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|Was Bingley Responsible?
Written by BarbaraB
(5/6/2013 12:31 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Did Bingley behave dishonorably by Jane?, penned by Ramya
It isn’t difficult for a man to raise expectations. It is merely producing, by his behavior, the expectation that leads others to believe/expect that an engagement will be forthcoming. A man does this by showing particular regard or partiality towards one young woman. When Bingley first walks in the door of the Meryton assembly he honors Jane in particular by dancing two sets and partners are scarce, at that. That should not raise expectations in itself but a seed has been planted and Bingley gives the seed careful attention by showering Jane with special regard. Her first night down at Netherfield after her illness, Bingley sits down by her and ‘scarcely talked to anyone else.’ This becomes a common practice, sitting next to her all the time until eventually reaching the point where he is totally so engrossed in Jane he neglects to dance with other young women who don’t have dance partners and fails to hear Lizzy talking to him. He is in essence courting Jane.
This doesn’t have anything to do with what Darcy notices or doesn’t notice. It is a matter of whether the young lady, her family, friends, acquaintances or any combination of them has perceived a young man, in this case Bingley, to have intentions of making a proposal. Love does not have to be involved as we see when Darcy fears he might have been raising expectations by giving Lizzy a bit too much attention and resolves to ignore her during her last day at Netherfield or when Fitzwilliam worries about the same thing and just comes out and tells Lizzy, he cannot necessarily marry where he wishes. There is no love involved with Wentworth who is shocked to discover he has raised expectations before he realizes the error of his ways.
When gianni made the statement: ‘Darcy was led to observe closely Bingley’s behavior because Sir William informed him of the common view’, that statement, imo, entails exactly what raising expectation is---that is when people are speculating, hinting, and voicing their expectation of an upcoming engagement. It was in all likelihood the common view. Darcy’s failure to have observed it himself is because he had knowledge of Bingley’s easy admiration for pretty girls and had not noticed any exception in this case, until it was brought to his attention. Meryton bases their conclusion strictly on their observation of Bingley’s behavior of partiality toward Jane.
So what of Bingley’s responsibility? Lizzy sees Bingley’s possible failure to return after raising expectations like this: “Elizabeth began to fear -- not that Bingley was indifferent -- but that his sisters would be successful in keeping him away. Unwilling as she was to admit an idea so destructive of Jane's happiness, and so dishonourable to the stability of her lover, she could not prevent its frequently recurring. The united efforts of his two unfeeling sisters and of his overpowering friend...” Lizzy’s expectations as a family member have been raised after a good deal of observation of the couple and Austen knows her words should carry authority for readers when she relates Bingley’s behavior to her Aunt. Maybe some leeway can be given to Bingley because his ‘rejection’, in a sense was not intentional. But it does not absolve him of responsible behavior.
He should have returned. Even if Jane was truly indifferent as Darcy had said, that did not mean, her expectations had not been raised nor preclude that she had every intention of accepting an expected proposal. Bingley knew what his behavior had been and that it was the type of behavior that generally raised speculation. At this point even if he feared a ‘no’, imo, honor would have required him to make an offer. Wentworth feared a ‘yes‘ but he understood that duty/honor/responsibility committed him to accept the consequences for his actions. “Conventions in courtship were established to protect a female, in particular, and to some extent a male, from falling foul of improper conduct on the part of the other sex. A man who paid too much attention to women without being serious about intentions could make a fool of a young lady who was taken in by his advances.” (Malcom Day) Even though Jane acted with perfect decorum, Bingley’s abandonment after raising expectations in her community was not without humiliation.
As we know, Bingley would have been pleasantly surprised. This young man, it seems, had a lesson to learn. Luckily for him he had an obliging author, who, despite his mistake, obviously liked him and hastened him to a happy ending with his beloved Jane and in the end, what a cute couple. :)
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