Pride and Prejudice: Chapter 19 - Summary & Analysis

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      Summary: The following day Mr. Collins asks permission to speak to Elizabeth alone. After some pompous preambles, he informs her that he has chosen her to be his wife. Elizabeth declines the proposal of marriage. Collins replies that, as it is usual for young ladies first to reject the addresses of the man they secretly mean to accept, he is not discouraged and still hopes to marry her before long. Elizabeth indignantly refutes this, but Collins persists in his belief that she really intends to marry him. Elizabeth decides to apply to her father to deal with this suitor if he so stupidly persists in considering her repeated refusals as flattering encouragement.

      Critical Analysis: This chapter is the first proposal scene in the novel. Mr. Collins’ proposal is awkward and insensible; he does not realize that a young lady can refuse him. The true worth of Elizabeth emerges through her declining Mr. Collins’ proposal. Collins’ offer is attractive in many ways: there is the promise of a comfortable life, not only for herself but also for her family. Her rejection is an act of courage and honesty. She does not want to marry for the sake of society, for the wishes of her parents, or for convenience. She must look for the perfect match in a husband. In fact, Jane Austen believes that marriage depends on much more than mere physical comfort and material security.

      Collins’ pompousness and his reasons for proposing are laughable. He states three reasons for having decided to marry. It is a right thing for every clergyman to marry, to set a good example in the parish; he is convinced that marriage will add to his happiness, and more important it is the advice of his patroness, Lady Catherine. He also makes much of his magnanimity in a selecting a bride who is to bring no dowry with her. All in all, Collins appears foolish, pompous and thoroughly disagreeable.

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