Classics Club Challenge #7: Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility (Wordsworth blue)Sense and Sensibility
by Jane Austen

published in 1811
First read in the summer of 2009
(without understanding its context, nuance or richness in characterization)
Real perusal on February 19th – 23rd 2015

I daresay I have met my favourite book of all world in Sense and Sensibility.
I had failed to perceive a lot when I was 15, which had as much to do with the deficiency in the language as with the immaturity of the mind. I dare not say I see and understand each valley and every hill of this novel now that I am nearing 21.

Sense and Sensibility is not, as I had assumed all these years, just a portrayal of oppositions. Elinor as a voice of the reason, calm and civil and unaffected and dull. Marianne as the bursting sea of emotions, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, hysterical and dramatic.
In my opinion, Marianne and Elinor are not to be seen as two opposing poles. We all are affected by both traits to varying degrees, just as Elinor’s objective mind can be influenced by a flood of emotions or Marianne’s feelings governed by tact. I do not condemn Marianne for wanting to be honest and thus choosing to remain silent rather than lying. She is an intense person, and intensity doesn’t necessarily equal bad. The defects of her temperament and philosophies come only to light when they influence her behaviour towards other people. The novel, in my mind, is not about vilifying sensibility, but how it might – and usually does – effect the owner’s empathy and civility. Because she feels in extremes, Marianne is quick in judging people and failing to allow them to change or move up in her esteem. She sees the vulgarity and gossip-loving nature of Mrs Jennings and Sir John and makes up her mind that because of their vulgar manners, they are unable of possessing any positive trait. On the other side, her temperament mirrored almost exactly in Willoughby blinds her to everything else and she does not care about hurting other people’s feelings by careless and cutting remarks.
We see the contrast between Elinor and Marianne because while they both have similar reactions to and judgments of the same people, they act differently on their opinions: Marianne huffs and turns away from the society because her compulsion to honesty dictates her to act on her feelings; Elinor acknowledges the ridicules and selfishness of some people, feels a thorough dislike for some of them, but forces herself to act within the rules of the society and civility because her compulsion to adapting to the society dictates her to compromise and mask her true sentiments in a cloak of polite impartiality. And even though she perceives, she does not judge idiocy; she does not condemn people because they are thoughtless and can see events only through their own eyes. I especially like Marianne’s description of civilities as “the lesser duties of life” (Chapter 46) – and there she and her sister are finally in accord.
Elinor’s virtues of keeping her distress in check, accepting what is and moving on, seeing things in an objective manner without romanticizing them are acknowledged by her family only later in the book. They find it commendable that she kept her unhappiness hidden as to not make them unhappy as well. A funny thing; a friend of mine said exactly the same thing to me. She masked her unhappiness behind her smiles and refused to talk about it – the why and what and how – and said she didn’t see why she should involve me in her unhappiness. Sadness itself does not make me feel sad. It makes me feel helpless and empathetic. It was rather her refusal to share it with me that made me sad. I am willing to acknowledge, however, that forcing openness when the other person is not ready to be open can do more harm than good. Maybe I require too much honesty. I do not judge or condemn my friend; I was a little hurt, perhaps, at first. I hope someday she will have enough trust in our friendship to allow me and herself to share her burdens with me.

I personally see more of myself in Marianne. I used to feel with a great intensity during my teenage years and once I’d vowed in my diary that I’d rather feel too much than to be calm and tranquil and insipid. While I have learned to value and cherish the calmness of mind, I have yet to master the calmness of manner as I am still quite impatient with people whose company adds such little value to me. Am I being condescending? Yes. I also acknowledge that I myself am seldom a good company for most people. I am absent-minded and self-centered. I am my own best company, and I struggle to censure myself or to change my behaviour. While it is true that living in total isolation is neither possible (for most of us) nor the best way of living (for most of us? Surely there are some exceptions to everything.), I can fake politeness even though – admittedly – I cannot master it as well as Elinor does.

As John Dashwood says, “there is a vast deal of inconsistency in almost every human character” (Chapter 41), and himself of all people! Anxious for his half-sisters and his stepmother to be well and comfortable yet reluctant to bring these comforts about himself, nay, even finding all sorts of self-justifications as to why he himself just simply cannot spare anything while willing, judging and urging other people to do his duties.
How about Lady Middleton, who is not terribly fond of Elinor and Marianne because they don’t fawn over herself and her children like Lucy and Anne (or is it Nancy?) do, and yet worrying about her image of gentlewoman of good manners?Of Lucy Steele’s small mind and selfish phoniness I have nothing to beautify. Elinor might pity her but I cannot be as generous. I dislike people who lie, deceive and flatter, and I’ll be as open and frank as Marianne to judge them as harshly as I like.

These thoughts and many more have passed my mind while I was reading Sense and Sensibility. I must and will revisit it many times to come. If there is one part I am thoroughly dissatisfied with, it is that everyone who pities and loves Colonel Brandon thinks he deserves a reward for all his past afflictions, and that that reward is supposed to be Marianne. Of course, they do not force her to marry him; but I genuinely dislike that line of thinking, of using someone else entirely for their own reason of “rightness”. They did not act upon their wishes (much) and yet I must censure them for thinking such thoughts, and encouraging such thoughts to flourish.

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Classics Club Challenge #6: Persuasion

Persuasion (Wordsworth black2)Persuasion
by Jane Austen

published posthumously in 1818
First read February 5th – 8th 2015

Since there are quite a number of families involved, kindly allow me to sort them out at first:
Elliots of Kellynch Hall: Sir Walter Elliot, his deceased wife Lady Elliot, Miss Elizabeth, Miss Anne (protagonist) and Miss Mary, later Mrs Musgrove; cousin William Elliot, heir-apparent; Sir Walter, Elizabeth and Anne move to Bath
Musgroves of Uppercross, a neighboring estate: Mr and Mrs Musgroves as family patriarch/matriarch; their children, Charles (who married Mary), Henrietta, Louisa
Hayters: Mrs Musgrove’s family by birth; Charles Hayter is a cousin of Charles, Henrietta and Louisa’s
Crofts: Admiral Croft and his wife; tenants of Kellynch Hall; Mrs Croft is a sister of Captain Wentworth’s
Harvilles from Lyme: Captain Harville and his wife are friends of Captain Wentworth’s
and many more characters who are connected in an intricate way.

