Pride and Prejudice Chapter 22 - 25: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Lucy Barnhouse
In Chapters 22-25 of Pride and Prejudice, the plot thickens, but not to the satisfaction of Mrs. Bennet. The romantic prospects of Lizzy and Jane, once so promising, appear to have come to nothing: Mr. Collins becomes engaged elsewhere, and Mr. Bingley remains in London.

Chapter 22: Charlotte Lucas Gets a Husband

Chapter 22 of Pride and Prejudice sees the Bennet family still dealing with the awkward aftermath of Mr. Collins' unsuccessful marriage proposal to Lizzy. Charlotte, Lizzy's best friend, helps her out by engaging Mr. Collins in conversation. Understandably, Lizzy is incredibly grateful. But she barely has time to think 'Wow, I really owe Charlotte for this!' before she starts wondering whether Charlotte might have hidden motives.

Mr. Collins proposes
1895 illustration

Earlier in the novel, Austen makes it clear that Charlotte takes the unromantic view that happiness in marriage is mostly luck. As a woman from the gentry, Regency England's middle class, Charlotte's only respectable option for financial security is marriage. Stupid Mr. Collins may be, but he is respectable, and Charlotte does all she can to encourage him to propose...and he does! Austen tells us that 'without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object.' Charlotte's family is relieved, as her marriage makes life easier for all of them, removing a financial burden. Lizzy, more idealistic than her friend, is shocked. Worse, she's convinced that Charlotte could never be happy with someone as stupid as Mr. Collins.

Chapter 23: Mrs. Bennet Despairs

Mrs. Bennet, although for different reasons than Lizzy, is also upset about Charlotte's impending marriage. Getting a daughter married off is a social coup, and Mrs. Bennet sees herself as unfairly bested by the Lucases. After all, Mr. Collins is Mr. Bennet's nephew! He's going to inherit the Bennets' property! Worst of all, he would have married Lizzy, if only she'd said yes.

Lizzy and Jane have their own worries, too. Jane has been waiting for weeks for word from Mr. Bingley - or at least from one of his sisters - but has heard nothing. Lizzy is left to fear that Charlotte will be unhappily married and Jane abandoned by a man with whom she could have been happy. Poignantly, Austen ends the chapter with a reflection on the unfairness of women's being disqualified from inheriting property. It is this that renders Jane, Lizzy, and Charlotte all dependent on marriage for their financial and social security.

Chapter 24: Jane Gets a Letter

In Chapter 24, Jane finally gets a letter from London, although it's from Caroline Bingley rather than her brother. The letter is in keeping with all of Caroline's treatment of Jane. It's friendly in tone but doesn't actually show much consideration for Jane's feelings. Caroline tells Jane that that her brother is probably going to marry Miss Darcy. Jane is deeply hurt but determined not to blame Caroline or Charles Bingley. Lizzy, however, is indignant on her sister's behalf.

Caroline's letter leaves several big questions unanswered. Lizzy, in typical Lizzy-fashion, can't leave them alone. Was Mr. Bingley really serious about Jane, or was it just a flirtation that he's forgotten in London? Did he know that Jane had feelings for him, or didn't he? The answers to these questions, as Lizzy realizes, make a big difference to Bingley's character, but no difference to how unhappy Jane is. Jane wants to get over the whole thing as quickly as possible. She even tells herself that what was between her and Bingley was 'no more than an error of fancy on my side.' As Lizzy observes, though, that doesn't make matters any easier.

Chapter 25: A Visit and an Invitation

family tree

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