Pride and Prejudice: Chapter 13 - Summary & Analysis

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      Summary: The next morning Mr. Bennet informs his wife that they are to have a guest to dinner. It appears that Mr. Bennet has received a letter from his cousin, Mr. Collins, who, after Mr. Bennet’s death, will inherit the Longbourn estate. Mrs. Bennet has never been able to understand this entail of the property and rails bitterly against what she calls “the cruelty of settling an estate away from a family of five daughters in favour of a man in whom none of them are interested”. Mr. Collins, a clergyman, writes that he wishes to heal the breach which existed between his late father and Mr. Bennet. He proposes to pay the latter and his family a short visit and present the olive branch. When Mr. Collins arrives he is received with great politeness by the whole family. He is a tall, I’ve young man of twenty-five. He praises the looks of the Bennet girls, admires the house and furniture, and compliments Mrs. Bennet on the dinner. When Mrs. Bennet is offended Collins assumes that they have no cook and the dinner has been prepared by her daughters he is profusely apologetic and continues to beg her pardon for almost a quarter of an hour.

      Critical Analysis: This chapter presents the letter from Mr. Collins which prepares one to dislike the man even before he arrives. The letter is one example of Jane Austen’s lifelong interest in writing style. For her, the style is the man; that is, a man reveals himself by how he speaks and writes. Elizabeth at once determines from the letter that the man is “very pompous...a mixture of servility and self-importance”. This is exactly what Mr. Collins proves to be. This again suggests Elizabeth’s great perceptive ability with every situation except in her relationship with Darcy.

      Mr. Collins is one of the most distasteful characters in the English novel, yet in a harmless way. He is pompous and foolish, lacking any real strength of character. His effusive compliments to the Bennett girls is a forewarning of his real purpose for visiting.

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