My last full-length Jane Austen novel. It is a bittersweet sentiment indeed. Reading Persuasion was a most enjoyable reading experience when it comes to reading classics – excluding children’s classics, I can’t remember ever reading a classic so quickly – devouring, really – and without being bored at all. I think reading Margaret C. Sullivan’s The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England contributed to that enjoyment a lot. It’s the little details that flesh out the overall story. Thanks to this handy guide I could understand why Mary Musgrove was miffed when the Crofts hadn’t offered to take any letters with them to Bath, or why she relished in it when they did offer and said that now she could write as much as she wanted to. The casual mentions of bathing and Pump Rooms were no longer foreign to me, nor the daily routines of Regency ladies.

Alas, I am getting ahead of myself.
After having read all six of Jane Austen’s “mature” full-length novels with varying degrees of understanding, it is my opinion that Persuasion is quite different from the others. The sometimes comical, often amused observations of the society and its inhabitants were rather pushed into the background. It’s emotionally charged, quite direct in its narration and story development, and more forthright and honest. It was – very raw.
The narration observes and remarks at Anne Elliot’s vain and selfish family members – Sir Walter, Miss Elizabeth, Mrs Mary – who are concerned with ranks and superficial etiquettes, etc. Even Lady Russell, who is a dear friend of Anne’s and has her best interests at heart, tends to judge people from their surface – their initial mannerism, their looks, their sense of propriety, etc. In contrast we have the Musgroves at Uppercross, a family by marriage (Anne’s younger sister Mary married Charles Musgrove) that is a bit chaotic and less – refined? – but warm and affectionate. But all of this is cloaked in Anne’s internal agitation of having to face her ex-fiancé eight years after she had broken off their engagement, and the tension between them when they do come face-to-face.
Unraveling that tension is really exquisitely done. Like a frustrating knot in a thread coming slowly and patiently undone, buried resentments and feelings, along with rational and reasonable approach disengage and entwine them, and it all ends in – what else? – a passionate reunion.

Around the stories of two people and their shared past, present and future are other interesting threads adding to the story. Or rather, Anne and Frederick’s story often doesn’t feel like it’s the main plot. Maybe it isn’t, and it wasn’t meant to be. Because around and underneath and over it are all the other things Persuasion has to teach us: deception in characters, being blinded by familiarity and superficial impressions, vanity, money-managing problems, hopes and pitfalls of love, snobbery (and lots of it!), walking the line between much-craved solitude and being rude to company, and this one interesting dialogue between Anne and Captain Harville:

Anne: “We [the women] certainly do not forget you [the men] so soon as you forget us. It is, perhaps, our fate rather than our merit. We cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us. You are forced on exertion. You have always professions, pursuits, business of some sort or other, to take you back into the world immediately, and continual occupation and change soon weaken impressions.”
Captain Harville: “Granting your assertion that the world does all this so soon for men […], it does not apply to [NAME REDACTED]. He has not been forced upon any exertion. […]”
A: “True, very true; I did not recollect; but what shall we say now, Captain Harville? If the change be not from outward circumstances, it must be from within; it must be nature, man’s nature, which has done the business for [NAME REDACTED].”
Cpt H: “No, no, it is not man’s nature. I will not allow it to be more man’s nature than woman’s to be inconstant and forget those they do love, or have loved. I believe the reverse. I believe in a true analogy between our bodily frames and our mental; and that as our bodies are the strongest, so are our feelings; capable of bearing most rough usage, and riding out the heaviest weather.”
A: “Your feelings may be the strongest, but the same spirit of analogy will authorise me to assert that ours are the most tender. Man is more robust than woman, but he is not longer-lived; which exactly explains my view of the nature of their attachments. […]”
[…]
Cpt H: “We shall never agree I suppose at this point. No man and woman would, probably. But let me observe that all histories are against you, all stories, prose and verse. […] I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.”
A: “Perhaps I shall. […] It is a difference of opinion which does not admit of proof. We each begin probably with a little bias towards our own sex, and upon that bias build every circumstance in favour of it which has occurred within our own circle […]. I believe you capable of everything great and good in your married lives […] so long as – if I may be allowed the expression, so long as you have an object. I mean, while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.”
Persuasion, Volume II, Chapter Eleven

Interesting theories (a letter disproves Anne’s latest theory immediately afterwards, by the way) but I dare say I am not the only one who reads other allusions between the lines! Gender inequality! Gender roles! Gender privileges!
The situation has changed so much since 19th century – women can and do work alongside men, even though we still suffer from hidden inequality and prejudices. I wonder whether Anne’s theories would still be applicable.

All in all, I can only recommend you to read, feel and think about Persuasion and what it offers.

P.S.: Here is a video review of Persuasion by Claire (readingbukowski) that made me curious about the book in the first place – a year and a half ago. It’s funny how we use the same words to describe the feelings inspired by the book (she talks about the letter specifically) – “passionate, forward, raw, truthful”. She gives a more extensive overview of important themes portrayed in the book.

Classics Club Challenge #2: Emma

Emma (Wordsworth previous edition)Emma by Jane Austen
originally published in December 1815 in three volumes by John Murray (which is now owned by Hachette UK)
dedicated to the Prince Regent, by his own suggestion

I bought Emma in the summer of 2009 – on August 28th, to be exact, as my scrawl shows. I was fifteen and stupid, and this book was collecting dust until last year.
I started reading Emma around December 2013; I made it past Chapter 10 and a couple more until I set it down. I picked it up and started where I’d left off on March 11th 2014. I finished it eleven days later, on March 22nd.

Like Pride and Prejudice, I have watched a movie adaptation of Emma (some years ago) before reading the book, so I knew vaguely the most important plot points. Because of this, I was never really surprised, but I don’t think it has robbed me of the first-time reading experience, either. In fact, knowing the story beforehand has enhanced it. I couldn’t tell you how or why; I’m puzzled myself.

Emma is about a young woman named Emma Woodhouse (20), who has wealth as well as social rank, and the events that happen in her village, Highbury (which has three big estates – Hartfield, Donwell Abbey and Randalls): there are weddings (in the beginning, middle and end); new people enter the village and cause excitement; Emma makes a new friend in Harriet Smith, an illegitimate daughter of someone and who was abandoned as a baby or small child; Emma acquires a taste for match-making that causes some disastrous results.

