Pride and Prejudice: Chapter 11 - Summary & Analysis

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      Summary: Jane is able to come down to the drawing-room after dinner. She is welcomed by the Bingley ladies, who are very attentive to the sisters until the gentlemen join the party, after which Miss Bingley’s eyes are turned to Darcy. Mr. Bingley is delighted to see Jane and sits down by her side, hardly talking to anyone else. Elizabeth occupies herself with some needlework. Darcy reads a book while Caroline Bingley tries unsuccessfully to draw him into a conversation with her. He answers her questions politely but continues reading. Caroline walks up and down the room and invites Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy to join her. The former assents but Mr. Darcy makes a sarcastic remark and retains his seat. Darcy and Elizabeth have a good-humoured skirmish with words. They exchange their ideas about the importance of laughter and jokes in life. Elizabeth says that she laughs at follies and nonsense. Darcy, very attracted by Elizabeth, begins to feel the danger of paying the young lady too much attention.

      Critical Analysis: The discussion between Darcy and Elizabeth gives us an insight into one human quality which Jane Austen approves of: the understanding, or reason, which must be in control of one’s whims, follies, emotions. Hence, the relevance of Darcy’s analysis of Elizabeth: her main fault or weakness is “wilfully to misunderstand everybody”, including Darcy. Because of her prejudice, she is farther from the truth than Darcy, who has already come to admire her; her analysis of his main weakness—that he has ‘‘a propensity to hate everybody” — shows how wrong she is.

      Elizabeth’s comments about laughing at the follies of men reflects Jane Austen’s own attitude of viewing the world dispassionately and humorously.

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