Pride and Prejudice Chapters 56-61 Summary

In this final section, Lady Catherine pays an unexpected visit to the Bennet family. Lady Catherine insists on having a private conversation with Elizabeth, so they go for a walk. Elizabeth agrees, though she has no idea what Lady Catherine could possibly want with her. As it turns out, Lady Catherine has heard a rumor that Darcy plans on proposing to Elizabeth. Lady Catherine insist that this is a absurd idea given Elizabeth's low social status, and she insists that Darcy will be marrying her own daughter.

Elizabeth is, of course, very surprised to hear this news because Darcy has not made any recent gestures of affection toward her. However, Elizabeth manages to conceal her surprise from Lady Catherine and maintain her composure. Elizabeth feels insulted, nonetheless, by Lady Catherine's implications about her family.

Lady Catherine tries to make Elizabeth swear that she will never marry Mr. Darcy because she believes this would ruin Darcy's reputation. Elizabeth holds her ground, and tells Lady Catherine she will make no such promise. She is actually downright defiant, telling Lady Catherine that she will do whatever she deems right when it comes to the matter of her own happiness. Furious, Lady Catherine leaves. Elizabeth does not tell anyone about their conversation, despite her family's curiosity.

In subsequent chapters, Mr. Collins writes to congratulate the Bennet family on the supposed impending marriage between Darcy and Elizabeth. After reading the letter, Mr. Benent scoffs at it, wondering at the ludicrous notion that Elizabeth would ever think to marry Darcy. The irony is apparent, of course, because the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth that has been developing throughout the novel.

Soon after this, Darcy himself comes to stay at Netherfield with Bingley. Both Bingley and Darcy come to visit the Bennet family. Several of the sisters, Elizabeth included, go for a walk with the two gentlemen. At this point, Elizabeth and Darcy have a long conversation, trailing somewhat behind everyone else. They are able to have a conversation in something of a private manner.

Elizabeth, at last, is able to thank Darcy for all that he has done for her family in saving Lydia from certain ruin. In his reply, Darcy says that he only did this because he was thinking of Elizabeth. After some hesitation, Darcy asks Elizabeth if her feelings have changed toward him at all since his first proposal. Elizabeth assures him that they have, and the two quietly agree to be married.

The night after this eventful walk, Elizabeth tells Jane that she plans to marry Darcy. Jane is surprised by this, unable to believe that Elizabeth actually loves him, especially given her previous opinions about his insufferable pride. Elizabeth assures Jane that she does. And, the very next day, Darcy comes for another visit, this time speaking to Mr. Bennet in order to ask for Elizabeth's hand in marriage. Mr. Bennet is in as much shock as Jane, and Elizabeth tells him of everything that Mr. Darcy has done for their family. Seeing now his true character and realizing Elizabeth's love for Darcy, Mr. Bennet happily gives his consent.

Elizabeth then breaks the news to Mrs. Bennet. For perhaps the first time in the novel, Mrs. Bennet is actually speechless. This is, in part, because she had no idea that Elizabeth had any sort of affection for Darcy. Once the shock wears off, however, Mrs. Bennet is overjoyed to have yet another daughter about to be married.

The final chapter of the novel is something of an epilogue, serving to tie up loose ends. It tells of how, after they are married, Jane and Bingley purchase a home that is near Pemberley. Jane and Elizabeth are able to visit each other often, away from their own overbearing mother. Kitty comes to visit frequently and, kept out of the reach of Lydia's bad influences, matures greatly. Lydia and Wickham never change and continuously ask for money from Lydia's sisters. Elizabeth also grows close with Georgiana Darcy. In general, it is a happy ending for the characters who most deserve it.

In this final section, Lady Catherine serves as a culminating obstacle to Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage. Lady Catherine expresses the prevailing argument that Bennet family is not a match for Darcy, echoing Darcy's own concerns from earlier in the novel. However, Elizabeth certainly exerts her strong-willed personality and independence in this section by refusing to bend to her wishes. If anything, Lady Catherine's words encourage her because Elizabeth realizes that there might be some shred of hope for her relationship with Darcy if Lady Catherine is worried enough to intervene.

Additionally, Darcy's second proposal might seem somewhat anticlimactic, as it happens during a quiet moment in the book. Whereas his first proposal spanned pages, this happens over a very short exchange between him and Elizabeth. However, Austen's purpose in this is surely to show that a true love and a grounded marriage don't need all the pomp and circumstance that Darcy's first proposal required. Instead, this proposal is an agreement from two people who have gone on a mutual journey, and they agree to marriage because there is nothing else much to be said. Their affection for each other is self-evident.

Their happy future, as describe in the last chapter of the novel, would certainly support this idea. Elizabeth and Darcy seem perfect for each other in the end. Throughout the novel, they have seen each other at their worst, but also at their best, and they to accept each other as they are. This, coupled with the fact that Lydia and Wickham never find true happiness, supports the idea that those who marry for love will ultimately be the happiest. In the end, Jane Austen is an optimist, showing that those who look for it can find love and happiness in marriage.

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