Emma is intelligent but lacks the discipline or avid interest to develop her intellect further. She is independently wealthy and since her mother’s death (when she was an infant), she has been acting as the mistress of Hartfield. Emma has an elder sister, Isabella, who has married John Knightley of Donwell Abbey, which makes his older brother, Mr George Knightley, and Emma brother- and sister-in-laws. George Knightley is considerably (17 years, Wikipedia says) older than Emma, and is her friend, confidant and critic.
Emma cares for her old father who is a bit of a hypochondriac, but in a very sweet way. He worries about the health of others, saying that it is too cold or too warm, that people shouldn’t eat so much sweet stuff or drink too much wine, etc. Mr. Woodhouse can be a little bit annoying sometimes, but he was very endearing to me, the way he didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings and worrying too much. Emma is extremely fond of him, and she and George Knightley are the ones who usually smooth over his worries.

Emma is different from the other Austen heroines I’ve encountered so far (who are Elizabeth Bennet, Elinor Dashwood, Marianne Dashwood, Fanny Price, and Catherine Morland). Emma’s a rich heiress, as opposed to the poor (especially Fanny’s situation is dire) or impoverished (Lizzie’s family is just hanging on) situations the other heroines find themselves in. Emma is also the character that Austen has pronounced that no one will like but herself, and it’s easy (for me, at least) to see why. Lizzie is witty and sarcastic, prejudiced but quick to redeem herself; Elinor is a very steady character, the kind of calm woman you look for when in distress; Marianne lives passionately, the kind of burning fire that quite some of us experience in youth; Fanny might be “boring” but she draws a clear line between right and wrong, and sticks to it, which I appreciate; Catherine is naive, but endearingly so.

And Emma?  Emma clearly assumes an air of superiority that comes as much from her heritage as from her pride for her witty, clever self. She meddles with other people’s affairs and thinks she can pierce through their soul to see their feelings. Once she decides she doesn’t like someone, she’s quite definite about it, although maybe not as much as Lizzie.
Her opinion of Harriet Smith also switches back and forth as it suits her. At first she pronounces Harriet to be a beautiful young woman (albeit not especially bright-minded or clever), and she’s flattered by Harriet’s naivety and her female, friendly worship of Emma. She advises Harriet to decline Mr. Martin the farmer’s proposal, saying she can do much better. Then Emma proceeds to play the match-maker between Harriet and Mr. Elton, the vicar, which turns out to be a very bad idea. Still, Emma keeps telling herself and Harriet that Mr. Elton is not the man they thought he was (which is true). And then, when Harriet starts looking up to Mr. Knightley and sets her eyes on him, Emma swiftly announces that action as imprudent and calls her vain. She says something to the effect of How dare she set her eyes on the wealthy, kind, and superior in mind, generosity and intellect gentleman! She’s only an orphan, and an illegitimate daughter of who-knows-whom! And quite stupid. Oh no, I have encouraged her vanity! That’s kind of a double standard. When Emma ruins the marriage prospect between Mr Martin and Harriet, Mr Knightley is at first furious, saying that with Harriet’s status, Mr Martin would have been a very good match for her. Emma argues that it isn’t so; She say that Harriet is still a gentlewoman although her origins are not clear, and that she shouldn’t settle so low. Now Emma’s at despair because Harriet wants to marry a rich, nice and kind man. Well, I’m at loss. I get that Emma has just realized that she’s in love with Mr Knightley herself, so that must have gotten her churned up.
But still, this is the only aspect of the novel I genuinely disliked. Harriet Smith, who is an individual with thoughts and feelings, is tossed around by the characters as it suits them. Instead of guarding her innocence and trying to guide her into developing her own sense of mind so someday she will be able to depend on herself, she is either the sweetest person ever or a fifth wheel. Yes, she sometimes says stupid things. But if everyone who says stupid things should be married to a farmer because of that, the world would need a whole lotta more farmers.

All this aside, I have to say that I did enjoy Emma as a whole and also Emma herself. Yes, she’s sometimes carelessly mean just because she wants to be witty. Yes, she just tolerates “lowly” genteel people because she’s the star of Highbury, a position she wants to keep.
I like Emma, but not because she redeems herself a bit towards the end. No, I grew to like her even before that because she’s human. So full of life and funny, and so petty and ugly sometimes. Isn’t that how we all are? We have agreeable days on which we manage to be compassionate, quick to help others, have a spring in steps, prone to smiles. Then there are other days on which we are irritable, impatient and feeling just a little bit cruel. Some of us regret after lashing out on others. Some probably don’t. Emma never particularly used to regret thinking ill of someone until the Box Hill picnic day. And that’s okay. We weren’t born self-criticizing and regretting our actions. Either we learned to do it gradually, or we had a catalyst like Emma.
So yeah, I like her.

There are other individuals I’d like to briefly touch upon: Miss Bates, Jane Fairfax (I won’t waste my words on Frank Churchill), the Eltons.

Miss Bates is an older lady and a chatterbox. Not in a gossip-y way, but she is a running monologue-holder whose narration exclaims every little detail. Mr. Woodhouse is quite fond of the Bates, and he and Mr Knightley might be the only ones outside the family who listen to her patiently and with interest. Miss Bates used to be quite well off and in a good social standing but now she lives in a small house with her old mother. Yet Miss Bates (who is in her 40s or 50s herself, I think) is never resentful about her situation. She’s quite grateful for what she’s got, and for the people who visit her and her mother. She probably hasn’t been trying much of my patience because her page-long monologues were mentioned only three or four times; but I still admire her cheerful, I-see-only-the-good kind of quality.

Jane Fairfax, niece to Miss Bates, is quite the opposite of Emma. After her parents’ death, she grew up with her father’s friend, the Campbells. But she has no fortune, so she resolves to work as a governess after the summer spend in Highbury. Jane is quiet and reserved, and quite patient with everyone, even with that Mrs Elton. Emma assumes an instant dislike to Jane even before the novel starts (because Jane is no newcomer to Highbury) but the quiet introverted me didn’t mind Jane one bit. Maybe it’s because I knew the reason behind her cold-shoulderedness to Emma.

Now we come to the Eltons, whom I dislike as much as I do Mr Collins from Pride and Prejudice. They are all three so full of themselves, but Mr Collins has the misfortune of being stupid, too. So he has no idea how he sounds when he says egoistic, condescending or stupid (very often all three at the same time) things. The Eltons, however, or conscious of their social surroundings, and adjust their self-compliments and digs at others accordingly. So while I did not have to endure comments as inane as Mr Collins’, knowing what they were actually thinking made me more mad at them. Of all the self-interested, vulgar women he could have married! Really, Mr Elton, your smarmy self has never appealed to me, but after your marriage you got even worse. A lot worse.

