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|Lizzy at the Netherfield Ball
Written by Robbin
(4/27/2010 1:25 p.m.)
This post is about Lizzy (my focus) and her views of Darcy & Wickham at the Netherfield ball (Ch. 18). Lizzy is full of compassion for Wickham and resentment for Darcy. She is determined to prove Wickham’s innocence and Darcy’s guilt while enjoying the first’s company as much as possible—it is where all her personal hopes for the evening lie. I apologize for being so far behind schedule but I hope to catch up this week. (:D)
She had dressed with more than usual care, and prepared in the highest spirits for the conquest of all that remained unsubdued of his heart, trusting that it was not more than might be won in the course of the evening. (Ch. 18)
Before the ball Lizzy’s thoughts had been preoccupied with Wickham and the pleasure of being with him but when she arrives at Netherfield and finds him absent she is terribly disappointed and put out of humor. I do not suppose there is not some play in Lizzy’s idea of conquering Wickham’s heart but I do think it is another sign she believes he shares her preference. Lizzy charges all the evil of Wickham’s absence to Darcy although informed he “wished to avoid a certain gentleman” and chose to go away on his own. Although wrong that Wickham had been “purposely omitted for Mr. Darcy's pleasure” her feelings against him are still “so sharpened by immediate disappointment” that:
…she could hardly reply with tolerable civility to the polite inquiries which he directly afterwards approached to make. Attention, forbearance, patience with Darcy, was injury to Wickham. She was resolved against any sort of conversation with him, and turned away with a degree of ill humour which she could not wholly surmount even in speaking to Mr. Bingley, whose blind partiality provoked her. (Ch. 18)
I do not think to this point Lizzy has ever been in such an ill-humor and Darcy receives the lion’s share of it. When he asks Lizzy to dance there is really no chance of felicity because she is determined against it and Charlotte’s attempt to console with the idea of an “agreeable” Darcy is returned with wit that reveals her dislike and bias against him. Lizzy assures “That would be the greatest misfortune of all! -- To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not wish me such an evil” and Charlotte’s advice fancy for Wickham is not worth appearing unpleasant to Darcy is ignored. Lizzy crosses all Darcy’s efforts at conversation during their dance and piques him inturn by “forcing” him to speak, implies Wickham’s misfortunes are his fault and lasting and quizzes him on the merit of his implacable resentments in an attempt to make out his character. They part dissatisfied after Darcy wishes she would not sketch his character “at the present moment” and she refuses suggesting “I may never have another opportunity”. Lizzy, I suppose is dissatisfied that Darcy only questioned (warned) her about Wickham rather than revealing his guilt with his looks and behavior.
Elizabeth instantly read her [Jane’s] feelings, and at that moment solicitude for Wickham, resentment against his enemies, and everything else, gave way before the hope of Jane's being in the fairest way for happiness. (Ch. 18)
Cinderella at least had her happy memories of her prince after the ball but for Lizzy it is a bust in its entirety for even her hopes for Jane cannot stop the misery still to come. After failing to find confirmation of Wickham’s story from Darcy her dissatisfaction grows when first Caroline and then Jane (who speaks for Bingley) both offer only denials to the truth of it. Their belief in Darcy’s innocence without anymore proof than his word and dependence on his good character earns Lizzy’s resentment. It does not strike her their bias for Darcy resembles her own bias in favor of Wickham nor does the fact they have known Darcy longer than she Wickham and thus might have a better right to such a bias. I don’t blame Lizzy for not believing them in favor of her own views of Darcy which are based on her experience with him but she does miss the similarities of their stances. Further guilt for Darcy comes in witnessing her family’s continual improprieties over the course of the ball. Thoughts of his contempt and that of the Binglets mortify Lizzy terribly:
To Elizabeth it appeared, that had her family made an agreement to expose themselves as much as they could during the evening, it would have been impossible for them to play their parts with more spirit or finer success… That his [Bingley’s] two sisters and Mr. Darcy, however, should have such an opportunity of ridiculing her relations, was bad enough, and she could not determine whether the silent contempt of the gentleman, or the insolent smiles of the ladies, were more intolerable. (Ch. 18)
At the end of the ball Lizzy’s opinions of Darcy & Wickham have only intensified in what they were before. (:D)
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