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|Lizzy at Netherfield, Part 1 (Long)
Written by Robbin
(4/18/2010 8:31 p.m.)
This is another post on Lizzy, my focus for this group read. This post will cover her time at Netherfield from her surprising arrival in Ch. 7 to the walk in Ch. 10 tracking how she feels about Darcy. At this point Lizzy does not like Darcy, knows he does not admire her and thinks he enjoys making sport of her.
Lizzy’s disheveled appearance causes a stir among the residents of Netherfield and she is sure Sisters Bingley hold “her in contempt for” (7) for walking such a distance to visit an ill sister. Darcy is present but Lizzy considers him not. I suspect because he said very little and it was empty of the incredulity obvious in the sisters’ reaction. (Chapter 8) At dinner Darcy, who is occupied by Caroline, makes no impression whatsoever. Later that evening Lizzy returns to the company because “it appeared to her rather right than pleasant” and she at last takes notice of Darcy. Trying to occupy herself with a book, Lizzy finds she cannot attend as she is caught by Caroline’s making love to the Pemberley library and Darcy’s aloof responses. Lizzy probably thinks Caroline ridiculous and must see that Darcy is not engaging with her. Perhaps she finds his part unsurprisingly less than courteous but amusing for his ability to allude Caroline’s attempts to draw him into a genuine discussion.
Next Caroline tries to draw Darcy’s attention by asking of Miss Darcy, “will she be as tall as I am?” but instead of mentally comparing Caroline to his sister he looks to Lizzy—a fact Lizzy appears to attach no significance. Caroline’s raptures on Miss Darcy’s accomplishments inspire Bingley to astound the others with the idea all young ladies are very accomplished. Darcy is quick to say he knows only six women “that are really accomplished" and it ends with “his faithful assistant” regaling them with a list of elegant accomplishments to which Darcy adds “the improvement of her mind by extensive reading”. Lizzy claims to have never seen such a woman. As far as I can tell Lizzy does not connect his addition of extensive reading to her earlier assertion ““I am not a great reader”” although I think it is. I think Darcy’s idea of an accomplished woman reinforces Lizzy’s opinion of him as a man with too much pride and too little consideration of others just as at the assembly. He comprehends “a great deal” because only a lady so rarified is worthy of him and it also suggests some disdain of the more utilitarian accomplishments on Bingley’s list. For the most part Lizzy has been oblivious to Darcy but when she does take notice it is for an opinion she should have supposed him to profess.
The next day Mrs. Bennet visits Jane and exposes herself with ill humor towards Darcy, odorous comparisons and finally a boast of Jane’s having a past admirer inspired to poetry by her beauty. Lizzy takes pains to stop her, even explains how Darcy did not insult country neighborhoods. After an exchange on whether poetry feeds love or starves it away Darcy smiles and the general pause that followed made Lizzy “tremble lest her mother should be exposing herself again”. Poor Lizzy is shamed by her mother’s behavior, and it is in front of people who will make sport of it and Bingley. (Chapter 10) In the evening, Lizzy “took up some needlework, and was sufficiently amused” (again) by the play between Caroline and Darcy as he is writing a letter—their back and forth produces Bingley’s indirect boast and an argument on the merit of yielding to the persuasion of a friend, Lizzy for, Darcy against:
"…you must remember, Miss Bennet, that the friend who is supposed to desire his return to the house, and the delay of his plan, has merely desired it, asked it without offering one argument in favour of its propriety." (10)
Lizzy says “You appear to me, Mr. Darcy, to allow nothing for the influence of friendship and affection” suggesting he is too unyielding and asks if he would think ill of someone who changes “a resolution of no very great moment… without waiting to be argued into it” but he is unwilling to make a judgment without greater specifics of party and situation. Lizzy’s interest may be in how it casts light on his behavior at the assembly where he did not yield to the persuasion of friend. Bingley’s arguments, that Darcy was behaving stupidly and there were many pretty, agreeable girls to partner, did not convince him in favor of its (dancing) propriety. In that situation friendship and affection did mean nothing, he was unyielding and had no consideration for his friend. I suspect Lizzy cannot approve. Later Bingley teases he knows not “a more awful object than Darcy…” and Darcy smiles but Lizzy perceives “he was rather offended, and therefore checked her laugh” perhaps she thinks he would be offended by her laughter.
Lizzy ruminates over music books on “how frequently Mr. Darcy's eyes were fixed on her” and how strange that he should “look at her because he disliked her” and imagined she drew his notice because she was “more wrong and reprehensible” than anyone else present. The narrator kindly tells us that “She liked him too little to care for his approbation” and I do not suppose his timing could have been worse for asking “Do not you feel a great inclination, Miss Bennet, to seize such an opportunity of dancing a reel?” inspiring Lizzy to respond:
"You wanted me, I know, to say 'Yes,' that you might have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes, and cheating a person of their premeditated contempt. …I do not want to dance a reel at all -- and now despise me if you dare." (10)
Darcy’s response of “Indeed I do not dare” is unquestionably charming but it shows that he views Lizzy’s response simply as flirtatious but considering her feeling he looks at her only to criticize and that she “rather expected to affront him” it cannot be. Elizabeth is amazed at his gallantry and might have wondered at it, but she does not. Their last encounter in Ch. 10 is out walking; the sisters snub Lizzy by monopolizing Darcy’s arms on a path that admits only three across leaving her to trail behind. Darcy notices their rudeness and suggests the party “go into the avenue” where there is a wider road to walk. Lizzy gives no particular credit to Darcy perhaps because he did only as common courtesy demanded but she might have considered that he rather gallantly fulfilled what Caroline, their hostess, refused to do. So far Lizzy’s experiences at Netherfield have not taught her to like Darcy any better than when she first arrived.
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