Before I put an end to my long, long rambling (and thus your agony of reading it, if you actually have made it so far), I’d like to mention a tiny scene from Chapter 10. It’s when Emma and Harriet go visit the poor people.

“Emma was very compassionate; and the distresses of the poor were as sure of relief from her personal attention and kindness, her counsel and her patience, as from her purse. She understood their ways, could allow for their ignorance their temptations, had no romantic expectations of extraordinary virtue from those for whom education had done so little […]. In the present instance, it was sickness and poverty together which she came to visit; and […] she quitted the cottage with such an impression of the scene as made her say to Harriet, as they walked away, ‘These are the sights, Harriet, to do one good. How trifling they make every thing else appear! I feel now as if I could think of nothing but these poor creatures all the rest of the day; and yet, who can say how soon it may all vanish from my mind? (Chapter 10 of Emma, or p. 69 out of 390)'”

This scene can be interpreted in many ways, I suppose. It could be Austen’s way of showing Emma’s kind and compassionate side. It could be a subtle criticism at rich people that their problems are indeed small and mundane ones compared to the ones of the poor. Or it could be a criticism aimed at Emma herself that while she vows she should never forget these sights (those lines follow the paragraph above), she very soon does. But then again, maybe Austen used Emma as a personification for the careless wealthy, which would in turn be a Criticism #2…
There are many ways for intepretation, I reckon, but for me it was – and is – a personal hit as well.

Pride and Prejudice: Chapters 51 – 61

Pride and Prejudice (Wordsworth edition)

Part V: Chapters 41 ~ 50

Pride and Prejudice: Part VI (Chapters 51 ~ 61)

We are nearing the end of this widely read and loved novel written a couple of hundred years ago.

I will start where I left off: So Lydia and Wickham are finally married and they visit Longbourn before the Wickhams move to the North. Lydia is pretty much the same: prancing, gloating, loud and generally disagreeable. Oh, Mrs Bennet is all joy, but she is the only one, I daresay.
When Lydia drops a hint that Mr Darcy was present at her wedding, Lizzy immediately writes a letter to Mrs Gardiner in hopes that her aunt might enlighten the matter. She then learns that it had been Darcy who has found Lydia and Wickham, as well paying Wickham’s debt and giving him the money so he could get them married.
Mrs Gardiner writes –

“[…] I fancy, Lizzy, that obstinacy is the real defect of his character, after all. He has been accused of many faults at different times, but this is the true one. Nothing was to be done that he did not do himself […] But in spite of all this fine talking, my dear Lizzy, you may rest perfectly assured that your uncle would never have yielded, if we had not given him credit for another interest in the affair. […]
Will you be very angry with me, my dear Lizzy, if I take this opportunity of saying (what I was never bold enough to say before) how much I like him. […] His understanding and opinions all please me; he wants nothing but a little more liveliness, and that, if he marry prudently, his wife may teach him.
[…] Pray forgive me if I have been very presuming, or at least do not punish me so far as to exclude me from P. I shall never be quite happy till I have been all round the park. A low phaeton, with a nice little pair of ponies, would be the very thing. […]” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 52)

Isn’t she sweet? Yes, she does not waste time dropping hints all over, but that endeared her to me even more.

Funny is Lizzy’s father’s reaction to this revelation (after Lizzy and Darcy become engaged and have asked Mr Bennet for his consent):

“This is an evening of wonders, indeed! And so, Darcy did every thing; made up the match, gave the money, paid the fellow’s debts, and got him his commission! So much the better. It will save me a world of trouble and economy. Had it been your uncle’s doing, I must and would have paid him; but these violent young lovers carry every thing their own way. I shall offer to pay him to-morrow; he will rant and storm about his love for you, and there will be an end of the matter.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 59)

So the Wickhams are off, and a rumor make its round that Mr Bingley is scheduled to come back to Netherfield. And indeed he does – with his friend Darcy at his heels. This turns the whole Bennet household upside down (excepting Mary and Mr Bennet, probably) and the eldest two Miss Bennets are nervous for different reasons.
It takes only a couple of visits for Bingley and Jane to re-recognize their feelings for each other, and with Darcy’s blessing, the couple meets their happy end.

For Lizzy and Darcy, the circumstances are more vexing, because they circle around each other in cautious steps, as if stepping an inch more forward would burn their toes. So when Darcy does not approach her at gatherings and nor gives her any sign of his affection other than silent stares, Lizzy goes back and forth between expectation, hope and despair, like any young girl in love for whom it is uncertain whether the emotion is reciprocated. Here is an example of her agitated state:

“Darcy had walked away to another part of the room. She followed him with her eyes, envied everyone to whom he spoke, had scarcely patience enough to help anybody to coffee; and then was enraged against herself for being so silly!
‘A man who has once been refused! How could I ever be foolish enough to expect a renewal of his love? Is there one among the sex, who would not protest against such a wekaness as a second propsal to the same woman? […]'” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 54)

After Bingley’s proposal to Jane (although we don’t get to read how exactly it was done, as the room in which it happened was vacant save for the lovers), Mrs Bennet is dancing in joy – but the only compliment she can pay to her daughter is this – “I knew how it would be. I always said it must be so, al last. I was sure you could not be so beautiful for nothing!” Very nice, Mrs Bennet.

Darcy leaves Longbourn without having said anything of importance to Elizabeth. Soon the latter is visited by the former’s aunt, who has heard (from Mr Collins, as it turns out, who has heard it from the Lucases) that Darcy and Elizabeth might get / are already engaged to each other. She storms in, takes Lizzy out to the garden, and starts talking about how Darcy and her daughter were meant for each other from infancy and how marrying Lizzy will bring disgrace and doom to his name and to Pemberley. When Lizzy – who, I might add, is a fine match for Lady C. in verbal argument – refuses to declare that she does not intend to marry him, Lady Catherine bursts out: “You have no regard, then, for the honour and credit of my nephew! Unfeeling, selfish girl! Do you not consider that a connection with you must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody?” (Chapter 56)

Ironically enough, Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s interference is what seals the happiness of the couple: Darcy, having heard from his aunt what has happened, harbors a hope which he puts into words in following way –

“It taught me to hope […] as I has scarcely ever allowed myself to hope before. I knew enough of your disposition to be certain that, had you been absolutely, irrevocably decided against me, you would have acknowledged it to Lady Catherine, frankly and openly.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 58)

And here is the second proposal, which, this time, is readily and immediately accepted.

