Pride and Prejudice Chapters 15-21 Summary

In Chapter 15, Mr. Collins reveals to Mrs. Bennet that he is in search of a wife and that he came to Longbourn with the purpose of taking one of the Bennet daughters to fulfill this position. His initial interest is in Jane, as she is the eldest, but Mrs. Bennet cautions him not to propose to her, as she feels an engagement between her and Mr. Bingley is imminent. Mr. Collins is happy enough, then, to shift his attentions to Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, Lydia plans to walk to the nearby town of Meryton to visit the girls' aunt-Mrs. Phillips-and three of her sisters agree to accompany her. While they are there, they run into one of the militia officers, Mr. Denny, who is also a friend. Through him, they meet an agreeable young solider named Mr. Wickham. As the girls socialize with Wickham, he walks with them to their aunt's house. At that time, Bingley and Darcy happen to pass by. Bingley greets the girls-especially Jane-warmly, and Darcy is determined to not look at Elizabeth. However, when Darcy sees Wickham, it is evident that the two know each other; however, their greeting is incredibly cold.

A few days later, Mrs. Phillips invites Wickham over to her home for dinner along with the Bennets and Mr. Collins. The girls spend time getting to know Wickham, who seems like a pleasant enough and certainly handsome enough young man. Elizabeth finds herself engaged in conversation with him and, in particular, she is eager to hear how he knows Darcy. Wickham conveys his story to her, telling her of how he grew up with Darcy. Darcy's father was like a second father to him and had planned on providing money for him to enter the clergy. Wickham was to have a certain sum of money when Darcy's father passed away but, somehow, Darcy managed to find a loophole in the will that allowed him to keep the money for himself. Elizabeth, because she finds Wickham so agreeable and Darcy so unlikeable, instantly believes his story.

The next day, Elizabeth tells Jane everything she has learned. Tending to believe the best in people, Jane asserts there is probably just some misunderstanding between the two men. Surely, according to Jane, Darcy couldn't be so cruel as to do Wickham so much harm.

Soon after this, Bingley sends an invitation to the entire neighborhood for a ball. Elizabeth looks forward to seeing Wickham there. However, Mr. Collins makes her promise to dance the first two dances with him.

Unfortunately, Wickham does not attend the ball, and Elizabeth is profoundly disappointed. Elizabeth dances with Mr. Collins, as promised, and is so surprised when Mr. Darcy asks her to dance that she agrees. While she dances with Darcy, Elizabeth tries to get information about his past with Wickham, a topic Darcy tries to avoid. Meanwhile, Mr. Collins has found out that Mr. Darcy is the nephew of his esteemed patroness, Lady Catherine, and rudely introduces himself to Darcy.

In chapter 19, Mr. Collin's plan to find a wife is put into action, and he proposes to Elizabeth. Shocked and repulsed, Elizabeth refuses him. Though she attempts to do so politely, Mr. Collins will not take no for an answer, insisting that it is the habit of women to feign disinterest in a man they actually want to marry. Elizabeth assures him this is not the case. Mrs. Bennet is infuriated at Elizabeth's rejection because she sees this as a match that would secure the future of the Bennet family. She tries to get Mr. Bennet to coerce Elizabeth into saying yes to Mr. Collins. He, however, also refuses.

A few days after this failed proposal, Jane receives a letter from Netherfield stating that the Bingleys will be returning to the city. In her letter, Miss Bingley insists that Mr. Bingley will be marrying Darcy's sister, Georgiana. Jane is upset, though she tries not to show it. Elizabeth comforts her by telling her that this is some scheme of Miss Bingley and that, surely, Mr. Bingley will return to Netherfield shortly.

Chapters 15-21 put into motion some major components that will become important in the remainder of the novel. Many of these key events center around Mr. Wickham. Interestingly enough, Jane Austen titled the original draft of her novel First Impressions and, in this section, it is certainly easy to see why. Because of his charm and charisma, Wickham makes an instant good first impression on Elizabeth. As a result, she automatically believes him when he tells his tale about Darcy, even rejecting Caroline Bingley's words of caution about Wickham. Interestingly enough, Darcy had made a terrible first impression on Elizabeth and she is prejudice against him for it. She is all too eager to believe Wickham's story about Darcy because of this. Earlier in the novel, she commented that she prided herself on being an objective judge of character. However, her judgment seems to be anything but objective. Ultimately, this is something that will haunt her later on because Wickham isn't as wonderful as he seems.

Also in this section, Mr. Collins continues to prove himself to be a completely laughable character. In his marriage proposal to Elizabeth, he tells her that his reasons for marrying are because Lady Catherine wants him to, he thinks he should set the example of marriage in his parish, and he thinks it will add to his happiness. It seems that he has completely forgotten about one important component: love. His whole proposal is impersonal, and it is painfully obvious that he knows nothing about her at all. Indeed his perception of marriage is laughable in itself and seems like something on a checklist of his rather than a matter of the heart. He switches his attentions for Jane to Elizabeth with only a word from Mrs. Bennet, so clearly he has no affection for either of them. Additionally, when does propose to Elizabeth his disbelief of her rejection shows the narrowness and self-centeredness of his own views.

The development of Mr. Collins' character once against seems to be Austen's comment on marriage. Mr. Collins clearly doesn't know the first thing about love and his social awkwardness continues to be a point of contention for the Bennet family and a laughable trait for the audience. Since the reader cannot take him seriously, nor should the reader takes his views on love and marriage seriously. Again, Austen does not seem to believe in the idea of marriage for the sake of convenience.

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