Pride and Prejudice: Episode 3

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

In which we meet Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the Gardiners and both Charlotte and Elizabeth receive marriage proposals.

This episode is all about marriage; the offers, the lack of offers and the consequences of either acceptance or declination of such offers.

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are an interesting pair. Having to witness these two people and their marriage every day would affect anyone. While we do not know what led them to marry originally, they now bring out the worst in each other. This enmity spills over into the relationships with their daughters. Mrs. Bennet (as several people commented on in the previous episode) obviously favors Lydia and Jane, and cannot understand Elizabeth at all. Mr. Bennet obviously favors Elizabeth and cannot stand his three youngest. He goes so far as to insult all three of them in public.

Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Bennet sees their daughters for who they are or what they may be experiencing. Jane, in love with Bingley, has been patiently waiting for him to propose. Instead, she receives a letter from Caroline that leaves no one in any doubt that a proposal is not forthcoming. Elizabeth is infatuated with Wickham and wants her parents to like him. As the soldiers leave after tea, both parents make comments that prove just how oblivious they are to anything but themselves. Mrs. Bennet flutters on about Bingley leaving and the huge mistake Elizabeth made by rejecting Mr. Collins. Mr. Bennet makes a series of rather sarcastic remarks about how young women want to be thwarted in love that force his eldest to leave the room, cause Elizabeth to literally sit up to defend her new friend and leave his wife in tears.

Jane and Elizabeth both long for a marriage as unlike their parents as possible. Having seen what marrying for money or security can do to one’s soul, they want to at least be able to like and respect their future spouse. Which is why, I believe, Elizabeth is so upset by Charlotte’s news.

Very quickly after he is rejected by Elizabeth, Mr. Collins proposes to and is accepted by Charlotte. She is a wonderful example of the purely pragmatic side of matrimony. She is older and she is plainer than the other girls, so when she is given a chance to marry a man who has a good living and will one day have an estate, she takes it. Charlotte is not a fool; she understands the type of man she is marrying. As she says, however, she is not romantic. She wants a good home and a secure future and, now, she will have both.

As Elizabeth visits Charlotte, it is very clear that her worst fears have been confirmed. Charlotte is lonely and bored; going out of her way to ensure that she spends as little time as possible with her husband. While she tells Elizabeth that she is “quite content,” the way she greets Elizabeth when she arrives and her description of her daily life put that remark in doubt.

In direct contrast to her reaction to Charlotte’s marrying for security, Elizabeth is able to understand why Wickham is to marry Mary King and to accept it graciously. I get the impression that, at least on some level, Elizabeth knew from the start that she and Wickham would not be able to marry and so did not allow herself to fall in love with him. By doing so, she has also saved herself a broken heart.

Clearly, Elizabeth is just fine while she is in Kent. Refusing to be intimidated by Lady Catherine, she is polite and gracious enough to not embarrass either her cousin or her friend. The situation improves immensely when Darcy and Fitzwilliam turn up. As quickly as Elizabeth had decided she didn’t like Darcy, she decides that she does like Fitzwilliam and the two become friends. Of course, Fitzwilliam is charming and friendly; hardly the proud, aloof man that his friend was and is.

The friendship with Fitzwilliam helps Elizabeth begin to see the man behind the facade and Darcy, in turn, approaches her much more gently than he ever has in the past. The whole conversation over the piano at Rosings is flirty and fun and, for the first time, they smile at each other. They are still going at each other; but, now they are laughing while they do so.

The call the next day is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. They are both so used to disliking each other that they struggle to find something to say, but the thaw from the night before is now between them. Uncomfortable and awkward, the silences are long and the conversation is stilted. Until it becomes personal. Elizabeth hints that she wouldn’t mind living a great distance away from her family and Darcy instantly picks up on it. This intimacy, however slight, scares them both and he scurries off.

The next time they are alone together, things become intimate indeed. Darcy’s proposal and Elizabeth’s refusal is a tour de force and I love watching it. It is hard to imagine a less romantic declaration of love. I don’t want to love you; I don’t like your family; I fought this as long as I could, but I really do want to marry you.

While it is often said that the pride in the title refers to Darcy and the prejudice Elizabeth, this young woman has enough pride of her own and it comes out in a very real way here. Already upset with Darcy because of his interference with Bingley and Jane, her anger takes over and she snaps at him.

What is clear as we watch this exchange, however, is the level of emotion they are both feeling. Darcy can’t stop pacing; Elizabeth is close to tears. As Elizabeth throws one accusation after another at Darcy, he gets angry as well and snaps back, especially around Wickham. Jealousy can make us say awful things.

At no time during the entire conversation does the subject of money come up. Unlike the Collins’ marriage which is based solely on the pecuniary need that each has for the other, this proposal is all about love and respect. Although he is saying the words, Elizabeth does not feel love or respect and so, she turns down one of the richest men in England. I’m not sure the thought of his money ever entered her head.

Darcy’s parting shot is that he believes Elizabeth would have accepted him if he had not told her the truth; it he had courted her in the traditional fashion. I believe he’s right. There is a great deal of feeling between these two and, although it started out as contempt, it was already changing. I don’t think it would have taken much time or effort for Darcy to persuade Elizabeth to marry him.

But, for now, they are on the outs. Both have said things in the heat of the moment, but the key word is heat. There is a great deal of it, too much for it to ignored for long.

Historical Context:

Sermons to Young Women, more commonly known as Fordyce’s Sermons, were a series of sermons compiled by James Fordyce on how young women should behave. My favorite? “The Folly of Unlawful Pleasures.”

