Summary and Analysis
Chapters 28-32 (Volume II, 5-9)
The next day, Elizabeth, Sir William, and Maria leave London for Hunsford. When they arrive at the parsonage, Charlotte and Mr. Collins greet them enthusiastically and give them a tour of the house and garden. As they settle in, Maria is excited by the brief visit from Miss De Bourgh, but Elizabeth in unimpressed.
The group is invited to dine at Lady Catherine De Bourgh's residence, Rosings, soon after they arrive. Mr. Collins' dramatic descriptions of Lady Catherine and her home make Sir William and Maria nervous, but Elizabeth approaches the visit with curiosity rather than fright. As Elizabeth observes Lady Catherine, she notices that her ladyship displays tireless interests in the smallest details of life at the parsonage and in the village and never hesitates to offer her opinion or advice. Lady Catherine also turns her attention to Elizabeth and begins querying her about her family and education, and Elizabeth shocks her by initially refusing to disclose her age.
After a week passes, Sir William returns home. Elizabeth spends much of her time walking outdoors, and the group dines at Rosings twice a week. The news that Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam will be visiting Lady Catherine, soon generates some excitement, especially after the two gentlemen call on the parsonage the morning after their arrival. Colonel Fitzwilliam impresses Elizabeth with his gentlemanlike manner, while Darcy remains as aloof as ever.
About a week after Darcy and Fitzwilliam arrive at Rosings, the residents of the parsonage are again invited to dinner. Lady Catherine focuses much of her attention on Darcy, while Colonel Fitzwilliam seems taken with Elizabeth. The colonel asks Elizabeth to play the piano for him, and she complies. Darcy soon joins them at the piano and it is not long before Elizabeth and Darcy become engaged in a spirited conversation about Darcy's reserved behavior among strangers. Elizabeth reproaches him for not trying harder, while Darcy states that he simply isn't able to easily converse with people he doesn't know well.
The next morning, Darcy visits the parsonage and is surprised to find Elizabeth alone. Their conversation begins in a stilted and awkward manner, but soon Elizabeth cannot resist questioning him about whether Bingley plans on returning to Netherfield. Discussion turns to Charlotte's marriage to Mr. Collins, leading to a brief debate over what is an "easy distance" for a woman to be separated from her family after she marries. Charlotte comes home and Darcy soon leaves. Surprised by his presence, Charlotte wonders if Darcy is in love with Elizabeth and closely observes him in his subsequent visits.
After Elizabeth rejected Mr. Collins and then so strongly condemned Charlotte for marrying him, both Elizabeth and the reader cannot help but be curious about how Charlotte is faring in her new role as Mr. Collins' wife. From Elizabeth's observations and the narrator's descriptions, it seems that Charlotte is settling into a marriage very similar to that of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Just as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are mismatched in intellect and common sense, Charlotte and Mr. Collins also display a disparity of temperament. Where Mr. Collins is overbearing and effusive in his interactions with others, Charlotte is well-mannered and modest. When the group first dines at Rosings, for example, the narrator notes the differences between how Charlotte introduces her family and friend compared to how Mr. Collins would have handled it: "as Mrs. Collins had settled it with her husband that the office of introduction should be hers, it was performed in a proper manner, without any of those apologies and thanks which he would have thought necessary."
Additionally, like Mr. Bennet, Charlotte has found ways to distance herself from her exasperating spouse. Mr. Bennet uses his library as a retreat, and Charlotte similarly has chosen a sitting room for herself that Mr. Collins is less likely to invade regularly. Charlotte's approach to Mr. Collins is perhaps more respectful than Mr. Bennet's treatment of Mrs. Bennet, however. While Mr. Bennet responds to Mrs. Bennet's silliness with sarcasm, Charlotte does not react to Mr. Collins' inane statements. As Elizabeth observes, when Mr. Collins says something foolish, "Charlotte wisely did not hear."
Notice how differently Elizabeth views her friend's situation now. Seeing Charlotte's new home and the dynamics of her marriage has given Elizabeth a new appreciation of her friend. Whereas Elizabeth once expressed extreme disappointment in Charlotte for choosing to marry Mr. Collins, she now admires Charlotte's ability to manage her household and her husband. Elizabeth's change of heart here is subtle, but important. It demonstrates a key aspect of Elizabeth's character: the ability to change. Even when Elizabeth feels very strongly about something — in this case, Charlotte's marriage — she can be objective enough to reassess the situation and change her mind. So while she may still not agree with Charlotte's choice of husband, Elizabeth's sense of fairness allows her to eventually accept Charlotte's choice based upon her observations of Charlotte's contentment and well-managed life.
Another important aspect of these chapters is Elizabeth's interaction with Lady Catherine. While Sir William and Maria are frightened by Lady Catherine's overwhelming presence, Elizabeth is unmoved by Lady Catherine's rank or personality and instead demonstrates her ability to stand up to the woman. The establishment of this ability at this point in the book prepares readers for Elizabeth's tenacity in later confrontations with Lady Catherine.
Austen also reinforces Elizabeth's ability to verbally spar with Darcy. As seen previously at Netherfield, Darcy and Elizabeth cannot be in a room together for very long before they begin debating with each other. Although Elizabeth is entertained by Colonel Fitzwilliam, Austen shows little of her dialogue with the colonel. It is only when Darcy enters the conversation that the dialogue is written out, and then the quickness of Elizabeth's energy and intelligence are apparent in every line. In this choice of narrative versus dialogue, Austen conveys the chemistry that exists between Elizabeth and Darcy. Elizabeth may be charmed by Colonel Fitzwilliam's genial manners, but it is Darcy who challenges and stimulates her.
paling a strip of wood used in making a fence; a pale.
ostentatious showy display, as of wealth or knowledge; pretentiousness.
sideboard a piece of dining-room furniture for holding linen, silver, and china.
fender a low screen or frame in front of a fireplace to keep the hot coals in.
vexatious characterized by or causing vexation; annoying or troublesome.
intercourse communication or dealings between or among people, or countries; interchange of products, services, ideas, or feelings.
breeding good upbringing or training.
toilette the process of grooming and dressing oneself.
enumeration the process of naming one by one, or specifying, as in a list.
glazing the work of a glazier in fitting windows with glass.
trepidation fearful uncertainty, or anxiety; apprehension.
antechamber a smaller room leading into a larger or main room.
plate dishes or utensils of silver or gold, collectively.
cassino a card game for two to four players in which the object is to use cards in the hand to take cards or combinations of cards exposed on the table.
anecdote a short, entertaining account of some happening, usually personal or biographical.
The room in which the ladies sat was backwards. The room was in the back of the house.
the commission of the peace for the county a magistrate with jurisdiction over a small district, authorized to decide minor cases, commit persons to trial in a higher court, perform marriages, and so on.
sallied forth rushed out or came out suddenly, like troops attacking besieging forces.
thither to or toward that place; there.
impolitic not politic; unwise; injudicious; inexpedient.