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Escaping the Fog of Pride and Prejudice
The words of the title of Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice,
shroud the main characters, Elizabeth and Darcy in a fog. The plot of the novel
focuses on how Elizabeth and Darcy escape the fog and find each other. Both
characters must individually recognize their faults and purge them. At the
beginning of the novel, it seems as if the two will never be able to escape the
thick fog. The scene at the Netherfield ball makes the marriage of Elizabeth
and Darcy much more climactic because the pride and prejudice of both increases
greatly during the night.
The Netherfield ball is the first time Darcy and Elizabeth dance. When
Darcy asks Elizabeth she is so surprised and confused that she says yes to a man
who she is determined to hate. At the Meryton ball she had quickly made a
sketch of Darcy's character. Compared to Jane who "never [sees] a fault in any
body" (11), she doesn't believe only the best in everyone. She is usually right
about people. From simply hearing Mr. Collins' letter, she asks if he is a
sensible man, which he proves not to be. She is precisely perceptive of
everyone except Wikham and Darcy.
At the Meryton ball, Darcy is very reserved. He refuses to dance with
Elizabeth when Bingley asks him to, saying that Elizabeth is not handsome enough
to tempt him. Elizabeth's pride is hurt and she characterizes Darcy as
disagreeable and proud. When Elizabeth first meets Wikham, she is blinded by
her prejudice of Darcy as she accepts everything harmful Wikham has to say of
Darcy. The plot of the rest of the book revolves around Elizabeth discovering
the true nature of both Darcy and Wikham. At the Netherfield ball, it seems
this will never happen. From the beginning of the night, when Elizabeth
discovers Wikham didn't attend the ball in order to avoid Darcy she "was
resolved against any sort of conversation with him" (60). Her hate of Darcy is
sharpened, yet when he asks her to dance, she accepts in her confusement.
There is an awkwardness between the two as they start to dance.
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conversation is very strained. Then they begin speaking of prejudice.
Elizabeth asks Darcy if he "never [allows himself] to be blinded by prejudice"
(63). She believes Darcy has made a mistake in resenting Wikham due to his
prejudice. Darcy realizes she's making an incorrect sketch of his character.
In a gentlemanly manner he decides not to insult Wikham, instead he tells her to
postpone "[sketching his] character at the present moment" (63). Finally they
both part in silence, each upset with the other. Darcy's dissatisfaction,
however, turns into anger towards Wikham. The irony of the conversation is that
Elizabeth is the one who is blinded by prejudice.
Elizabeth's prejudice increases as the night goes on. After dancing
with Darcy, she encounters Miss Bingley, who attacks Wikham after discovering
Elizabeth is "quite delighted with Wikham." Elizabeth doesn't believe a word of
it and gives Miss Bingley an angry reply. Elizabeth later hears more news
against Wikham from Bingley through conversation with Jane. Again, she
disregards it. She doesn't doubt Bingley's sincerity but because he's never met
Wikham and has probably received his information about him from Darcy, her
delight with Wikham doesn't change. Due to Elizabeth's pride and prejudice,
her sketches of Darcy's and Wikham's character are incorrect.
Despite this fallacy, Darcy is attracted to Elizabeth not only because
of her "expressive eyes," but mainly due to her wit and good sense. The
conflict which needs to be resolved in Darcy is his love for Elizabeth versus
his pride which won't allow him to marry into Elizabeth's family, which is at a
much lower position on the social ladder. At the Netherfield ball, Darcy's
dislike of Elizabeth's family grows.
First, Mr. Collins discovers that Lady Catherine's nephew is present and
is intent on introducing himself to Darcy, despite Elizabeth's attempts to
dissuade him. Darcy is visibly offended, though Collins never notices. Mrs.
Bennet then further embarrasses Elizabeth, who is beginning to see the lack of
manner in her family, by bragging to Lady Lucas about her expectations of Jane's
future marriage. Darcy's expression changes to a steady gravity while
overhearing Mrs. Bennet. Finally, Mary gives an affected and boring singing
The events at the Netherfield ball cause Darcy to convince Bingley to
leave Jane and move to London. In addition to Darcy's dislike of the Bennet
family, Darcy doesn't believe Jane returns the same feelings as Bingley sends to
her. Miss Lucas saw this as a possibility earlier. "If a woman conceals her
affection... from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him"
For part of the evening at the Netherfield ball, Elizabeth is trapped
with Collins. In the next chapter he proposes to her in a condescending manner.
He believes that no woman would refuse him do to his high social position. Yet,
Elizabeth does refuse him. Elizabeth is seeking a romantic marriage in which
she will respect and love the one she marries. This is in contrast to her
friend Charlotte Lucas who only seeks a marriage in which she will advance her
social position. Elizabeth doesn't believe Miss Lucas' idea of marriage until
she sees an application of it. Miss Lucas accepts a proposal from Collins. The
friendship weakens after this because Elizabeth cannot respect her friend's
Elizabeth later declines a proposal from Darcy. He proposed, while his
pride and love for Elizabeth were still conflicting. His proposal was like
Collins', he felt he was giving Elizabeth a great honor. He told her of his
struggle to overcome his dislike of Elizabeth's family. The proposal is so
unromantic that Elizabeth returns a harsh rejection. This is when Darcy
recognizes his pride and begins to purge it. As a truer character is revealed
before Elizabeth, she her own prejudice towards him and quickly loses it. The
marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy is such a great one because each had to conquer
numerable obstacles to be able to accept the other. The Netherfield ball
introduced many of the obstacles which made the marriage seem impossible.