Jane receives another letter from Caroline Bingley and unhappily reads that the Bingleys have no plans of ever returning to Netherfield. The news leaves Jane depressed and makes Elizabeth angry. She blames Darcy and Bingley's sisters for interfering with her sister's happiness, and resents Bingley for how easily he has been manipulated by those close to him. Elizabeth's mood is lifted somewhat by frequent visits from Wickham, who continues to be attentive to Elizabeth.
Mrs. Bennet's brother and sister-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, come to Longbourn to spend Christmas with the Bennet family. Unlike Mrs. Bennet's other relatives, the Gardiners are well-mannered and intelligent, and Jane and Elizabeth feel especially close to them. Mrs. Gardiner cautions Elizabeth against encouraging Wickham, telling her that the lack of fortune on either side makes the hope of a match between the two of them impractical and irresponsible. Mrs. Gardiner also observes Jane's melancholy and invites her to return to London with them. Jane happily accepts and anticipates being able to see Caroline Bingley while she is there. However, after Jane is in London, a chilly reception from Miss Bingley makes her realize that Elizabeth was correct in her assessment of Bingley's sister as being a false friend to Jane.
Meanwhile, Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas marry and depart for Mr. Collins' parsonage in Hunsford, Kent. Before she leaves, Charlotte asks Elizabeth to visit her soon and Elizabeth reluctantly agrees. In March, Elizabeth accompanies Charlotte's father and younger sister, Maria, to visit Charlotte, whom Elizabeth has begun to miss. On their way to Hunsford, the group stops in London overnight to stay with the Gardiners. While there, Elizabeth and her aunt discuss Wickham's recent courtship of Miss King, an heiress. Mrs. Gardiner views his actions as mercenary, but Elizabeth defends his right to pursue a wealthy bride. Before Elizabeth leaves London, her aunt and uncle invite her to accompany them on a trip to northern England in the summer, and Elizabeth agrees.
As Pride and Prejudice progresses, the novel's carefully balanced structure becomes more apparent. In these chapters, for example, Jane's disappointment in love is juxtaposed with Charlotte's marriage. Notice how neither situation fits with Elizabeth's idealistic view of life. Elizabeth believes that people should marry for love, not security, and has been very vocal on the subject. When faced with the reality of Jane's broken heart and Charlotte's practicality, Elizabeth responds with anger and resentment, unwilling to excuse or understand actions that deviate so greatly from her belief system. This attitude, especially toward Charlotte, is a sign of Elizabeth's immaturity and naiveté at this point in the book. As her beliefs continue to be challenged, however, she will mature.
Elizabeth's refusal to see any viewpoint other than her own is representative of the theme of blindness, or prejudice, that runs through the book. Up to this point, Charlotte has been the main person to question Elizabeth's judgment in such a well-reasoned manner that she makes the reader question Elizabeth's perceptions as well. In these chapters, though, Mrs. Gardiner enters the plot and matches Charlotte's ability to pinpoint Elizabeth's biases and inconsistencies. For example, Mrs. Gardiner warns Elizabeth against encouraging Wickham, stating "You have sense, and we all expect you to use it." She also questions Wickham's interest in Miss King, refusing to overlook the mercenary aspect of his attentions, unlike Elizabeth who readily excuses his actions. Mrs. Gardiner's concerns seem reasonable enough to make the readers wonder if Wickham is perhaps not as trustworthy and likable as Elizabeth believes him to be.
The introduction of the Gardiners to the novel presents a contrast to the rest of Mrs. Bennet's family. Unlike Mrs. Bennet and her sister, Mrs. Phillips, the Gardiners are intelligent, well-mannered, and sensitive. These differences are significant, not only because they show that Elizabeth has some relatives besides Jane that she can be proud of, but it also demonstrates that members of the middle class can be just as refined and well-bred as members of the upper class.
repine to feel or express unhappiness or discontent; complain; fret.
solicitude the state of being solicitous; care or concern.
Encroaching trespassing or intruding, especially in a gradual or sneaking way.
circumspect careful to consider all related circumstances before acting, judging, or deciding; cautious.
impute to attribute (especially a fault or misconduct) to another.
transient passing away with time; not permanent; temporary.
crossed countered; thwarted; opposed.
jilt to reject or cast off (a previously accepted lover).
perverse persisting in error or fault; stubbornly contrary.
canvassed examined or discussed in detail; looked over carefully.
Extenuating lessening the seriousness of (an offense) by giving excuses or serving as an excuse.
candour the quality of being fair and unprejudiced; impartiality.
hackneyed made trite by overuse.
acquiescence agreement or consent without protest.
Gracechurch Street an unfashionable street.
ablution a washing of the body.
imprudence lack of prudence; lack of thought of the consequences.
duped deceived by trickery; fooled or cheated.
adieu goodbye; farewell.
mercenary motivated by a desire for money or other gain; greedy.
avarice too great a desire to have wealth; cupidity.
indelicacy the quality of being indelicate or lacking modesty.
the Lakes the Lake District in northern England.
spleen [Archaic] melancholy; low spirits.
transport to carry away with emotion; enrapture; entrance.
effusions unrestrained or emotional expression.