“You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 58)

Darcy also talks about his pride in following manner:

“‘[…] I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. Unfortunately an only son (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves […], allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for non beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own. Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. […]'” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 58)

This confession clears quite a few of misconceptions in my mind. When I watched the BBC serialization, and later tried to read the book, I only thought Pride and Prejudice as a love story. To my defence (not that I want one), this, I think, is the general impression on many people; Darcy and Elizabeth are perceived as one of the best couples, and the novel one of the best love stories.
I also used to think that Mr Darcy was in the right, and Lizzy in the wrong. She got all that Wickham business mixed up and accused Darcy – after that problem is cleared up, they confirm their love for each other and live their happily ever after. Oversimplification. This view also casts, inarguably, a unfavorable light over Lizzy.

That was then. Now I think Pride and Prejudice is a novel about people and criticism on their behavior and faults, just like many other novels. The love story is just an added element that was necessary and more interesting to the storyline. It does not take rocket science to figure out that Darcy stands for the pride part and Elizabeth the prejudice one in the title. But the important fact is that these two characters come to understand their critical flaws and change – fueled by humility, gratitude, and love. That’s where the love element comes in – it acts as a catalyst to start a reaction.
I am sure there are more messages centering around minor characters (Mr and Mrs Bennet as well as the other Bennet sisters, Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst, Mrs Forster, etc.) but I do not wish to go into all the details.
I just want to add that as a contemporary reader, Pride and Prejudice, like other classics, has given me an insight to the strict social procedure that Austen makes fun of, and to the situation for women (see Charlotte and Lydia).

Pride and Prejudice: Chapters 41 – 50

The only reasons why I love my new phone: SMS-Flat and high quality photos
The only reasons why I love my new phone: SMS-Flat and high quality photos

Part IV: Chapters 31 ~ 40

Pride and Prejudice: Part V (Chapters 41 ~ 50)

As a reader, I have the right not to analyze a book. I have the right to simply enjoy, to let the words wash over my mind and not scrutinize them in hopes of glimpsing the meaning behind them.
(<- Alas, I could not help but do this.)
Because there were so many things that caught my attention in those ten chapters (about 56 pages) so this post will be long.

Soon after Lizzy’s return to Longbourn, Lydia receives an invitation from Mrs Forster (the wife of Colonel Forster) to stay with the regiment in Brighton, who is scheduled to move in fortnight. Upon hearing this, Lizzy immediately seeks her father and says:

“Our importance, our respectability in the world must be affected by the wild volatility, the assurance and disdain of all restraint which mark Lydia’s character.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 41)

She then pleads her father to do something with Lydia and her character before she brings ridicule upon the whole family.

Do not these words remind you one someone else’s?
My brain traced them back to a certain gentleman’s, who criticized “the total want of propriety so frequently” (Chapter 35, in Darcy’s letter) from all members of her family except for Jane. (He is very severe on etiquette and how one behaves oneself to outside, isn’t he? I think Darcy wouldn’t have survived the 21st century.) He named this criticism as one of the factors why he discouraged Bingley’s intention.
I’ve seen Lizzy cringe inwardly and outwardly as her younger sisters embarrassed her and her family but never before has she spoken so frankly about the collateral (or rather the main) damage the family must be suffering from. Maybe Darcy’s words have made her see her situation through different eyes.
There is another change in Chapter 42, when Elizabeth mentions “the impropriety of her father’s behaviour as a husband”. Apparently Mr Bennet had married Mrs Bennet for her youth and beauty, and when he found out how intolerable her chatters could be, well, it was too late. Since then, he just amuses himself with her fits of hysteria and ignorance, otherwise he retreats to his library and peace. While Lizzy perfectly understand his reasons for his behavior, she has “always seen it with pain” because he let her lose her respect among her own children and in the society. This is the first time Lizzy openly criticizes her father’s faults.

But there have been changes in Darcy, too. After the regiment’s leave (and an awkward conversation between Lizzy and Wickham, who, after abandoning Mary King as a suitable prospect, has turned to Lizzy for “idle and frivolous gallantry” – and thus has brought further disgust to her), Lizzy leaves with the Gardiners, her uncle and aunt, for Derbyshire because their original plan for the Lakes fell through. They stay a few days in Lambton, a town in which Mrs Gardiner grew up in. And a town not far away from Pemberley, whose grounds they decide to explore after ensuring the master won’t be there.
It is from the housekeeper that the party of three hears what a good master, landlord, brother and gentleman he is; he is also a well-tempered man, Mrs Raynold says, never having said a cross word to her in their twenty-something years of acquaintance. Elizabeth, who has known him only as either a standoffish or a passionate man, is much surprised by this praise of character.
Everyone is surprised when Darcy makes a sudden appearance, having returned earlier than scheduled. Lizzy fears he might hate her for that fateful afternoon, so she is astonished when he addresses her “if not in terms of perfect composure, at least of perfect civility.” (Chapter 34) When they meet each other the second time while taking a walk, he asks Lizzy to introduce her friends to him, and when she reveals the family connection, she expects him to turn away from “such disgraceful companions”, as they were the “very people against whom his pride had revolted in his offer to herself.” Yet against this expectation Darcy continues to walk with them, as if chatting with people of lower standing didn’t irk him at all (really, what is it with him and his strict social role?). Darcy treats them with respect and civil manner, which pleases and amazes Lizzy. It must be added that while not rich (I’d say middle-class?), there is no fault to be found in Mr and Mrs Gardiner’s manner and behavior.
The ultimate proof of Darcy’s opinion of Lizzy is his request to get her acquainted with his sister, Georgiana. Darcy is a very protective and loving brother to Georgiana, and wouldn’t let anyone go near her who didn’t have his approval. (Also, Georgiana later reveals that she has heard so many good things about Elizabeth that a string of complaints about Lizzy from Caroline Bingley couldn’t taint her opinion of Lizzy.)

All seems to be going well when Lizzy receives dreadful news from Longbourn: Lydia and Wickham have eloped, but they show no sign of getting married. Lizzy is wished back and the assistance of Mr Gardiner most fervently sought after. Mr Darcy sees Lizzy in great agitation and after relating the matter, he offers his consolation (which is useless, and he knows it) and leaves. She later regrets having told him about the affair, as she believes that her chances “must [be] sink[ing] under such a proof of family weakness, such an assurance of the deepest disgrace” and comes to realize that “never ha[s] she so honestly felt that she could have loved him, as now, when all love must be vain.” (Chapter 46) Well, Lizzy is finally catching up, I’d say. And if we were talking about the Old Darcy, I might just agree with her. But as the New Darcy has just as much changed as Lizzy’s opinion of him, and since he had defended her against Caroline’s sharp words quite admirably, her desperation is rather unfounded. But of course Lizzy doesn’t know of this little incident.

