Monday, January 28, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Eight, Nine, and Ten

With Elizabeth and Jane entrenched at Netherfield, we begin to see Darcy and Elizabeth's relationship develop. Chapter seven establishes a kinship between them that gets reinforced over the following two chapters, and the common bond is books. I can't help but note that, though MIss Bingley's jealousy has already been aroused, Elizabeth does very little to make herself pleasant to her hostess. We often dwell on Caroline's rudeness, and for good reason, but in the delicate interactions between one female ego and another, it is Elizabeth who appears the bigger B*#!@ is this exchange:
Then," observed Elizabeth, "you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished women."

"Yes; I do comprehend a great deal in it."

"Oh! certainly," cried his faithful assistant, "no one can be really esteemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved."

"All this she must possess," added Darcy, "and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading."

"I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any."

"Are you so severe upon your own sex, as to doubt the possibility of all this?"

"I never saw such a woman, I never saw such capacity, and taste, and application, and elegance, as you describe, united."
Of course, Caroline does set herself up for the set down, rendering it particularly well-deserved.

Chapter nine is one of the more humiliating for our heroine, as her family displays just how embarrassing it can be. None of the veiled insults exchanged between Elizabeth and Caroline are nearly as vile as those Mrs. Bennet now levels at Mr. Darcy, nor are they as undeserved. Elizabeth shows a remarkable degree of concern for Mr. Darcy's feelings, considering how much she professes to dislike him, and goes even farther in consideration of his comfort in chapter ten: "Mr. Darcy smiled; but Elizabeth thought she could perceive that he was rather offended; and therefore checked her laugh." 

One of my favorite exchanges:
"And so ended his affection," said Elizabeth impatiently. "There has been many a one, I fancy, overcome in the same way. I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!"

"I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love," said Darcy.

"Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Every thing nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away."
And another, portrayed here by C.E. Brock (again, image from
"You used us abominably ill," answered Mrs. Hurst, "in running away without telling us that you were coming out." Then taking the disengaged arm of Mr. Darcy, she left Elizabeth to walk by herself. The path just admitted three.

Mr. Darcy felt their rudeness and immediately said, --

"This walk is not wide enough for our party. We had better go into the avenue."
But Elizabeth, who had not the least inclination to remain with them, laughingly answered,

"No, no; stay where you are. -- You are charmingly group'd, and appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoilt by admitting a fourth. Good bye."
Quick note: Elizabeth displays here an advanced knowledge and breadth of study by citing Gilpin's theories on the picturesque, further establishing a contrast between herself and her ignorant relations.

Food break!

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