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|Deception in Ch. 35-36: Jane and Bingley
Written by Connie
(5/3/2010 12:29 p.m.)
First, let's look at Darcy's words about Jane and Bingley, Lizzy's inital reaction, and her later reaction to them after reading about Wickham. Darcy begins by saying: it was not until the evening of the dance at Netherfield that I had any apprehension of [Bingley's] feeling a serious attachment. I had often seen him in love before. It was Sir Wm Lucas's comment that made him think again. After observing Jane closely, he says that Jane showed no participation of sentiment (i.e., no sign of falling in love with Bingley). Darcy admits he could have been wrong. If you have not been mistaken here, I must have been in error... if I have been misled by such error to inflict pain on her, your resentment has not been unreasonable. He goes on to say, That I was desirous of believing her indifferent is certain--but I will venture to say that my my investigations and decisions are not usually influenced by my hopes or fears...
Well, certainly his first impressions show signs of prejudice, but at least in Lizzy's case he changes his view pretty quickly and does not hide that fact from his friends. (We don't know if his first impression of the neighborhood also softened.)
Darcy is not, as so many other characters have been (including Lizzy herself at times), stubbornly holding to his views in the face of contrary evidence. In fact, we have here the flip side of her mistaken belief in Wickham. Darcy believes Lizzy's view must be correct, because she knows Jane so much better than he does. Lizzy did not give the same level of respect to Bingley's knowledge of Darcy's character. But I will look at that further in my next post!
Darcy says that he himself had endeavored to forget the impropriety of Lizzy's family when they were not immediately before him. Apparently, he forgot them enough to persuade himself to propose, but not enough to refrain from insulting the family in the context of the proposal. However, this little attempt at self-deception, which is akin to Charlotte's closing her ears to Mr. Collins's embarassing statements (though not as serious as that IMHO, see my post 44894 on this) was influenced by the strength of Darcy's feelings for Lizzy. He was able to slightly blind himself out of love.
Darcy was, then, able to persuade Bingley that Jane was not in love with him, but that she was willing to accept his suit because he was an eligible match. This is what Darcy really believed to be true. So, Bingley could choose between short-term heartache, which would presumably not hurt anyone else, and longterm regrets about the family he was connecting himself to, along with Jane's motives in accepting him. Bingley became convinced that he had been deceiving himself, even as Jane had tried to convince herself that Bingley had not really been in love with her.
Darcy concealed from Bingley the fact that Jane was in town. This is the only part of his conduct for which he blames himself. Perhaps this concealment, this disguise was beneath me.
That is his whole apology--meaning here, not an expression of regret, but a defense of one's actions or beliefs. This is also the sense of the word as Lizzy uses it: With amazement did she first understand that he believed any apology to be in his power.
She began reading [W]ith a strong prejudice against everything he might say... His belief of her sister's insensibility she instantly resolved to be false. She is angered by the criticisms he makes of her family. It was all pride and insolence.
After reading about Wickham, she re-reads this apology regarding Jane. Widely different was the effect of a second perusal. Ironically, she recalls Charlotte's maxim about a woman showing more affection than she feels. Jane, not acting out of design, was unable to do this, and only someone who intimately knew her character would perceive how deeply attached she really was to Mr. Bingley. She has shown less affection than she feels. But Lizzy may have been right in saying to Charlotte that a man in love cannot help but discover that his object is also in love with him. Bingley, apparently, did discover it, but was still persuaded to believe he had been mistaken.
Here, as elsewhere in the novel, there is an argument in favor of middle ground. One should not say everything one thinks or feels (as Darcy did); nor should somethings be concealed (as Charlotte's dislike of Mr. Collins). If there is deception in intentionally showing more affection than one feels, there is also danger in hiding that affection from the world in general. Bingley's knowledge of Jane's affection was not enough to keep others from separating them. If Jane's affection for Bingley had been generally known, Darcy would apparently not have interfered.
On this second reading, Lizzy did justice to Darcy's charges against her family's conduct. She lays the blame now for Jane's unhappiness on her own nearest relations.
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