So Lizzy and the Gardiners make their way back as quickly as possible, and a search party (comprised of Mr Bennet and his brother-in-law) is sent for London.
At first the eloped (unofficial) couple is not to be found, and a letter from that Mr Collins arrives. I would have skipped over this insignificant person’s letter if it hadn’t been so offensive. He writes –

“[…] No arguments shall be wanting on my part that can alleviate so severe a misfortune – or that may comfort you, under a circumstance that must be of all others the most afflicting to a parent’s mind. The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in comparison of this.
[…]
And this consideration leads me moreover to reflect, with augmented satisfaction, on a certain event of last November; for had it been otherwise, I must have been involved in all your sorrow and disgrace. […]” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 48)

How arrogant, how egoistic, is that? And why write such a mean and condescending letter at all? Seriously, this Collins is just… despicable. (I know it was a big no-way-no-how to live together without getting married till latter part of the 20th century, but to wish a child of another person dead? That’s just not done, even if it was meant to be kind for that person.)

Moving on. In the end, Mr Gardiner finds those two runaways and implies that if Wickham’s debts were paid off and Lydia’s annual income granted, he would be willing to marry her. The problem now is how Mr Bennet should scrape 10,000£ together to pay back Mr Gardiner, who, it is generally believed, already paid off Wickham. When Mr Bennet mentions this to his wife, she replies: “it is all very right; […] and it is the first time we have ever had anything from him [Mr Gardiner, a.k.a. her brother], except a few presents. Well! I am so happy! In a short time I shall have a daughter married.” And so on. Isn’t that an impudent reaction? She does not even have it in her to be grateful.

This review ends with a remark on one aspect of the British language as portrayed in the book that I found strange: While in a conversation, both Jane and Lizzy refer to “my mother” and “my uncle” and so on, but never “our mother”. Was it so uncommon to say “our”?

Favorite quotes from this section:

“[Elizabeth] wanted to compose her own, and to make herself agreeable to all; and in [this] object, where she feared most to fail, she was must sure of success, for those to whom she endeavoured to give pleasure were prepossessed in her favour. Bingley was ready, Georgiana was eager, and Darcy determined, to be pleased.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 44, Lizzy upon receiving the three visitors in her room a the inn)

“She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man, who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved; and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 50)

Part VI: Chapters 51 ~ 61

Pride and Prejudice: Chapters 31 – 40

Part III: Chapters 21 ~ 30

Pride and Prejudice: Part IV (Chapters 31 ~ 40)

Wordsworth Editions
Wordsworth Editions

So this section contains Chapter 34, The Big Moment of First Proposal, and Chapter 35, The Big Revelation of Wickham’s wicked nature.

But first let’s trace back to the three chapters preceding the anticipated (or, from Elizabeth’s point of view, not anticipated) moment.
The arrival of Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcy’s cousin, causes a small ruckus at the Parsonage and Rosings. The colonel is described as “about thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the gentleman.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 30) It also says that “Mrs. Collins’s pretty friend ha[s] […] caught his fancy very much.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 31) Lizzy is flattered by attention, and enjoys his company highly, as opposed to his cousin’s. But Colonel Fitzwilliam is the younger son of an Earl, and as such, he cannot marry whomever he wants (unless the woman of his dreams is a rich heiress).
But regardless of this tiny entanglement, the point is that Lizzy comes to trust Colonel Fitzwilliam, which later serves as a reliable back-up source to Mr. Darcy’s letter.

Okay, so let’s talk about Darcy’s awkward proposal. I say awkward because obviously Lizzy wasn’t expecting such a thing and what happened after was an ugly scene.
So after pacing around the room, Darcy says:

“In vain I have 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.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 34)

He then follows to list her unfortunate (read: non-existent bordering on embarrassing) family connections and low social standing compared to his. But he loves her despite this! Oh joy! Any other lady would have fainted by now.
But not our Lizzy, for she replies with spirit: “In such cases as this, […] [i]t is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot – I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly.” (Chapter 34) Bam! That was a hard shot at Darcy, who has been fully expecting a “yes”, but Lizzy is not done.

“I might as well inquire […] why with so evident a desire of offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character? […] I have every reason in the world to think ill of you.” (Chapter 34)

She then challenges him to deny her accusations against him regarding Wickham and his (Darcy’s) interference concerning Jane and Bingley. Boom – Darcy explodes. Well, not really, because his self-control is much better than mine, but in heated words, he turns to Elizabeth and says:

“And this […] is your opinion of me! This is the estimation in which you hold me! […] My faults, according to this calculation, are heavy indeed! But perhaps […] these offenses might have been overlooked, had not your pride been hurt by my honest confession of the scruples that had long prevented my forming any serious design. […] But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence. […] 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?” (Chapter 34)

To which Elizabeth coldly replies:

“You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.” (Chapter 34)

And, the final strike.

“You could not have made the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.” (Chapter 34)

Meltdown.
Well.
Apparently Mr. Darcy thinks that his full honesty no one wants to hear will win Lizzy over, because, obviously she is so undesirable to anyone else but he loves her. I can’t really fault Lizzy for bristling over this. Who wants to hear that kind of harsh condescension, how true it may be? For his defence, I think Darcy meant what he said: The downsides of such union is more than canceled out by his love for her. See how better it sounds? And it still is the same truth.
The thing is, Darcy prides himself over the fact that his manners and etiquette are textbook-perfect. He cringes whenever someone commits a social faux-pas. But in this case? Lizzy was right; he was most un-gentelman-like. Also, hypocritical much? Darcy prevented Bingley from doing the same – marrying for love yet at the same time marrying someone with a low social standing. It’s like “What is bad for you is bad for me, but you still cannot do it, because you’re my best friend, but I will do it nonetheless.”
I do not mean to say that Lizzy’s reaction was an acceptable performance. I know she thinks very ill of him, and I understand her anger at being patronized, but the way she emotionally wounded him (he’s crazy in love! Of course she has the upper hand here, and everything she says is another blow to his heart.) was just mean.

