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After dinner, Elizabeth returns to Jane, who is not improving. Elizabeth is very touched by Mr. Bingley’s genuine concern for her ailing sister and the attention he pays to both of them; he is the only one that does not make her feel like an intruder at Netherfield.
After Elizabeth departs from dinner, Miss Bingley begins to criticize her manners, saying that Elizabeth is a crude mixture of pride and impertinence and that she lacks style and grace. Mrs. Hurst agrees with her whole-heartedly and again describes the slovenly fashion in which Elizabeth has arrived at Netherfield. Mr. Bingley defends Elizabeth, praising her independent spirit and her great concern for her sister. Darcy remarks that the walk had illumined Elizabeth’s fine eyes.
Later in the evening, Elizabeth joins the party in the drawing room, where everyone is engaged in a game of cards. Elizabeth declines to play, preferring to read a book. Miss Bingley makes catty remarks about her choice, but Mr. Bingley kindly brings Elizabeth some books from his modest collection. The conversation turns to Darcy’s fine home, Pemberley, with its imposing library. The mention of Pemberley excites Miss Bingley, and she pays exaggerated tributes to Darcy’s house and his ‘accomplished sister’. There are subtle overtones of criticism targeted at Elizabeth in Miss Bingley’s observations.
This chapter further develops the characters of the Bingley sisters. For all their purported sophistication, they act in an uncultured manner as they deride Elizabeth. Bingley and Darcy refuse to join in the criticism of Elizabeth. In fact, both men defend her, which upsets Caroline Bingley.
During the chapter, Darcy states what qualifications his future wife must possess. He refuses to have a dumb beauty for his wife. Instead, he is seeking a lady with taste, elegance, and intelligence. Elizabeth certainly possesses all three of these traits, even though Darcy does not yet fully realize that fact.
It is important to notice the manner in which the characters speak in this and other chapters. Darcy speaks in long, involved sentences in a carefully thought-out manner, reflecting his basic nature. Elizabeth answers him pertly and concisely. Darcy is impressed with Elizabeth’s ability to summarize the essence of an argument with so much ease.