Thursday, February 03, 2011

Pride & Prejudice, Volume II, chapter 11 (ch 34)

Home alone

Elizabeth has remained at home instead of joining the others at Rosings for dinner. She devotes her time to rereading Jane's letters, dwelling on the unhappiness she sees there. Colonel Fitzwilliam has made clear that he has no intentions toward her (and how could he, given that his cousin has already called dibs?), and Elizabeth is okay with that. She's looking forward to leaving Kent herself soon, and to seeing Jane in about two weeks time (a fortnight). "Thank God Mr Darcy leaves in two days' time", she thinks. And with that thought hanging in the air . . . the door bell rings. (The door bell would have involved a pull outside, with a bell that rings inside, in case you're wondering. Here's a link to a period bell pull.)

Enter Darcy, stage left, with proposal

Darcy: I heard you were unwell. I hope you're feeling better.

Elizabeth: [in an icy tone] Thank you.

Darcy: *paces about like a caged animal, then stops in front of her* "In vain have I 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."

Elizabeth: O_o

Darcy: I've long been attracted to your fine eyes, and I admire your wit and spirit. Of course, there's going to be hell to pay with my friends and family. Nobody thinks you're good enough for me. I mean, really, it's a complete degradation, when you come to think about it. A man of my status and position marrying a woman like yourself from a family whose status and position is so far below me is sure to cause talk. But as you can see, I'm willing to overlook all that because of my love for you.

Elizabeth: O_o

In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man's affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. She tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience, when he should have done. He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand. As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security. Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther, and when he ceased, the colour rose into her cheeks, and she said,
Elizabeth: Are you out of your mind, proposing to me in such a manner? You've done it in such a ham-handed way that I can't even muster up thanks for it. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I cannot accept. I'm sure, given all those negative things you just said, that you'll get over any hurt this might cause you. Yeesh.

Darcy: You . . . wait. What? Why on earth would you reject me?

Elizabeth: Why on earth would you propose while telling me that I'm not good enough for you and that you are acting against your own judgment in doing so? Besides, even if I had liked you, how could I ever accept the proposal of a man who ruined my sister's life?

Darcy: *blush*

Elizabeth: You cannot deny that you did it. You separated two people who loved one another, turning my sister into a laughingstock and breaking her heart.

Darcy: *not only refuses to look sorry, but actually smiles at her*

Elizabeth: Can you deny it?

Darcy: "I have no wish of denying that I did every thing in my power to separate my friend from your sister, or that I rejoice in my success. Towards him I have been kinder than towards myself."

Elizabeth: [RAAAAAAAGE] Besides which, I've heard what a horrible guy you are. I know what you did to poor sweet Mr Wickham.

Darcy: [RAAAAAAGE] Mr Wickham? You feel bad for Mr Wickham?

Elizabeth: Who doesn't feel bad for him, knowing what his misfortunes are!

Darcy: [snarling] "His misfortunes! yes; his misfortunes have been great indeed."

Elizabeth: His misfortunes are ALL YOUR FAULT and you stand there and talk of him with ridicule and contempt!

"And this," cried Darcy, as he walked with quick steps across the room, "is your opinion of me! This is the estimation in which you hold me! I thank you for explaining it so fully. My faults, according to this calculation, are heavy indeed! But perhaps," added he, stopping in his walk, and turning towards her, "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. These bitter accusations might have been suppressed, had I with greater policy concealed my struggles, and flattered you into the belief of my being impelled by unqualified, unalloyed inclination -- by reason, by reflection, by every thing. But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence. Nor am I ashamed of the feelings I related. They were natural and just. 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?"

Elizabeth felt herself growing more angry every moment; yet she tried to the utmost to speak with composure when she said,

"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."

She saw him start at this, but he said nothing, and she continued,

"You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it."

Again his astonishment was obvious; and he looked at her with an expression of mingled incredulity and mortification. She went on.

"From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that ground-work of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."

"You have said quite enough, madam. I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been. Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness."

And with these words he hastily left the room, and Elizabeth heard him the next moment open the front door and quit the house.

The tumult of her mind was now painfully great. She knew not how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried for half an hour. Her astonishment, as she reflected on what had passed, was increased by every review of it. That she should receive an offer of marriage from Mr Darcy! that he should have been in love with her for so many months! so much in love as to wish to marry her in spite of all the objections which had made him prevent his friend's marrying her sister, and which must appear at least with equal force in his own case, was almost incredible! It was gratifying to have inspired unconsciously so strong an affection. But his pride, his abominable pride, his shameless avowal of what he had done with respect to Jane, his unpardonable assurance in acknowledging, though he could not justify it, and the unfeeling manner in which he had mentioned Mr Wickham, his cruelty towards whom he had not attempted to deny, soon overcame the pity which the consideration of his attachment had for a moment excited.
Some remarks

I love this chapter. It's one of my favorite chapters in all of literature for how Austen manages to convey so much about the characters through their actions and looks, with just enough of her narration to point out the humor here. The first time I watched the BBC production, I was horrified by the scene, since there's so very much to be mortified about, but when I watched it with a couple years ago, I laughed through the whole thing. I mean, here's Mr Darcy, trying to declare his love, only he botches it horribly.

I do want to point out this sentence, which is something that bears remembering: "But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence." Mr Darcy is honest to a fault, you see. He probably didn't mean to insult Elizabeth by telling her he loved her and then talking about how he shouldn't - he undoubtedly meant to compliment her ("I like you despite your lack of fortune and connection"). He started extremely well ("You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you"), then quickly rode that proposal right off the rails, where Elizabeth was only too happy to pour kerosene on him and set him on fire. She was already pissed off with him when he showed up, even though he didn't know it, and once he started insulting her and her family, it went south in a hurry (and not in a sexy way).

Having said this is one of my favorite chapters in all of literature, I might add that the next chapter is up there as well.

Here, the EXCELLENT version of this scene from the 1995 BBC production:

And the proposal from the 2005 production, about which I will say that I love Matthew MacFadyen's obvious yearning and his genuine anger/hurt, but Keira Knightley looks like an overacting lizard to me at several points in this scene.

Tomorrow: Chapter 35
Back to Chapter 33

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