Pride and Prejudice: Chapter 4 - Summary & Analysis

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      Summary: Alone, Jane and Elizabeth discuss the ball and Mr. Bingley. They both find Mr. Bingley handsome and very well-mannered. But Jane is not very discriminating in her judgement of character. She never sees any fault in anybody and therefore considers even the proud conceited Bingley sisters as charming. Elizabeth on the other hand is able to see through their conceit. The chapter ends with a comparison of Bingley and Darcy. Though of contrasting temperaments—Bingley is easygoing, open and agreeable while Darcy is clever but haughty reserved and fastidious—they are very good friends.

      Bingley thinks that he had never met with pleasanter people or prettier girls than at the Meryton ball while Darcy sees them as a collection of people ‘in whom there is little beauty and no fashion’. Darcy acknowledges Jane’s beauty but thinks she smiles too much. Even Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst are ready to concede that Jane is beautiful.

      Critical Analysis: This chapter is primarily engaged in developing two sets of contrasts: Elizabeth and Jane on one hand; Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy on the other. The first contrast is achieved largely through dialogue. Jane is a pleasant, rather naive young girl who thinks that the whole world is as decent and simple as she is. Her intelligence has no depth, as she reveals in her enumeration of Bingley’s virtues; “He is sensible, good humoured lively...has happy manners: so much ease with such perfect good breeding!” Elizabeth adds sarcastically that he is also “handsome”. Elizabeth is revealed to be realistic, intelligent and frank to the point of bad manners. She possesses a unique perceptive ability to see into the nature of all people when she herself is not intimately involved with them.

      The second set of contrasts is not a result of dialogue but of Jane Austen's overt discussion of the two young men, Darcy and Bingley. Bingley is revealed to be like Jane; his quick renting of Netherfield shows a similar, easy impressionability. Darcy is superior in intelligence; he is like Elizabeth, in his frankness and clear sightedness. Bingley has enjoyed himself and “had never met with pleasanter people or prettier girls in his life”. But Darcy “had seen a collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion”.

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