The Role of Darcy’s Letter to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice

June 29, 2009

The Role of Darcy’s Letter to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice

By Nidaa’A. Sairafi

In every society, people belong to different classes. Accordingly, they do not have the same kind of education and manners. When two persons who are from opposite classes involve in any relationship especially a romantic one, things will surely complicate. In addition, different classes can lead to great misunderstandings and wrong impressions. To make things work, they both , or at least one of them, need to sacrifice a great deal. Otherwise, it won’t.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a famous classical love novel in the 18th century which includes two different great love stories. One is between Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley which is considered as an example of a romance love and the other is between Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy Fitzwilliam who have a complicated and a secret relation. Those complications and secrecy are because that at the beginning of the novel, Elizabeth stands for prejudice and Darcy for Pride. Hence, the title of the novel (Pena Cervel, Sandra 12).

One thinks that this couple faces many obstacles in their relationship starting from their own first mistaken impressions of each other that guided by Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice and her continues misjudgment to Darcy. Afterwards, there are many events that make Elizabeth’s antagonizing increases to him. But at the second half of the novel , Darcy sends a letter to her which is considered as the turning point of the whole novel. The letter has a very important role to make them overcome all their obstacles and change their opinions that lead to a romantic happiness.

First of all, Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth’s male counterpart, is a tall, handsome and intelligent gentleman. He is well-educated and wealthy and belongs to an aristocrat class. He is the master of the great estate of Pemberley and his high birth and wealth make him overly proud and overly conscious of his social status. In fact, he is a mixture of good and bad qualities that makes anyone misunderstands him. He is an arrogant, proud and snobbish man in the way he talks, behaves or treats others. He looks as a bad and unlovable person throughout the novel. But for his good qualities, they are never shown immediately. As the novel progresses , they start to appear and his real character as well.

Elizabeth‘s admirable qualities are numerous which makes everyone likes her. She is beautiful , lovely and has expressive eyes, but what everybody notices about her is her good sense. She is intelligent, self-confident, and quick-witted. Her honesty, virtue, and lively wit enable her to rise above the nonsense and bad behavior that pervade her class-bound and often spiteful society. But she is not educated and have to talent at all. Besides, Darcy and Elizabeth both have the tendency to judge too hastily and harshly.

As it is shown above, Darcy is rich and “represents the high social class” in the society and owns the Pemberley state. His aunt, Lady Catherine de

Bourgh who is a very wealthy woman of the upper class society is in contrast to Elizabeth who represents “the low layer of society” (Pena Cervel, Sandra 7). Elizabeth’s family consists of seven members. She is the second eldest daughter of five children and a mother and a father and they are poor and simple people. Her mother, Mrs. Bennet, is a silly woman who attempts to make her daughters get married by using embarrassing ways.

The big social differences between Elizabeth and Darcy are somehow the reason of the gulf between them which makes their relation more difficult and the reason of building their viewpoints. Because of that Darcy bases his first impression on her poor social standing and her family’s bad behaviors which blinds him to see her many virtues. For Darcy, his pride and self-confidence what makes Elizabeth bases her own impression too. She considers him just as a self-centered, stiff , distasteful and arrogant man in the first scene of the novel when they attend a ball at Netherfield in Bingley’s house. Indeed their opinions and feelings towards each other take for the majority of the novel.

In addition, Elizabeth’s antagonizing increases as the novel develops. Besides their impressions, Elizabeth has many other reasons to dislike him. First, when she accidentally overhears Darcy’s opinion about her in the first time they met when he refuses his friend’s suggestion to dance with her by saying: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me…” (Ch.3,11). This incident happens in the very beginning of the novel which makes her have her first wrong impression. He thinks that she is” tolerable”, not very beautiful, thus she doesn’t attract him which hurts her pride as a woman. He even states that she is not as beautiful as Jane when he tells his friend: “You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room” (Ch.3, 7). Second, what she hears from others as what she hears from the officer Wickham. He tells her that he and Darcy had grown up together and Darcy is a selfish and proud man as he notes in his sly assessment, “For almost all his actions may be traced to pride; and his pride has often been his best friend. It has connected him nearer with virtue than any other feeling. But we are none of us consistent; and in his behaviour to me, there were stronger impulses even than pride” (Ch.16, 61). Therefore, before Darcy’s father died, he promised Wickham a parish in their state but after he died, Darcy disregards his father’s promise. But actually all what he has said is not true. He accuses Darcy and tries to picture him as a bad man who hurts him in many ways.

