Pride and Prejudice follows the lives of the five Bennet sisters and their parents, especially focusing on the second eldest daughter Elizabeth. Though weary of her mother's desperation to place each of her daughters in good marriages, Elizabeth finds herself drawn to Mr. Darcy, a proud and wealthy gentleman who is attracted to Elizabeth because of her intelligence and wit. Amidst the drama of their friends' and families' lives, both must overcome preconceived notions and expectations in this story that explores class, love, and social change.
While Elizabeth is at home alone, Mr. Darcy comes to see her, paces around the room for a few minutes and then makes a declaration of love for her. While he speaks his love for her, he also expresses the inferiority of her connections. Elizabeth harshly turns down his proposal rather harshly. Darcy is both surprised and resentful. Elizabeth explains that is was Darcy's arrogant manner of proposal, his actions to separate Bingley and Jane, and his actions toward Wickham that have made her turn him down. Elizabeth states that his manner of proposal had no influence on her. When she finishes speaking he quickly leaves the room. Elizabeth collapses and cries and thinks of his "abominable pride" and all that he has done to Jane and to Wickham.
In chapter thirty four, while alone at Hunsford, Elizabeth rereads Jane's letters, Convinced of Jane's unhappiness, something she now blames on Mr. Darcy's interference. While Elizabeth is at home alone, the door bell rings and she thinks that it might be Colonel Fitzwilliam. To her surprise it is Mr. Darcy. After he asks about her health, he paces around the room for a few minutes and then makes a declaration of love for her. While he speaks eloquently about his admiration for her, he also clearly expresses the inferiority of her connections and the family obstacles which prevented him from proposing sooner. Elizabeth turns down his proposal rather harshly, and he is both surprised and resentful, stating that he "ardently" admires and loves her. Elizabeth is astonished "beyond expression." Mr. Darcy's admission of love catches her completely off guard. She is immediately put off by "his sense of her inferiority." Elizabeth's pride is hurt because Darcy found his feelings "impossible to conquer." Elizabeth responds to Darcy's proposal by saying that she has never desired Mr. Darcy's "good opinion" and that she does not feel any obligation or gratitude toward him.Mr. Darcy becomes "pale with anger" and asks if this is all the reply he should expect from her. Elizabeth explains that she could never love a man who could separate her sister from Mr. Bingley, as Mr. Darcy did, and treat a man like Wickham so poorly. Mr. Darcy accepts responsibility for separating Jane from Mr. Bingley. Mr. Darcy then states that it was natural for him to be ashamed of Elizabeth's connections, whose "condition in life is so decidedly beneath [his] own." Elizabeth states that she feels no remorse in turning down his proposal of marriage so rudely, and that she would only have felt bad if he had behaved in a more gentlemanly fashion. Elizabeth calls Mr. Darcy arrogant, conceited, and selfish. Elizabeth states that Mr. Darcy is the last man in the world she would marry. Darcy hastily leaves.
Elizabeth explains her reasons for turning him down: the arrogant manner of his proposal; his actions regarding Bingley and Jane; and his actions toward Wickham. Darcy replies that "her calculation of his faults is indeed heavy," Elizabeth states that his manner of proposal had no influence on her other than to "spare me the concern of refusing [him], had [you] acted in a more gentlemanlike manner." After he finishes speaking Darcy quickly leaves the room. Elizabeth collapses and cries from weakness. She is flattered that he proposed but feels no remorse at declining his proposal because of his "abominable pride" and all that he has done to Jane and to Wickham.
Chapter thirty four is one of the most important of the novel, and is part of the building climax. Darcy's proposal comes as no surprise to the reader but comes as a complete shock to Elizabeth. Darcy's growing affection for Elizabeth has been building in the previous chapters, since Elizabeth's stay at Netherfield to nurse her sister Jane. The reader has really not been left in much suspense that Darcy has fallen in love with Elizabeth, yet her answer comes as something of a surprise. The depth of her anger toward Darcy comes to full light after his proposal and the reader begins to understand all of Elizabeth's reasons for denying him so easily.The proposal scene is filled with suspense and active dialogue. The reader is left to wonder if Elizabeth and Darcy will ever overcome the social conventions, and their own pride, in order to fall in love. Elizabeth's disregard for considerations of rank and her manner of speaking her mind no matter the cost are shown clearly in the proposal scene. In Darcy's frank explanation of his reservations about proposing because of Elizabeth's inferior family connections, the reader begins to understand and even empathize with Darcy's character. From this point on in the novel, Elizabeth's harsh judgments will slowly come to light, and Darcy will be seen as a more sympathetic character. Also, Wickham's true character will be shown, all of which make Elizabeth question her judgment, a judgment she has always found to be correct.
As Darcy is proposing, Elizabeth can tell that he has "no doubt of a favorable answer," much like Mr. Collins. All this in spite of the fact that Elizabeth has not shown affection toward him, again like the situation with Mr. Collins. Both men, though coming from differing social rank, both hold the same pride in their situation: that a woman like Elizabeth can't afford to be choosy when it comes to accepting a proposal from a man. Elizabeth's comment to Darcy, that had he "acted in a more gentlemanlike manner," has a profound effect on him and changes the way he acts toward Elizabeth in the future. Even though this scene seems to end the relationship, all hope is not lost that Elizabeth and Darcy will marry.