Lady Catherine’s shock that all five Bennet girls are out at once would have been a typical response at the time. To “come out” meant that a young woman could attend social events and was at a marriageable age. Traditionally, girls came out when they were sixteen or seventeen, but some were older. It was customary to marry off the elder girls before allowing the younger girls to come out. The Bennets, therefore, are quite unusual in that they not only have five girls out at once, but Lydia (only fifteen) is very young to be in society.

Bits & Pieces:

There is something soothing in the thought that we still sing the same Christmas hymns two centuries later.

Jane’s first letter to Elizabeth is dated January the 12th. In it, she talks about the fact that she visited Caroline three weeks ago. As the Gardiners were at Longbourne for Christmas, it didn’t take Jane long to renew the acquaintance.

When Elizabeth is “playing the piano” at Rosings, the camera pans across the instrument to the others in the room. Unfortunately, none of the hammers are moving so the piano must be magically making that bad music.

The clock, throughout the engagement scene, always shows the time at 6:17.

Favorite Moments:

Darcy’s obvious discomfort when he sees Elizabeth again, but especially his spin in the parlor when he hears Elizabeth quoting the words he spoke to her to Fitzwilliam.

The first time Darcy smiles at Elizabeth, my heart beats faster and I get a huge grin on my face.

The whole scene when Darcy comes calling for the first time.

The proposal and refusal. I have watched this scene I couldn’t tell you how many times and each time I come away from it having noticed something new. Wonderful acting from both parties.

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.

9 comments:

a.m. said...

I've always noticed that clock time, too! Probably because I've also watched that scene so many times:)

Another one of my favorites is the scene in the park when Fitzwiilliam reveals Darcy's hand in the Bingley/Jane separation. Elizabeth tries to be subtle in her interrogation but then can't hold it together. This section shows just what an amazing job Austen (and Davies) did at foreshadowing--the idea that Jane wasn't showing enough affection was referenced by Charlotte just before Bingley leaves.

I also agree with you that Elizabeth shows plenty of pride. In fact, they both seem to show equal measures of pride and prejudice, although conventional wisdom associates Darcy with the first characteristic and Elizabeth with the second.

Finally, in my most recent viewings, I've come to think of Charlotte as the first "beard" in literature. I am sure that Austen didn't intend for her readers to think that and I am again projecting my modern sensibilities on this story, but he cares more about the appearance of being married not to mention closets, clothes, and chimney pieces than he does romance and love. He uses Charlotte as a cover for something, even if it's not homosexuality...and, as you said, Charlotte isn't oblivious to this and uses marriage to him as a means of not becoming a spinster. Who can blame her with the position women had then? I can't, but I can pity her.

Nice review, I can't wait for the next one!

sunbunny said...

The casting of Charlotte in various versions of P&P drives me insane. She is supposed to be plain. She is hardly ever plain. It's really quite annoying. The only actress even close to being not stunningly beautiful to play the role is Claudie Blakely (2005), who is (not coincidentally) my favorite Charlotte.

I can practically recite the proposal scene. "Did you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your birth?" Colin Firth is the epitome of dreamy, even when he's being a monumental jerk.

So glad you chose that lead in quote Chris! I was hoping your would. :)

ChrisB said...

a.m. -- that is an interesting theory and you may very well be right. Of course, Mr. Collins has to produce an heir as he will inherit the estate and it is his duty to ensure the line. Pause for a moment and consider Mr. Collins and Charlotte having sex. Shiver, but not in a good way!

sunbunny -- I'm afraid that I can practically recite the proposal scene as well. Watching it again today, I watched it three times. Sad... This is one of those episodes where the lead quote is too, too easy! :-)

johanne said...

I think this is my favorite episode of this series! (although I tend to say that about every episode when I'm about to watch it)

I haven't thought about what you said about there being no mention of money in Darcy's proposal before, but now that you say it, it totally makes sense, and makes the proposal ever more special I think..
I guess Darcy would always have to wonder if a woman wanted to marry him for himself or his money...

a.m. said...

Thanks for the nightmares, ChrisB :-P

I just hope Charlotte has an active imagination that keeps her content and at least mentally away from Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine as much as possible...

And I can't remember if I know this from the book or this movie [possible minor unimpotant SPOILERS] but isn't she pregnant by the end? Again, all I can do is pity her...but at least she has a place in society and doesn't have to live with her younger brothers...What horrible choices women had to make.

johanne said...

PS: after posting my last comment, I just had to get my dvd and watch the series again.. I've seen the first two episodes today, keeping in mind what I've read in these reviews :) Looking forward to the rest of them!

bekswhoknits said...

Its probably saying something that as I'm reading these recaps I can remember all the scenes, all the music, all the feelings I've had watching these over the years.

Great recaps. I'm loving this series.

Billie Doux said...

The proposal scene is indeed marvelous. Darcy clearly anticipated her acceptance, despite him carefully telling her how he was lowering himself to marry a woman like her. I love the emotions we see flitting across their faces, although they're both trying to control themselves.

And I have to say, when Charlotte mentioned her upcoming wedding night with Mr. Collins, I just shudder. Every time.

CrazyCris said...

"Had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner" SNAP! The look on Darcy's face when he hears this!!!

Rosings changes everything for them, and I think it's possible in part because her family isn't there as a constant source of embarrassment! And because Darcy is just as embarrassed by Lady Catherine's behaviour as Lizzis is by Collins'...


Charlotte and Collins after the lights are out?! *shudder* indeed!!! :p

And yes, I do believe in the book it is implied Charlotte is pregnant. When they seek refuge in Lucas Lodge to weather the storm of Lady Catherine's displeasure... I don't remember if it comes out on-screen though.