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Darcy's first proposal does not come as a surprise to the reader, and yet Elizabeth's '...astonishment was beyond expression.' Discuss.

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Introduction

Darcy's first proposal does not come as a surprise to the reader, and yet Elizabeth's '...astonishment was beyond expression.' Discuss. Darcy's first proposal occurs in the second half of 'Pride and Prejudice'. Elizabeth Bennet, the principal character is described as proud, confident, and intelligent. Her initial dislike for Darcy (due in part to his remark which wounded her pride) has intensified due to his interference with her sister Jane and his friend Bingley's affair. The wealthy, arrogant, conceited Darcy has moved from a position where his pride prevents any attachment to social inferiors, to one where his emotions compel the proposal in chapter thirty-four. This essay will discuss Austen's use of dramatic irony, the extensive preparation Austen makes for the proposal, and the surprising timing of the proposal. Additionally the reasons for Elizabeth's astonishment and how this relates to the overall themes of pride and prejudice, and the themes of class and marriage. Austen illustrates extensively the emotions of the characters (which are the basis of the novel). The reader is aware of the characters' thoughts and feelings. Austen gives the reader more information than to any of the other characters. This is what greatly reduces the reader's surprise at Darcy's proposal. At the beginning of the book at Elizabeth and Darcy's first meeting there is a clash between them. From then on, Elizabeth maintains her dislike for Darcy, which grows due to his interfering actions, and Wickham's supposed plight. ...read more.

Middle

There were many things in his favour, yet Elizabeth was too prejudiced to consider him. The timing of the proposal was unexpected, although the proposal itself was not unexpected, certainly not for the reader. Elizabeth has just received a proposal from Mr Collins, which creates some drama in the plot of the story. The fact that another proposal was offered so soon afterwards was surprising, especially after Mr Collins' solemn warning that "...it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you." Austen creates irony and humours the reader at Mr Collins' expense. It is also unexpected, as both the reader and Elizabeth had recently found out that Mr Darcy was intended for Miss de Bourgh, the daughter of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. There is also the matter of Colonel Fitzwilliam. From the point of view of the reader, he and Elizabeth were getting on particularly well. It could be suggested that there was growing affection between them, as he had also come to see Elizabeth often, and walked through the park with her on several occasions. Throughout the book, Darcy appears introverted and unsociable. Darcy had shown Elizabeth no affection, which made the proposal quite unexpected to Elizabeth. Taking the example of Jane and Bingley, there was a lot of affection shown between them, and yet Bingley had not proposed to Jane. ...read more.

Conclusion

'...[E] hardly knew how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration... and yet that he should look at her because he disliked her, was still more strange.' Elizabeth has many reasons as to why Darcy appears to give her so much attention. Her dislike of him means that she doesn't want to believe he has any interest in her, because she has none in him. In conclusion, Austen uses dramatic irony to create the climax of the story. Both characters completely misunderstand each other throughout the book, leading them to such a confrontation. The reader is aware of both Darcy and Elizabeth's emotions as Austen extensively prepares the reader for this proposal through giving us insight into Darcy's feelings. Therefore we are not surprised at his proposal. However Elizabeth, who is unaware of Darcy's feelings, (blinded by pride and prejudice) is surprised '... beyond expression.' The reader is only surprised to an extent by the timing of the proposal as Austen has placed it at such a time where Elizabeth is least likely to accept. The overall effect created by Austen is drama and confusion between the characters. She writes of the proposal in an unpredictable way, although perfectly understandable from the point of view of Darcy. Dramatic irony is what pushes the story forward, making an entertaining and gripping read. The statement is true to an extent, however there are elements of surprise on the readers part, and Elizabeth although astonished had many previous clues as to suggest such a thing. Tania Lapa ...read more.

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