Pride and Prejudice Chapter 6 - 9: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Lucy Barnhouse
This lesson covers chapters 6-9 of 'Pride and Prejudice,' in which the acquaintance between the Bennet family and the household at Netherfield deepens, and the courtship of Bingley and Jane progresses... sort of.

Pride & Prejudice 6-9: Money Matters

In chapters 6-9 of Pride and Prejudice, all of the main characters have already been introduced to the reader and to each other. Here, Austen gives a bit more background on the Bennet family, revealing their shaky financial circumstances and their undistinguished relations. These affect both the upbringing of the Bennet sisters and how the more fashionable Bingleys act towards them. (As Austen points out, there's some irony in this, as Bingley's own father made his fortune from trade, rather than inheriting it from his ancestors.) Austen also shows Bingley's household from the inside for the first time, allowing readers to learn more about the characters of those in it.

The members of the Netherfield household
party

Love and Marriage?

Chapter 6 is devoted to the book's themes of love and its relationship (if any) to the pursuit of marriage. As Bingley and his sisters get to know the families of the neighborhood better, his attachment to Jane is becoming increasingly obvious. Jane is also 'in a way to be very much in love,' but this is less obvious, due to the fact that she is super-nice to everyone all the time.

Lizzy thinks Jane's attitude is a good thing, as it protects her sister's reputation. It would be all too easy for Jane to be accused of throwing herself at (rich! handsome! single!) Mr. Bingley if she were overeager. Lizzy's friend Charlotte is less optimistic, wisely noting that few people 'have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement.' Through the friends' conversation, Austen makes clear that Charlotte thinks of marriage primarily as a social relationship, while Lizzy thinks of it primarily as an emotional one.

Lizzy declines to dance
awkward conversation

Meanwhile, surprisingly, Mr. Darcy begins to find himself attracted to Lizzy, despite her lack of social polish and conventional beauty. He is actively distressed by this. (Mr. Darcy is bad at feelings.) He decides to prepare to have an actual conversation with her by listening to her conversations with other people. (Mr. Darcy is also bad at social interactions.)

With the intervention of Sir William Lucas, Mr. Darcy and Lizzy actually do have a conversation, but Lizzy declines Sir William's suggestion that she and Mr. Darcy should dance together. Mr. Darcy broods about how stupid the party is, but also about how nice Lizzy's eyes are. Caroline Bingley, flirting with him, is taken aback to discover this, but concludes that he could never be seriously attracted to someone with such embarrassing relations.

The Best-Laid Plans...

In Chapter 7, Jane accepts an invitation to dinner from Mr. Bingley's sisters, with unexpectedly complex results. Since the Bennets only have one set of horses that they use both for farming and for drawing their carriage, Jane is obliged to ride over to Netherfield. Caught in the rain, she's then obliged to stay overnight by the bad weather... and develops a bad cold. She sends a note home telling the family not to worry. Mrs. Bennet doesn't, saying 'People do not die of little trifling colds!' Lizzy, however, immediately sets out to visit her sister. She is, of course, obliged to walk; her appearance at Netherfield, predictably muddy, scandalizes Mr. Bingley's sisters. Mr. Bingley himself is touched by her concern for Jane, which he shares. Mr. Darcy, as usual, is as silent as possible.

Jane and Lizzy's visit at Netherfield sheds further light on the characters of everyone there. Bingley's sisters are revealed to be essentially self-centered; for all their professed affection for Jane, they're perfectly ready to mock her family behind her back. Moreover, although they visit Jane's sickroom, they don't really let her distress interfere with their own pleasures. (Everyone who has experienced high school probably knows at least one person like this.) Bingley, although forbidden by the rules of respectability from actually seeing Jane, is far more genuinely concerned for her.

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