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In the novel, Pride and Prejudice, what do Mr Darcy's and Mr Collins' proposals to Elizabethreveal about the three characters?

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Introduction

In the novel, Pride and Prejudice, what do Mr Darcy's and Mr Collins' proposals to Elizabeth reveal about the three characters? In Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice, the over-arching theme is obviously marriage. This is evident in the opening sentence: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." A single lady, however, may not feel the same. Elizabeth Bennet, one of five daughters, refuses the proposal of marriage twice in the book. These proposals, apart from being entertaining for the reader, reveal a lot about the characters involved. The first proposal is in Chapter 19. The Bennet family are on a visit to Longbourn, where Mr Collins lives. The Bennets are meeting up with him because when Mr Bennet dies, Mr Collins will take over his house. While they are visiting, Mr Collins makes an unexpected marriage proposal to Elizabeth. At the beginning of the chapter, Jane Austen describes Mr Collins' proposal. She says that "he set about it in a very orderly manner with all the observances, which he supposed a regular part of the business." This shows the reader that Mr Collins is trying to follow convention and to stick to tradition. It also implies that Mr Collins is quite boring, because he does what is expected of him and tries to observe the customs of society. ...read more.

Middle

All this reveals that Mr Collins is rude and tactless, because he is talking about Elizabeth's father dying while he is trying to propose, and he is insulting Elizabeth. When Elizabeth has to refuse him a fifth time, she is still patient with him, and does not lose her temper. She tells Mr Collins that she would like to be considered as an equal. This shows that she is rational and sensible, and most importantly, secures the reader's knowledge that she wants to marry for love. Earlier in the novel, she tells her sister that she will not marry for money, or for convenience, and this is evident in her refusal of Mr Collins' proposal. The next proposal is Mr Darcy's in Chapter 34, when Mr Darcy arrives at the house unexpectedly. Mr Darcy asked how Elizabeth was "in a hurried manner", implying that he was not comfortable in the situation. Elizabeth answers him "with cold civility". This is unlike her manner with Mr Collins, as she is polite and patient with him, whereas here she is cold and unfriendly. This shows that she acts differently around different people, and that she feels differently towards Mr Collins from the way she feels about Mr Darcy. Mr Darcy paces round the room for a few minutes, and there is silence, suggesting that Mr Darcy is nervous, and that Elizabeth is being unfriendly, because she is quite capable of making conversation in other parts of the book. ...read more.

Conclusion

This shows for the first time that Elizabeth and Darcy are similar in character, because although they are arguing, they are both quick to anger in the circumstances, and they both try to repress their resentment. Darcy also accuses Elizabeth of being proud. This shows the readers that both Darcy and Elizabeth think that the other is proud, and if either were to overcome this pride, they would be surprised at how similar they actually were. Throughout the two proposals, Elizabeth's character changes significantly. When Mr Collins proposes, she remains calm and polite, despite perhaps being frustrated at his inability to realise that she is telling the truth. When Mr Darcy proposes, however, he is more polite than Mr Collins is, and genuinely has feelings for Elizabeth. Elizabeth is ruder to him than she is to Mr Collins, because she thinks that Mr Darcy is too proud. This proves that although Elizabeth is portrayed as being the heroine in the novel, she is actually wrong about many things, and she is quick to judge and to become prejudiced. The first proposal shows that Mr Collins is ignorant and selfish, and so therefore shows the contrast between his marriage to Charlotte Lucas, and Darcy and Elizabeth's marriage. The proposals reveal that Elizabeth does not want to marry someone she does not love, and that she is quite similar in character to Mr Darcy. The reader also realises that there is a lot more to Elizabeth and Mr Darcy than is first thought. ...read more.

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