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The ladies of Netherfield and Longbourn have now exchanged visits. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst were cool to Mrs. Bennet and her younger daughters but mentioned that they would like to see more of Jane and Elizabeth. Jane is pleased with their offer of friendship. Elizabeth is not. One thing does please Elizabeth, though: the attention Bingley's sisters are paying to Jane proves that their brother is interested in her. And Elizabeth can tell that Jane is falling in love with Bingley.
The two friends, Elizabeth and Charlotte, talk privately about the effect the newcomers are having on the neighborhood. Elizabeth, always on the lookout for Jane's happiness, mentions to her friend that Jane seems to be falling in love with Bingley but is hiding it well. Elizabeth's view is that a young woman can't let on that she is interested in a man until he openly expresses his interest in her by proposing marriage. If he doesn't, the humiliation of having shown her feelings for him would be too much to bear.
Charlotte disagrees. She thinks Jane is hiding her feelings too well. She makes a shrewd comment: a woman would do well to show a man more than she feels for him, rather than less, in order to encourage him. Elizabeth argues against this point of view. Charlotte is right, she says, only if the woman's main purpose is to attract a husband-whether the man loves her or not.
Charlotte makes a startling reply: she says it does not matter how well two people know each other before they marry. Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of luck, she claims. To her way of thinking, "it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life."
Do you agree with Charlotte? Add her opinion to the growing number of attitudes toward love and marriage-some romantic, some cynical-that Pride and Prejudice asks us to consider and evaluate.
NOTE: Charlotte's comments are significant in another way. Her warning that Jane should show her feelings for Bingley gives us a foreshadowing of trouble in that romance. Also, Charlotte's philosophy about marriage gives us a clue to how she will deal with a proposal of marriage that will soon be coming her way.
A major plot development is forecast in this chapter: Darcy is undergoing a change of feeling toward Elizabeth. Having made it clear to his friends that he finds her scarcely pretty, he is now watching her, listening to her conversations with others-he even asks her to dance. She declines, but with such charm that even her rejection pleases him. When Miss Bingley makes a guess that he is thinking of the dullness of the company, he contradicts her. No, he says, he is thinking of "the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow." To Miss Bingley's astonishment, he even tells her frankly that the woman he means is Elizabeth Bennet. She at once reminds him that Mrs. Bennet would be his mother-in-law if he married Elizabeth. He listens to her mean-spirited comments with indifference. His interest in Elizabeth is established, and so is Miss Bingley's jealousy.