Updated: May 4, 2019
Is there hope that faithful love can overcome the injuries made by pride and condescension? Let’s hope for Mr. Darcy’s sake there is! Anyone who knows the story of Pride and Prejudice well, knows that Mr. Darcy made some early mistakes of injuring Elizabeth Bennet. He wounded her spirit by disdaining her looks within earshot and implying that she was being ignored by other men because something was wrong with her. His pride lost the first battle for her heart.
While Mr. Darcy slowly changed his mind about Elizabeth Bennet in the ensuing months, he was unaware that she remained in a state of wounded pride and almost hate. By being the “wounder” and not the wounded, he was blissfully ignorant of the ongoing pain in Elizabeth’s heart. So, months later during a visit to her friend, Charlotte, when he had an opportunity to propose, Mr. Darcy did. His ignorance of his injuries blindsided him to the impending bitter reaction from Elizabeth.
You know the scene: when Elizabeth comes down with a severe headache upon learning that Mr. Darcy had separated her sister from Mr. Bingley, Darcy who was worried for her health and paid her a visit. Confident in who he was, confident that he is an excellent catch for someone from Elizabeth’s class in society, Mr. Darcy plunges into the worst proposal recorded in fiction.
Author Jane Austen recorded his transformation: “His tenderness morphed into hints at his pride: he recognized her inferiority, and when he dwelt on her family’s obstacles, his speech was warm but wounding. He was not recommending himself well to Elizabeth.” He started well by declaring that he was passionately in love, but he finished by making sure she knew how low he was stooping to propose to her at all.
Of course, Elizabeth was deeply hurt. Already angry with him for learning that he was involved in separating her sister from Mr. Bingley, but she also believed that Darcy had deliberately brought Mr. Wickham to his current state of poverty. She states her refusal flatly, “If I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot-I have never desired your good opinion, and you have bestowed most unwillingly. I hope your pain will be of short duration, but I cannot accept your proposal.”
When Darcy asks for an explanation for being so soundly rejected, Elizabeth lays two charges against him: the one concerning her sister’s broken heart and the other of Wickham’s poverty. Mr. Darcy was shocked to learn that she knew of his involvement in Jane’s separation. And he refused to explain right then about Wickham.
Darcy finishes with, “I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and I have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been. Forgive me for taking up so much of your time and accept my wishes for your health and happiness.” With that he left Elizabeth in shock with the immense emotions that had passed between them.
Mr. Darcy finishes this section by handing Elizabeth a letter the next morning, containing his reasons for both the charges. His wisdom in taking the time to write his defense was beautiful, for it gave Elizabeth opportunity to read it repeatedly. Slowly the letter began to have an effect on her spirits. Is there any hope that Mr. Darcy can redeem himself and get a second chance with Elizabeth? Next week’s blog will answer that question.
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