth encounters Wickham in Meryton. He apologizes for his absence from the ball and walks her home, where Elizabeth introduces him to her parents. That same day, a letter arrives for Jane from Miss Bingley, informing her that Bingley and his party are returning to the city indefinitely and implying that Bingley plans to marry Darcy’s sister, Georgiana. Elizabeth comforts Jane, telling her that this turn of events is all Miss Bingley’s doing, not her brother’s, and that Bingley will return to Netherfield.

Summary: Chapters 22–23

Suddenly, news arrives that Mr. Collins has proposed to Charlotte Lucas and that Elizabeth’s friend has accepted. Elizabeth is shocked, despite Charlotte’s insistence that the match is the best for which she could hope. Mrs. Bennet, of course, is furious with her daughter for allowing a husband to escape her, and as the days go by with no word from Bingley, Jane’s marriage prospects, too, begin to appear limited.