Furthermore, during a dialogue between Elizabeth and Colonel, Fitzwilliam, Darcy’s cousin, who reveals that Darcy saves his close friend Bingley from an unwise expected marriage. Thus, Elizabeth begins disliking him and treating him unfairly.

However, Darcy starts to like Elizabeth and notices the good sides in her personality. He has strong feelings to her and he proposes to her. But, she rejects him immediately and insults him too. She tells him that she hates him because of two reasons. The first one is his role in separating Mr. Bingley and Jane as Elizabeth says to him: Do you think consideration would tempt me to accept the man who has been the means of ruining, perhaps forever, the happiness of a beloved sister?” (Ch.34 ,143). In addition, his bad and unjust treatment toward Wickham. Besides, he has hurt her pride by insulting her and her family. Darcy’s proposal is insensitive and rude although his feelings toward her is real. He begins his words with telling her that he loves her instead of giving her reasons for marriage as he declares, “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” (Ch.34, 142). Then, the dialogue takes another direction after talking about Wickham and other things, he insults her and her family by explaining that marrying her is a great sacrifice of him because of her low social status when he cries out: “Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?” (Ch.34, 144 – 45).

Furthermore, there are many obstacles in Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship beside their own false opinions. There are smaller obstacles to the realization of the love between them, including Lady Catherine’s attempt to control her nephew, Miss Bingley’s snobbery, Mrs. Bennet’s idiocy, and Wickham’s deceit. First, Lady Catherine who hopes that Darcy gets married to her own daughter. She tries to separate between Darcy and Elizabeth. Moreover, there is Wickham who tries to describe Darcy as a bad person to Elizabeth. While Miss. Bingley wants to keep Darcy for herself and tries to attract his attention. She is jealous of Elizabeth because she wants to marry him . In addition, Elizabeth’s mother, Mrs. Bennet, and her embarrassing attempts to see her daughters married. She tries to convince Elizabeth to accept Mr. Collins. ,Elizabeth’s cousin, as a husband when he proposes to her even though she does know that Elizabeth doesn’t want him. She refuses him because she doesn’t love him and he has a cold, ridiculous, and pompous personality.

At the second half of the novel, Darcy sends Elizabeth a letter to clarify all the reasons of his previous actions. It turns the events till the end of the story. He explains important things that she doesn’t understand before. Things that are said wrongly about him and things he preferred to keep it as a secret. Moreover, the important information that it is included leads to a change in their opinions, feelings and even their actions. It plays a very crucial role to the rest of the novel. Furthermore, this letter gives us a very clear picture about Mr. Darcy himself. It reveals that he is a kind and wise man. Therefore, he doesn’t react crudely when she refuses his proposal impolitely. But he still forgives her ill-treatment and treats her gently although she hurts his pride. In addition, he delivers the letter personally to Elizabeth which shows his honest feelings towards her.

Darcy begins the letter in a very polite manner by saying: “Be not alarmed madam, on receiving this letter“(Ch. 35 ,147) and then he mentions his reasons behind separating Mr. Bingley and Jane. This couple who fell in love and has a lovely and perfect relationship. At the beginning, Bingley likes her and she does too which leads to a strong relationship. But afterwards, their relationship is interrupted when Bingley travelled to London because of Darcy’s opinion about Jane. He thinks that his friend is much in love with her and he is very sincere in his feelings. While Jane doesn’t seem that she loves him as he does. Moreover, she doesn’t declare her feelings which makes him sad and doubtful. So, Darcy suggests the separation for Bingley’s own good.