Now the Big Question: Why does Mr. Darcy love Elizabeth Bennet? I mean, she‘s presumptuous and rude to him, he‘s proud and anti-social, not to mention socially awkward. Maybe he was taken by her lively spirit and openness to making fun of people, including herself. But still, I’ll be damned if I figure this puzzle out. Love is not logical. It just isn’t. (Or, love just is.)

Oh, but we are only halfway done. The letter, and the aftermath.
In the first part of the letter, Mr. Darcy explains his role in separating Bingley from Jane. To prevent his friend from entering a marital union with a woman of a lower standing (although, as Darcy puts it, “the want of connection could not be so great an evil to [Bingley] than to [Darcy]”*, so if Bingley hadn’t listened to Darcy, he and Jane would be happily married by now.), Darcy managed to convince Charles that Jane’s affections for him were not as strong as Bingley might have thought. Darcy indeed does believe this to be true; although he later acknowledges that since Lizzy knows her sister better than he, he might be in fault in this one matter.
On the second subject Darcy tells his version of the story: Wickham as a careless man with an extravagant living style; his demand to Darcy to give him three thousand pounds instead of other preferments in Darcy’s father’s will after his death; Wickham, after rejecting one profession after another, asking Darcy for what was written in the will (which he, in exchange for 3000£, threw away); and finally, after Darcy’s refusal, the planning and almost successful execution of seducing Georgiana, Darcy’s more-than-10-years-younger sister.
Now Elizabeth is confronted with two men’s stories, and with sinking feeling does she begin to see the holes in Wickham’s story, and how no one in Hertfordshire really knows about his past other than himself. Also, Darcy’s assurance that she very well may ask Colonel Fitzwilliam about this matter as he, a joint guardian of Georgiana and one of the executors of the will, knows about this matter, convinces Lizzy that Mr. Darcy must be telling the truth.
This realization shames her very much ans she says:

“How despicably I have acted! […] I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable mistrust! How humiliating is this discovery! Yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind! But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 36)

Well, Lizzy is no less honest than Darcy, I daresay. In this monologue she acknowledges the injustice she has done to Mr. Darcy because her vanity (Remember Mary’s distinction between pride and vanity?) was injured the first time she met him. And Lizzy does not give herself the easy way out, because she knew she hadn’t been in love with Wickham, so there is no excuse to fall back on. Her blindness to reason resulted in humiliation, but a just one, as she says. In this moment, Lizzy sees herself really for the first time (“Till this moment I never knew myself.”). I mean, we knew that she was being stubborn and giving Darcy a hard time, but only because we already knew the outcome. But Lizzy realizes for the first time how her rashness in opinion has kind of led her to doom, so to speak. In this regard she is no different than Darcy, who once said “My good opinion once lost is lost for ever.” (Chapter 11) They both don’t budge an inch. Well, until now, that is, hopefully.

Two more short points on this section that are kind of independent from Mr. Darcy’s proposal and his letter.
After the two Fitzwilliams leave, Lizzy can’t help but think about what Lady Catherine would have said or how she would have looked if she had accepted Darcy’s proposal. For me this little musing serves as an evidence of consistency. It would have been out of character if Lizzy had been all demure and full of regret that she could not even entertain the thought of the alternative what-if. That would be more Jane, but not our Lizzy.
Speaking of Jane, it is said in Chapter 40  that “[h]aving never even fancied herself in love before, [Jane’s] regard [for Bingley] had all the warmth of first attachment, and, from her age and disposition, greater steadiness than most first attachments often boast …” I thought this one was interesting.

*And Darcy managed to put this “evil” aside due to the “utmost force of passion” – no one can say the guy isn’t honest.

Part V: Chapters 41 ~ 50

Pride and Prejudice: Chapters 11 – 20

Part I: (Chapters 1 ~ 10)

Pride and Prejudice: Part II (Chapters 11 ~20)

Gloom settles over the Bennet sisters and the readers with the introduction of two men and a proposal from one.

I'm reading this wonderful Wordsworth edition
Wordsworth Editions

After Jane’s recovery, Mr. Bingley gives at Netherfield a ball, just as he promised. But before the Bennets can enjoy it, the arrival of their relative, Mr. Collins, who is set to inherit the Longbourn estate after Mr. Bennet’s death, prevents the happiness of some. Mrs. Bennet couldn’t be happier for Mr. Collins intends to choose one of his fair cousins as his wife, and has set his eyes on Lizzy (after being dissuaded from Jane, who, Mrs. Bennet thinks, will marry Mr. Bingley very soon), her least favorite child.

Before I go on with the plot and the introduction of the antagonist, let me tell you how unpleasant I think Mr. Collins is.
He, a clergyman and protégé of Lady Catherine de Bourgh (incidentally also Darcy’s aunt), seems to think he is a humble man with all good attributions of a gentleman. I for one found the fact that he compliments himself for making nice complements to others (the majority of which goes to Lady Catherine) disgustingly vain and self-centered. Mr. Bennet thinks this is funny; I do not. I am exasperated by his hidden air of superiority, as shown at the Netherfield ball when he tells Elizabeth: “… in this case [whether he should introduce himself to Mr. Darcy (Lady Catherine’s nephew), who has no idea who Collins is] … I consider myself more fitted by education and habitual study to decide on what is right than a young lady like yourself.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 18) In short, because Lizzy is a young woman with no profound education unlike himself, her judgment on proper etiquette is ignored (because it was considered rude to introduce oneself to a stranger without a conduit doing the work). Well, turns out Lizzy was right in thinking Mr. Darcy will turn away in contempt after a while.
Also at the Netherfield ball, Collins starts to give a lengthy speech about what hard works a clergyman – thus talking about himself – has to fulfill and so on. How can a person be so full of himself that all he can talk about his own life and the generosity of his patron?
The list of his unpleasantries goes on: When Mr. Collins proposes to Lizzy, he’s secure in her answer, thinking that his well-established life and income will be enough to woo over his cousin, who will have a meager (read: practically non-existent) income after her mother’s death. He talks about his reasons – Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s insistent wish that he marry; his noble intention to do his cousins as little harm as possible in inheriting the estate by marrying one of them; his own increased happiness. But nowhere in his pages long speech do I find a promise of making her happy. It’s all about him, him, him. She’s more like an adornment, an armcandy. So yeah, I don’t like his character at all. But his negative assets were well displayed and described.

