Chapter 19 concerns Mr Collins’s proposal to Elizabeth. Read carefully the exchange between Elizabeth and Mr Collins beginning ‘Believe me, my dear Miss Elizabeth’ to ‘not fail of being acceptable’. Discuss the passage in detail, commenting on its comic aspects, and what the chapter reveals about the characters and the social environment or world of the novel. At first glance Chapter 19 is just another cog in the story of Pride and Prejudice, but upon closer inspection it reveals a great many details.
Obviously the comical aspects of Mr Collins are what first strikes the reader when they come across this passage, he is very confident, very sure of himself, and completely off the mark. It is something that we as readers can see quite plainly, but it reveals many things about Mr Collins’s personality, and its distinct lack of depth. He views his proposal as doing Elizabeth and indeed the whole Bennet family a favour, by allowing them to keep Longbourn Estate in the family so to speak.
While his proposal was comical in aspect it was also a looking glass into English society, through his long drawn out protests at Elizabeth’s rejection of him he gives the reader an insight into English society and particularly the roles of women. Elizabeth Bennet’s character is put to a test by Mr Collins’ proposal in Chapter 19, and it passes with flying colours. With great many advantages to be had by marrying Mr Collins, such as security for her sisters and mother after their fathers’ death, she still chooses to reject him rather then humble herself before him.
Mr Collins’s manner in which he proposes to Elizabeth is very matter-of-fact; the proposal itself is more of a business proposition than a marriage proposal in the way that it lacks any emotional expression. The comical aspect of it stems from the abrupt nature of the proposal, Mr Collins having spent very little time with Elizabeth, and in fact only knowing her for less than a week and Mr Collins’s complete confidence in obtaining Elizabeth’s consent.
The very way in which he went about proposing to Elizabeth is comical to a reader in our day and age, as our views on marriage are vastly different to those of the period in question. Elizabeth is a person a strong character with convictions, in contrast to Mr. Collins, who completely lacks the capacity for reflection and self-awareness. The reader laughs at his self-importance and ridiculously obsequious, sycophantic manner. During the passage in question, Elizabeth makes it known to Mr Collins five times that she does not wish to marry him, and never will, but every time her cries fall on ego driven deaf ears.
As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall chuse to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females. 1″ A statement such as this is laughable to we the readers, and indeed, even to Elizabeth. However Mr Collins’s impenetrable shield of confidence and egotism refuses to be penetrated and the above statement is kind of like a protective mechanism that allows Mr Collins to convince himself it will all work out.
The reader is given an insight into many attitudes that people developed around the period of the novel by Mr Collins’s proposal. While Mr Collins may appear silly to the reader, he was perhaps well within his rights to believe that Elizabeth would indeed come around to his proposal. In a very male dominated society, it appears that this reflects a great deal as to peoples views on women, objects of desire who may put up a bit of a struggle but they’ll come around eventually, they have to, they’re expected to.
A wife was viewed as a possession, if the couple happened to be in love it was a bonus, but they were generally viewed as something to be selected and purchased. Elizabeth was a remarkable character for her time, she was strong, independent, intelligent and moral, all of these combining to form an exceptional person who was not going to conform to the norms that society placed upon her. Elizabeth is virtually the one exception to the rule in Pride and Prejudice, the only person who steps out of society and all its graces to define her own person, not be defined by her peers.
It is because of her strength that many characters throughout the novel, not the least of which being Caroline Bingley, perhaps resent her. It appears throughout the course of Chapter 19 that Mr Collins seems to know more about being a proper young Englishwoman and their attributes then Elizabeth does. He professes throughout his entire proposal as to how “elegant young females” act and gives a good many reasons as to why he is not worried about Elizabeth’s rejection of him. Mr Collins is a reflection of the social world of the novel; he prostrates himself before Lady Catherine as he feels is proper to someone of her station.
All of his views and opinions seem to be those that society has stamped upon him rather then those that he formed himself, and as such many of his actions are out of place because of his lack of understanding. The portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet as “strong and intelligent, yet bewitching in a completely feminine way”, was perhaps viewed as a bit of an exception to the rule when it came to the expectations of women in the early 1800’s. Her ferocity while rejecting Mr Collins is a defining moment when her convictions come into question.
She is adamant in her rejection, she has no doubts at all, even though she realises that this could be her only chance at marriage, it is very admirable. She chooses to reject Mr Collins rather than debase herself. Her courage and strength are commendable. The readers’ appreciation of Elizabeth is heightened by the way Jane Austen often juxtaposed her with characters lacking her attributes and depth of character. What is overlooked at first while reading this passage is the thought that Elizabeth must’ve given the issue of marriage to Mr Collins, as she appeared to be able to see it coming.
She realizes that she does not command the attention of many men who visit the area and that this may be the only chance she has to marry. She also realizes that due to an entail in a will, the Estate on which her family lives will go to Mr Collins after her fathers death, leaving herself and her sisters almost destitute. This opportunity to please her mother and guarantee security for her sisters is not lost on a woman of Elizabeth’s intelligence however concern for her families welfare could override her moral sensibility.
Pride and Prejudice is not just a romance novel, it is a looking glass to the past, and it highlights English society in the late 1700’s. Chapter 19 is vital piece of Pride and Prejudice because of its perception when dealing with certain characters. This one chapter shows us Mr Collins servile and shallow character in great detail, how his mind is like a trampoline of confidence, anything bad just bounces off and he believes he has in fact won the day.
It shows us how Mr Collins may not be raging moron that he was to be taken for, but merely a highly accentuated reflection of everything in society that Elizabeth Bennet rejected. Mr Collins is a reflection of English high society, all it’s puerile facets. The chapter in question also shows us the depth Elizabeth Bennet’s constitution, she is not going to be pressured into a loveless marriage for the security of her family or for the pleasure of herm mother. Elizabeth’s independence and moral strength shines through during Mr Collins’ proposal.