Information in Conversation

One of the most notable instances in Pride in Prejudice, for devoted fans and first-time readers alike, is that of Mr. Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet and her subsequent reaction. Through their reaction, the audience is finally able to garner information regarding Mr. Darcy’s feelings for Elizabeth, whereas, previously, it had been gossip from sources other than Mr. Darcy. Information is exchanged between the two directly; although, a large chunk of information is withheld by Mr. Darcy to later be included in a lengthy letter from him to Lizzie explaining the situation. This, in my opinion, is exceptionally interesting, as he seems to be acting in a snide manner when stating, “His [Mr. Wickham’s] misfortunes! Yes, his misfortunes have been great indeed,” and “And this is your opinion of me! This is the estimation in which you hold me! I thank you for explaining it so fully. My faults, according to this calculation, are heavy indeed!” In this, Austen is employing verbal irony on Mr. Darcy’s part. He knows what she claims is false, but states the exact opposite due his wounded ego upon not only having his offer of marriage being turned down by Lizzie, but due to the foundation of her refusal. He, while knowing the truth and not attempting to deceive her, is unreliable in this moment, since he isn’t sharing with her what he knew to be the truth. One may also observe that both parties wait for the other to finish their point before employing their own argument, effectively engaging in what appears to be unwritten rules of what typifies a proper conversation, despite their heightened emotions. Furthermore, Austen characterizes Mr. Darcy in this scene: “His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure and would not open his lips, till he believed himself to have attained it.” Mr. Darcy calms his temper before responding to Lizzie, which may serve to speak to the acceptability of heated arguments in the place of calmer conversations.

The following morning, Mr. Darcy hands Lizzie a letter containing the truth concerning his removal of Mr. Bingley from Jane and his hand in Mr. Wickham’s current situation. The information he presents to her with does not appear to be unreliable, as she readily believes it due to external proof (i.e. events that previously only had answers via gossip). Additionally, he is writing after realizing she knows he has had a hand in both situations, so doesn’t seem to have a reason to employ falsehoods. As was discussed with and of a heavier focus in Sense and Sensibility, letter writing wasn’t typically exchanged between unmarried men and women unless they were related; however, Mr. Darcy leaves a letter with Elizabeth. He has claimed that propriety had prevented him, for some time, from asking for her hand, and yet in writing the letter to Lizzie he was in discordance with what is consider proper. It would seem, due to the nature of the original conversation and the nature of letter-writing- both considered amid two people and of an intimate nature- that the information exchanged was, though potentially improper, truthful. The nature of love is completely subjective, as are one’s opinions; thus, Mr. Darcy’s information, though supported by Lizzie later (as she is reading the letter) may technically be subjective. Not to mention that the neighborhood in which the Bennet family resides, and Mr. Darcy and the Bingleys infiltrate, is used to acting out the way that they do and find it acceptable; therefore, even the idea of impropriety that Mr. Darcy is presenting is subjective and open to the sensibility of those involved, as, again, he breaks this himself by acting improperly with Elizabeth.

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