Chapter 15 sees to introducing George Wickham with the following words: “… [T]he attention of every lady was soon caught by a young man […] of most gentlemanlike appearance … All were struck with the stranger’s air, all wondered who he could be; … His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.”
To the dismay of most readers, I daresay, Elizabeth takes up instant liking to this young man who seems at odds with Mr. Darcy. By this point, Lizzy has already made up her mind regarding Darcy, so when Wickham dishes up a tale about Darcy wronging him, she is ready to believe him. At one point, she raises the question “How strange! … I wonder that the very pride of this Mr. Darcy has not made him just to you! If from no better motive, that he should not have been too proud to be dishonest – for dishonesty I must call it.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 16) Say what you will, Elizabeth knows how Darcy’s mind works by now. Mr. Wickham smoothly replies with “… But we are none of us consistent, and in his behaviour to me there were stronger impulses even than pride.” We all know that Wickham is a liar – not the first-time reader who has never heard of the story before but even then, perhaps he or she has heard of the couple ‘Elizabeth and Darcy’, so he cannot be such a bad person as Wickham describes, right?  Yet Wickham disguises his lies so well with enough truth mixed in, so that it all appears to be just as he says. And our stubborn Elizabeth wholeheartedly believes him, and will do so for some more time. (I have to confess, though, Wickham’s tale does sound quite believable, under the circumstances.) She is already prejudiced against Mr. Darcy; and due to her ill opinion of Caroline Bingley, an advice of caution goes wasted.

I’d like to dedicate my last line to Mrs. Bennet, who, of all people, says bitterly while referring to herself: “Nobody can tell what I suffer! But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied.”

Part III: Chapters 21 – 30

Pride and Prejudice: Chapters 1 – 10

I'm reading this wonderful Wordsworth edition
I’m reading this wonderful Wordsworth edition

Pride and Prejudice, Part I: Chapters 1 ~ 10

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

With this famous sentence the book opens – and if you are like me, you are sick of hearing this one sentence over and over as if it is the most profound sentence in the book.
I actually don’t understand why that phrase is so popular other than the fact that it is a pretty funny mockery. And it’s an example of Austen’s sense of humor.

I watched the BBC serialization (with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) before I “read” the book. I say “read” because I didn’t really read the book; I just attempted to. Even now I have some struggles understanding a sentence here and an expression there, and I have quite a few vocab problems. Well. And I first “read” the book about four years ago when my English wasn’t fluent at all.

Anyway, back (did we even start?) to the story: The third paragraph already introduces us to the unpleasant chatter of Mrs. Bennet. (I say ‘unpleasant’ because I always have Ms. Alison Steadman’s voice in my head whenever I read Mrs. Bennet’s dialogue. She [Ms. Steadman] is an amazing actress, though.) In the course of the next few chapters, we meet the whole Bennet family: Mr. Bennet (who, for the life of me, I can’t fathom why he married Mrs. Bennet), the head of the house and already used to Mrs. Bennet’s chatter (he prefers his quiet library, though); Mrs. Bennet, who is quite silly; Jane, the eldest daughter and the most beautiful, who is of a gentle and rather timid nature when it comes to expressing her feelings; Elizabeth “Lizzy”, father’s favorite and a young woman of a lively spirit who likes to make fun of many things; Mary, the most plain sister who turns to knowledge and musical accomplishments to make up for her lack of beauty; Catherine “Kitty”, who is quite influenced by Lydia and thus equally silly even though her nature is less daring; Lydia, the youngest and the tallest (“… for though I am the youngest, I’m the tallest.”) who acts without any thought spent on its consequence, and the silliest of all, in my opinion.

We also soon meet up with the heroes of the story, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. (We also meet less-than-nice Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst.)
Mr. Darcy, who made the famous remark “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me” (“… he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, ‘She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other man. …'”, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 3) soon changes his mind at the next opportunity he sees her: “But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. …”, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 6)

Elizabeth, who overheard Mr. Darcy’s first opinion of her, immediately finds him disagreeable (Jane, for example, would have given him the benefit of doubt) and makes her opinion of him very clear to other ladies. She is irritated when Mr. Darcy attempts to listen in to her conversation with others and stare at her because she can’t understand why Mr. Darcy, who finds her just so tolerable, doesn’t ignore her like she does him. And Lizzy can’t understand that because she isn’t allowing him the room to change. People change, and people’s opinions change. Yet her first impression of him was so strongly negative – supported by the fact that he made it clear that he did not wish to mingle with the people in the ballroom – that she has already made up her mind: Mr. Darcy is a proud, standoffish gentleman she shouldn’t pay a single thought on.
She’s not offended, per se. I think it’s because she doesn’t know him well enough to let his opinion affect her. That’s admirable because I care what a stranger thinks of me. Speaking of which, I’m reminded by Mary’s observation:

“Pride … is a very common failing I believe. … [H]uman nature is very prone to it, and … there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. … Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 5)

Mary also says it is possible to be proud without being vain. So is it also possible to be vain without being proud? Oh dear, I’m afraid that would be me. I care too much about what others think of me while I try not to sound like a show-off.
It is most peculiar. Our society teaches us (at least mine did) that we should not down-play our abilities, that we should showcase them and even exaggerate them (on a CV/résumé for example) but at the same time, it is frowned upon to be boastful. Not exactly ‘frowned upon’, perhaps, but nobody likes a boaster. Such a person just sounds so full of oneself.

I have digressed yet again. Back to the story, in which our heroine judges Miss Caroline Bingley and Mrs Louisa Hurst to be not very agreeable persons. Their affection towards Jane, however, seems genuine, which softens Lizzy’s judgment a bit. When Jane gets a nasty cold thanks to her mother and has to remain at Netherfield and Lizzy makes her way to Bingley’s estate, she later observes that Miss Caroline’s and Mrs Hurst’s concerns for Jane seem to be coming from their heart. Of course, it does not escape her notice that Caroline becomes anxious to remove Jane – and thus Lizzy – from Netherfield and from Mr. Darcy’s attentions. Because it is obvious to anyone how hard Caroline Bingley is trying to impress Mr. Darcy.

During her stay, Lizzy does not seem to have become any better acquaintance of Mr. Darcy’s. Whenever he does something thoughtful, she waves if off as him being pretentious or half-hearted. She is puzzled when Darcy does not say what she expected him to but that does not seem to change her opinion of him – not one iota. Oh, Lizzy! We wish you were less stubborn!

Part II: Chapters 11 ~ 20