Monday, January 28, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapter Thirty-Three

This is where the first half of the book begins to reach its crescendo. People have argued enough about whether or not the book should, properly, be composed of two volumes rather than three to leave me little to say on the subject, except that it seems an appropriate time to slow down and proceed one chapter at a time, because there is so much going on. Something could also be said of Austen's unusual choice in creating a climax smack in the middle of her plot line, but as time is short, this sentence will have to suffice.

Austenesque novels are born out of chapters like thirty-three, for one might endlessly conjecture on what is during this series of events. What is Darcy thinking as he purposefully throws himself in Elizabeth's path?
More than once did Elizabeth in her ramble within the Park, unexpectedly meet Mr. Darcy. -- She felt all the perverseness of the mischance that should bring him where no one else was brought; and to prevent its ever happening again, took care to inform him at first that it was a favourite haunt of hers. -- How it could occur a second time, therefore, was very odd! -- Yet it did, and even a third. It seemed like wilful ill-nature, or a voluntary penance, for on these occasions it was not merely a few formal enquiries and an awkward pause and then away, but he actually thought it necessary to turn back and walk with her. He never said a great deal, nor did she give herself the trouble of talking or of listening much; but it struck her in the course of their third rencontre that he was asking some odd unconnected questions -- about her pleasure in being at Hunsford, her love of solitary walks, and her opinion of Mr. and Mrs. Collins's happiness; and that in speaking of Rosings, and her not perfectly understanding the house, he seemed to expect that whenever she came into Kent again she would be staying there too. His words seemed to imply it. Could he have Colonel Fitzwilliam in his thoughts? She supposed, if he meant any thing, he must mean an allusion to what might arise in that quarter. It distressed her a little, and she was quite glad to find herself at the gate in the pales opposite the Parsonage.
Conjecture regarding Colonel Fitzwilliam's intentions during this chapter abounds. Does he purposely set out to meet Elizabeth? If so, has Darcy sent him? Is he really so innocent regarding who was the unacceptable lady? He knows Darcy met the Bennets in Hertforshire, and he can  probably surmise that it was there the ill-fated love affair took place: does he fail to consider that she could know the people of whom he speaks? Or is this all some flustered attempt at redirection, following Elizabeth's inquiry into Miss Darcy's behavior. Austen leaves us with endless questions: an appropriate state of confusion to help us sympathize with our heroine's emotional state.

Sisterly feeling is one of the strongest forces motivating Elizabeth's actions. She is already inclined to think the worst of Mr. Darcy, but to hear of him boasting of his triumph over Jane whips her into no small state of passion:
That he had been concerned in the measures taken to separate Mr. Bingley and Jane, she had never doubted; but she had always attributed to Miss Bingley the principal design and arrangement of them. If his own vanity, however, did not mislead him, he was the cause, his pride and caprice were the cause, of all that Jane had suffered, and still continued to suffer. He had ruined for a while every hope of happiness for the most affectionate, generous heart in the world; and no one could say how lasting an evil he might have inflicted.
Already prejudiced, Elizabeth's review of the information at hand not only extremely biased, but also of a nature to further flame her indignation:
"To Jane herself," she exclaimed, "there could be no possibility of objection. All loveliness and goodness as she is! Her understanding excellent, her mind improved, and her manners captivating. Neither could any thing be urged against my father, who, though with some peculiarities, has abilities which Mr. Darcy himself need not disdain, and respectability which he will probably never reach." When she thought of her mother, indeed, her confidence gave way a little, but she would not allow that any objections there had material weight with Mr. Darcy, whose pride, she was convinced, would receive a deeper wound from the want of importance in his friend's connections, than from their want of sense; and she was quite decided at last, that he had been partly governed by this worst kind of pride, and partly by the wish of retaining Mr. Bingley for his sister. 
The agitation and tears which the subject occasioned brought on a headache; and it grew so much worse towards the evening that, added to her unwillingness to see Mr. Darcy, it determined her not to attend her cousins to Rosings, where they were engaged to drink tea.
And this is the state in which Mr. Darcy comes upon her.

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