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Mrs. Bennet and her daughters try hard to gain a satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley from Mr. Bennet, but they fail. Fortunately, Lady Lucas supplies them with a description, which is a very promising one.
Mr. Bingley returns Mr. Bennet’s visit and is entertained in the library. He is a bit disappointed because he does not see any of the young ladies, but the girls manage to catch a glimpse of him from the vantage point of an upper window. When Mr. Bennet visits Bingley’s house again to invite him to dinner, Bingley must refuse the invitation, for he will be in London to make plans for the ball to be held in Meryton.
The Bennet girls finally meet Bingley at the Meryton ball. Bingley is accompanied by his two sisters, Caroline Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, and by his best friend Mr. Darcy. Mr. Bingley is a handsome man with a pleasant disposition. His sisters are lovely women with ‘an air of decided fashion’. Mr. Darcy, however, is the most attractive of all. He has a stately posture and exquisite features; above all, he is said to have an income of ten thousand pounds a year. Unfortunately, he has a cold, reserved manner. When Bingley suggests that he dance with Elizabeth, he replies that "she is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me." Elizabeth overhears the remark and feels somewhat slighted; but since she has a lively, playful disposition that takes delight in anything ridiculous, she does not allow the slur to upset her.
This ball changes the future of the Bennet family. Bingley, who dances twice with Jane, falls in love with her; Darcy, who at first dismisses Elizabeth, is later attracted towards her.
Chapter three is important for several reasons. First, it paints a picture of the first of many balls, social events that are very important to the novel. At the ball, Austen carefully depicts the mannerisms of the upper class with great detail. Two couples are also brought together, Jane and Bingley and Elizabeth and Darcy. Much of the later novel will revolve around these two couples. The relationship of the couples, however, is quite different. Jane and Bingley are immediately attracted to one another. In contrast, Darcy openly insults Elizabeth in a superior manner, and she immediately and strongly dislikes him. The chapter, therefore, introduces the "pride and prejudice" of the novel: Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice against him. The ball is also the setting for contrasting the personalities of Bingley and Darcy. Bingley is charming and outgoing, while Darcy is reserved, proud, and unpleasant.