Secondly, he explains what really happened between him and Wickham. He says that when he gave him the parish, he lost it in gambling. Then when he became broke, he visited the Darcy’s family and pretended he is in love with Georgiana Darcy, Darcy’s young sister, and tried to convince her to elope with him in order to gain money but fortunately he failed. Besides, there is Lydia, Elizabeth’s younger sister, who likes officers very much. “She spends every waking moment thinking about them, shamelessly runs after them, collects information about them, dances with them, and flirts with them(The Principles..). After her first meeting with Wickham with the company of Elizabeth, she was attracted to his good-looking appearance and liked him. Afterwards, when she was with her uncle and aunt, she eloped with him. In fact, he has no intention to marry her and he is not even in love with her. But Darcy saves Lydia’s , and all the family indeed, reputation after the elopement by offering some money to Wickham in order to marry her. On the other hand, in the first appearance of Wickham, he looks as a good person and displays good and respectable manners. He acts as a victim but through the novel his real character is revealed. He tries to convince two young ladies to elope with him in which he succeeds in the second attempt. He is just a good looking person and has nothing else.

After reading the letter, Elizabeth experiences many conflicted feelings. Beginning with regret because of her prejudice that prevents her to live a wonderful life with the man she loves and her misunderstanding all the time of Darcy’s real character. Moreover, she feels ashamed of her rude and unfair treatment towards a good and gentle person. Especially in Wickham’s case because she believes anything she hears from others about Darcy, even bad things, without making sure or asking if it is true or not.

Mrs. Gardiner‘s letter to Elizabeth is equally important to Darcy’s letter. It supports and asserts what are mentioned in his letter. First, she tells her about his involvement in the marriage of Lydia and Wickham and the story as it happened. Darcy tried to convince Lydia to leave Wickham but she refuses. Then , he tried to get her married to Wickham, who has no intention to do so, Darcy offered him some money after which he agreed. Moreover, she concludes the letter by saying that Darcy has done so for Elizabeth’s sake which is a proof of his love. At this point, she realizes that she loves him.

At the end of the novel, Darcy proposes again to Elizabeth and she accepts immediately. She accepts him this time after knowing his real personality and his role in doing great things for her. Moreover, Elizabeth’s rejection to his first proposal represents an awaking call for him. It is the reason from which he recognizes his shortcomings and his pride over others. He is changed and becomes a new person with a new character. He is now aware of what he says and how he behaves. Additionally, “his love for Elizabeth makes him a better person, brings out the excellence of his character” (Sherrod, Barbara).

Two important things make Darcy sends such a letter to Elizabeth. Their importance lays on taking the direction for the rest of the novel in Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship. First, Elizabeth’s rejection for his first proposal. Second, he wants to clarify the wrong and mysterious picture of him to his beloved.

Consequently, the three important things mentioned in Darcy’s letter which played very important roles. The first thing is Darcy’s part in separating Jane and Bingley for the reasons he explained. Then, his substantial help in saving Lydia’s reputation when he offers money to Wickham to get marry to Lydia. Moreover, he reveals Wickham’s real character and the things he did before.

To conclude, one thinks that Mr. Darcy’s letter is the turning point of the novel, especially in Elizabeth and Darcy’s lives because of the important information it includes. Furthermore, it changes Elizabeth’s opinion and feelings towards him. The letter is what makes them open their eyes to the truth and helps them to live happily. As a result of this letter, they now know and understand each other well without any misunderstanding or pride and prejudice.

Works Cited

Austin, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. York Classics ,Place Riad Solh: SAL, 1988

Pena Cervel, Sandra .” Pride and Prejudice: A Cognitive Analysis .” (1997-98).

Sherrod, Barbara. ” Pride and Prejudice: A Classic Love Story “.

The Principles of The Secret in Pride and Prejudice “. www.humanscience.

Com. 24 November 2007. < www.humanscience.wikia.com/wiki/The_

Principles_of_The_Secret_in_Pride_and_Prejudice > [5 May 2009].

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