Pride and Prejudice: Chapter 21 - Summary & Analysis

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      Summary: Mr. Collins’s resentment does not shorten his visit. The following day the girls meet Mr. Wickham in Meryton. He tells Elizabeth that he kept away from the ball as he considered it advisable not to meet Darcy in case unpleasant scenes should arise. That morning Jane receives a farewell letter from Caroline Bingley, saying that the whole party is leaving Netherfield at once to join her brother, who has gone to town to conduct some business. The letter makes it plain that Miss Bingley does not intend any of her party to return to Netherfield that winter. Miss Bingley hints in the letter that her brother admires Darcy’s sister greatly and that she hopes that a permanent attachment will be formed between them. Jane, at first naturally depressed, is eventually cheered up to some extent by her sister, who suspects that Miss Bingley wishes to keep her brother away from Jane.

      Critical Analysis: This chapter offers a further contrast between the two Bennet sisters. Jane is soft, trusting and guileless, whereas Elizabeth is perceptive and clever. Jane is easily disturbed by her emotions; Elizabeth is fairly stable. Elizabeth sees that Caroline’s letter is, at best, a display of ignorance, and most likely an attempt to discourage Jane from pursuing Bingley further. She is able to analyse the situation and knows that Darcy has also some role in taking Bingley away from Jane. Later we will discover that Elizabeth is right. This episode is, of course, important for plot purposes in that the separation of Bingley and Jane becomes more serious; the reader’s suspense is raised by it.

      Jane is too naive to understand the scheming of Caroline and too honest to believe they exist.

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