Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Pride & Prejudice, Volume I, chapter 5

Still more after-dance chatter

The Lucases turn up to discuss the dance with the Bennet women.

Remember me mentioning how the Bingleys' father earned his money in trade, but they don't have a title? Well, the father of the Lucas clan - at one time a Mr Lucas - likewise earned his living in trade, only he now has a title - he is Sir William Lucas, having been knighted by King George III. Sir William didn't feel it was right to continue living in the town of Meryton (quite possibly above a shop) once he received his title, so he removed his family to a house outside the town, now called Lucas Lodge. He's not at all stuck-up about having his title, however - he's a courteous, amiable sort of guy who tries to be kind to everyone (as we shall see a bit later).

His wife is a huge gossip, just like Mrs Bennet, and "not too clever to be a valuable neighbour" to her. (With that economy of words, Austen gives us a pretty good idea that Lady Lucas is cut from pretty much the same sort of cloth as Mrs Bennet, does she not?) And just see how the gossip about Mr Darcy is already being blown out of proportion - Mrs Bennet reports that he refused to speak to a Mrs Long, when in fact he did respond to a comment she made to him. He simply didn't openly engage in conversation, which is not the same thing as sitting there refusing to speak at all. Ah well, we shall have to let this run its course, shall we not?

Meet Charlotte Lucas, spinster

Charlotte is said to be 27 years old, an age that Austen evidently feels is pretty much "on the shelf", although she rather makes sport of that notion much later in life with Anne Elliot in Persuasion. She's rather plain (as Mrs Bennet mentioned last chapter), but she's intelligent and full of common sense and quite a good friend of Lizzie's. Having established intelligence and good sense as Charlotte's credentials, it seems to me we ought to pay close attention to Charlotte's judgments, including what she thinks of Mr Darcy:

"His pride . . . does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, every thing in his favour, should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud."
You may notice that Elizabeth agrees with Charlotte, to a point, and expresses that she'd be willing to forgive him his pride, except that he injured hers by saying she was merely "tolerable", but not good-looking enough for him to want to dance with her.

In a stroke of ironic foreshadowing, Elizabeth makes a rash promise to her mother about Mr Darcy: "I believe, Ma'am, I may safely promise you never to dance with him."

There are those critics and commentators who believe Austen didn't use foreshadowing, to which I say "pish." Also, that they ought to learn how to read more carefully.

Tomorrow: Chapter Six
Back to Chapter Four
Read about the origins behind the two titles for this novel The post also contains an original poem that is part of the Jane project.

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