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Pride and Prejudice Chapter 58 - 61: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Lucy Barnhouse
In the final chapters of 'Pride and Prejudice,' the narrative comes to a gradual end. Rather than ending right after Jane and Bingley (and even Lizzy and Darcy!) are together, Austen uses the conclusion to explore the book's themes of love, marriage, and social class.

Resolutions

To the delight of everyone, Mr. Bingley has returned to the neighborhood. Mr. Darcy has even come with him. Mrs. Bennet, unsurprisingly, has revived all her hopes for her daughter Jane, who she thinks will marry the wealthy Mr. Bingley. Jane is still in love with Bingley, but is just happy to see him again. Lizzy, meanwhile, is keeping a lot of secrets. She's the only one at Longbourn who knows that Mr. Darcy is responsible for saving her sister Lydia's reputation, and in turn saving the Bennets' reputation as a whole. She hasn't told anyone that Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, confronted her, outraged by the possibility that they might marry. Lizzy hasn't even admitted to Jane that, despite everything, she's in love with Darcy.

Chapter 58: Confessions of Feeling

Lizzy is surprised when Darcy accompanies Bingley on his second visit to the Bennets at Longbourn. She also dreads that her mother will embarrass them all by mentioning Lady Catherine's visit. Fortunately, Mr. Bingley suggests that the young people all go for a walk, which gives them some privacy. Jane and Bingley, naturally, set their own pace. Lizzy and Darcy end up walking with Kitty. Awkward silence prevails, although Austen tells us Lizzy is 'secretly forming a desperate resolution; and, perhaps, he might be doing the same.'

When Kitty splits off to visit a friend, Lizzy takes advantage of the moment. She thanks Mr. Darcy for everything he's done for Lydia and the Bennet family, explaining that Lydia gave away his secret. Predictably, Mr. Darcy is embarrassed. Rather than going silent, however, he tells Lizzy that he acted for her sake alone. (All together now: aww!) He then begs Lizzy to tell him if her feelings towards him have changed since she turned down his proposal of marriage. 'My affections and wishes are unchanged,' he says, 'but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.' Rendered almost speechless herself, Lizzy incoherently assures him that she welcomes and returns his love.

This is one of the greatest moments of emotional payoff in literature. In telling Lizzy that he respects her family, and in asking her about her feelings rather than assuming that she'll welcome his romantic interest, Mr. Darcy shows how much he's changed since his first, arrogant proposal. Lizzy has grown, too. She apologizes for misjudging him, and they spend much of their walk reminiscing about the development of their relationship.

Chapter 59: Telling the Family

Everyone is surprised when Lizzy and Darcy come back late for dinner. After Bingley and Darcy have gone, Lizzy finally tells Jane the truth. Jane, though normally a trusting soul, can't believe it: doesn't Lizzy dislike him? 'This is a wretched beginning!' exclaims Lizzy. Eventually, she's able to convince her sister that she really, truly does love Mr. Darcy. The fraught relationship between love and marriage comes up again when Lizzy and Darcy tell her parents the next day.

Lizzy and her dad: 1830s illustration
the conversation

Mr. Bennet gives Mr. Darcy his formal consent, but then insists on talking to Lizzy alone. He says he knows the wealthy Mr. Darcy is a catch, but that Lizzy shouldn't feel obliged to accept him. 'I know,' says Mr. Bennet, 'that you could be neither happy nor respectable unless you truly esteemed your husband.' This speech to his favorite daughter is one of the novel's clearest articulations of the tension between marriage as an emotional relationship and marriage as a social contract. Lizzy is touched by her dad's concern, and assures him that she loves and respects Mr. Darcy. Then, she tells her dad all that Darcy's done for their family.

Mrs. Bennet is speechless
1890s illustration

Mrs. Bennet's reaction to Lizzy and Darcy's engagement is uncharacteristic. She is actually unable to speak for several minutes. Eventually, she recovers and follows Lizzy into her room to enthuse about Mr. Darcy's superior social class: 'Ten thousand a year, and very likely more! 'Tis as good as a Lord!' Lizzy is very grateful that her mom is too awed by Mr. Darcy to say such things to his face.

Chapter 60: Conversations and Letters

Gentle teasing
intimate conversations

In chapter 60, Lizzy and Darcy continue to be adorable together. It isn't just Jane Austen's fan service, though. The chapter highlights how mutual respect is the basis of their relationship. Austen implies that this honest respect should be at the core of any relationship. Lizzy even teases Darcy a little, and warns him that she's likely to make a habit of it. They each write to their aunts: Darcy breaks the news of their impending marriage to Lady Catherine, while Lizzy shares her joy with Aunt Gardiner.

Dealing with the neighbors
Sir William, Collins, and the happy couple

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