Pride and Prejudice Chapters 8-14 Summary

In this section, Jane continues to stay with the Bingleys, as she remains under the weather from her rainy ride to Netherfield. Mrs. Bennet, along with Kitty and Lydia, arrive at Netherfield to check in on Jane. Elizabeth, who has remained there to care for her sister, is completely embarrassed by her mother's behavior as she rambles on about Jane's beauty and wonderful country life. Quite rudely, Lydia also tells Mr. Bingley that he should host a ball.

After her mother and sisters leave, Elizabeth continues to spend time with the Bingleys and Darcy. She observes Caroline Bingley's interest in Mr. Darcy when Caroline attempts to engage him in conversation about the letters he is writing and, later, tries to impress him by reading the same book in a series he is reading.

The next day continues in much the same fashion. Bored, Caroline asks Elizabeth to get up and walk around the room with her. Her sole purpose of this, once again, seems to be to get Darcy's attention. Caroline does succeed in engaging Darcy in a conversation, and attempts to mock him in something of a flirtatious manner. A telling line arises in this conversation when Darcy states how once his good opinion is lost, it is gone for good. This will be important to events that occur later in the novel.

The following day, Elizabeth writes to her mother to tell her that she and Jane will soon be returning home. Continuing to scheme, Mrs. Bennet refuses to send her own carriage, hoping it will force Jane to spend more time with the Bingleys. However, Elizabeth knows they are overstaying their welcome, so she borrows a carriage from the Bingleys to return home. Darcy is actually glad for Elizabeth's departure because he finds himself becoming alarmingly attracted to her.

In the following section, Mr. Bennet reveals to his family that a cousin of theirs, Mr. Collins, will be visiting soon. Mr. Collins is the nearest male relative of the family, and so the Bennet estate will pass to him when Mr. Bennet dies. When Mr. Collins does arrive, he proves to be a peculiar character. He is the priest for a parish under a certain noble woman, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, whom he spends much of his time praising despite the fact that the Bennet family neither knows her nor has any interest in her. He also apologies for the fact that he is to inherit the property, all the while commenting on the fine aspects of the house. At the end of his first meal with the family, he insists on reading to the girls from a book of sermons. None of the girls are interested, but the two eldest scolds Lydia when she attempts to talk through his reading.

A number of important issues come to light in this section. First, the distinction between social classes and the importance of reputation comes in to play. Though Darcy and Elizabeth are technically in the same class, Elizabeth's family falls fall below in terms of income and status. Though clearly infatuated with her, Darcy sees his attraction to her as a "danger" and, as a result, attempts to keep his distance from her. He fears that her reputation is not a match for his own and that she is, essentially, below him.

Meanwhile, Caroline Bingley serves as a foil to Elizabeth in this section. A foil is a character who is a direct contrast to another character. While Elizabeth shows disdain for Darcy, Caroline seems desperate to get his attention. And, indeed, Caroline would be a suitable match for Darcy in terms of social status. However, Darcy's ignoring of her and admitting to an attraction to Elizabeth might suggest that, at least subconsciously, he isn't as concerned with social status as Caroline is. If he was, he would marry Caroline for the sake of her being an equal match and forget about Elizabeth. Instead, despite the fact that his head tells him to ignore Elizabeth, his heart continues to be intrigued by and attracted to her.

Also in this section, Mr. Collins arrives into the novel as an important character. Sometime of a nuisance, Mr. Collins is a character whom the reader is supposed to find ridiculous and laughable. Though a man making a decent living through decent work, he seems completely absurd and this will prove all the more true in subsequent sections. His presence in the novel highlights the injustice of a system in which a complete stranger would inherit all of the property that should rightfully belong to the Bennet girls. He clearly knows nothing of them or their home, so Austen seems to point this out as an obvious flaw of their society. This process of passing property to the nearest male relative is called entailment.

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