Mr and Mrs Bennet discuss a gentleman moving to their neighbourhood. To Mrs Bennet’s delight the gentleman, Mr Bingley is single and she expecting to see one of her five daughters married to him soon. Mr Bennet pretends not to understand the connection between Mr Bingley moving to their area and marrying one of the daughters. Mrs Bennet asks Mr Bennet to visit Mr Bingley so she and the daughters could be introduced afterwards. Mr Bennet teases Mrs Bennet and refuses her wish.
I didn’t realise that the female family members were so dependent on Mr Bennet in making acquaintances. It didn’t sink in that he can seriously restrict their chance of meeting
new people eligible young man by not bothering to meet them himself first. Mrs Bennet appears to be only thinking about marrying off her daughters and she is depicted as frivolous and simple-minded. I have always found this passage comical before. On second thought, in Mrs Bennet’s world, her only way of securing a respectable lifestyle for her daughters is to make sure they marry well. All the more that the estate is entailed to the next male heir of Mr Bennet. We also learn that Mr Bennet’s favourite is Lizzy, while Mrs Bennet favours Lydia and Jane.
Mrs Bennet and the Miss Bennets discuss meeting Mr Bingley at their neighbour’s, Mr Lucases ball. Mrs Bennet is clearly distraught and takes her vexation out on Kitty. After long verbal cat and mouse game however, Mr Bennet reveals that he has visited Mr Bingley. The news immediately dispels Mrs Bennet’s bad mood and the women begin to speculate when Mr Bingley will return the visit. the discussion is tiresome for Mr Bennet so he withdraws to the library.
It is upsetting how much Mrs Bennet’s and the daughters attention is focused on when and how to meet Mr Bingley during the entire chapter. Mrs Bennet’s comment about Mrs Long not introducing Mr Bingley to them because she has two nieces highlights the competition among the women for securing a wealthy husband. Mr Bennet’s displeasure at being involved in this silly discussion strikes as hypocrite. The girls are socially restricted into staying at home. Their only way to gain slightly more freedom is to marry well. Even then, their life will have to be centered on their husband and their children. They all need to get married because they cannot inherit their own home. In this light Mrs Bennet’s obsession is more than understandable. In fact Mr Bennet’s disdain for talking about balls and meeting Mr Bingley is privilege sneering at those who do not have it. It’s a pity, I used like Mr Bennet’s wit.
Mr Bingley returns the visit but is not introduced to the ladies and his dinner invitation is put off due to him suddenly leaving to London. Mr Bingley returns for the ball at the Lucases with a small party: Mr and Mrs Hurst (née Bingley), Miss Bingley and Mr Darcy. Mr Darcy is even wealthier than Mr Bingley so the first impression of him is generally positive. He ruins it though by refusing to be introduced to most of the people and only dancing with ladies from his own party. Lizzy overhears him describe her as “passable but not enough to tempt me” which cements the general judgement: Mr Darcy is proud and insufferable. Mr Bingley and Jane Bennet meet for the first time and he favours her, only her, with two dances. Mrs Bennet can barely control herself from the joy and pride.
This is the first time both couples meet and both encounters foreshadow the difficulties that lie ahead for each of them:
Mr Bingley is charmed with Jane and he is not afraid to show it. Miss Bennet is equally charmed, but she is also surprised by the attention. She is too guarded to show more than surprise. This almost becomes the undoing of her happiness later on.
Mr Darcy manages to insult Lizzy Bennet in a casual and off-handed way without even being introduced to her (it is an achievement in itself). Lizzy in turn spreads the tale for a few laughs and thus the opinion about Mr Darcy’s character is set. The prejudice against Mr Darcy is based entirely on his behaviour during this one ball, he doesn’t get a second chance. He is immediately in the spotlight because of his wealth. I wonder how the expectation would have been different if he is less wealthy than Mr Bingley?