I decided it would be fun to do a top ten list featuring some of the best moments in Pride and Prejudice. Seeing as the novel has so many great moments, it was a bit hard to limit myself to ten, but I forced myself to do so! I’ve included a snippet from the book for each section, just to serve as a refresher.
10. “Fine Eyes”
The conversation between Mr. Darcy and Caroline Bingley where the former reveals he is becoming interested in Elizabeth Bennet is a great one because not only does it reveal Mr. Darcy is not unaffected by Elizabeth’s charms, but also because it allows him to bring Miss Bingley down a peg or two. And of course, she just can’t forget the notion of Elizabeth having “fine eyes” as the novel goes on.
“I can guess the subject of your reverie.”
“I should imagine not.”
“You are considering how insupportable it would be to pass many evenings in this manner—in such society; and indeed I am quite of your opinion. I was never more annoyed! The insipidity, and yet the noise—the nothingness, and yet the self-importance of all those people! What would I give to hear your strictures on them!”
“You conjecture is totally wrong, I assure you. My mind was more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”
9. Mr. Darcy’s Slight of Elizabeth
Ah, yes, the classic “I’m really uncomfortable, so I say something I don’t mean” faux pas. This one is so good that I am always a bit sad when the conversation is missing in a Pride and Prejudice variation. Of course, it often needs to be missing, but I like having this general setup where Elizabeth is automatically (and for good reason) set up to dislike Mr. Darcy at first.
“Which do you mean?” and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”
8. Darcy and Elizabeth’s First Dance
It’s quite amusing that Mr. Darcy likes Elizabeth enough that he actually asks her to dance with him, and then when she does, he apparently doesn’t intend to even speak to her! And of course, the only reason Elizabeth decides to speak is because she wants to punish him! These “cat and dog” sort of interactions are part of what I really enjoy – as I enjoy how they overcome the obstacles against their relationship.
When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to claim her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her in a whisper, not to be a simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man ten times his consequence. Elizabeth made no answer, and took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her neighbours’ looks, their equal amazement in beholding it. They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with:—”It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some sort of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”
He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.
7. Mr. Collins’s Proposal
The proposal of Mr. Collins is just comic genius. Much like Mr. Darcy (though in a more humorous fashion), he just can’t conceive that someone would say no to his marriage proposal. His over-the-top nature really makes us feel for Elizabeth!
“You must give me leave to flatter myself, my dear cousin, that your refusal of my addresses is merely words of course. My reasons for believing it are briefly these: It does not appear to me that my hand is unworthy your acceptance, or that the establishment I can offer would be any other than highly desirable. My situation in life, my connections with the family of de Bourgh, and my relationship to your own, are circumstances highly in my favour; and you should take it into further consideration, that in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you. Your portion is unhappily so small that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications. As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall choose to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females.”
6. The News about Lydia
I include this in part because of the importance of it since it provides a way for Elizabeth and Darcy to ultimately reconcile, but also in part because of Darcy’s reaction. In spite of everything, our male lead truly does care about Elizabeth, and you can really see it in his unfiltered reaction.
“Oh! where, where is my uncle?” cried Elizabeth, darting from her seat as she finished the letter, in eagerness to follow him, without losing a moment of the time so precious; but as she reached the door it was opened by a servant, and Mr. Darcy appeared. Her pale face and impetuous manner made him start, and before he could recover himself to speak, she, in whose mind every idea was superseded by Lydia’s situation, hastily exclaimed, “I beg your pardon, but I must leave you. I must find Mr. Gardiner this moment, on business that cannot be delayed; I have not an instant to lose.”
“Good God! what is the matter?” cried he, with more feeling than politeness; then recollecting himself, “I will not detain you a minute; but let me, or let the servant go after Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. You are not well enough; you cannot go yourself.”
5. Confrontation between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine
The audacity of Lady Catherine to go all the way to Hertfordshire to tell Elizabeth she can’t marry Mr. Darcy! It is completely fitting for what Lady Catherine has shown herself to be, and it is both comical and a great way to demonstrate the fortitude of Elizabeth Bennet. Can you imagine how you would feel if your crush’s aunt traveled quite a distance to come and verbally assault you? It’s really quite impressive how Elizabeth responds to each thing Lady Catherine says.
“This is not to be borne. Miss Bennet, I insist on being satisfied. Has he, has my nephew, made you an offer of marriage?”
“Your ladyship has declared it to be impossible.”
“It ought to be so; it must be so, while he retains the use of his reason. But your arts and allurements may, in a moment of infatuation, have made him forget what he owes to himself and to all his family. You may have drawn him in.”
“If I have, I shall be the last person to confess it.”
4. Mr. Darcy’s Explanatory Letter to Elizabeth
Mr. Darcy’s letter seems to be as much for the reader as it is Elizabeth. It sets out why much of what seemed to be negative or lacking about Mr. Darcy was actually a misunderstanding. It helps turn Elizabeth from despising Mr. Darcy to thinking there might be more to him, and it is quite crucial to the story. Imagine how things might have been if the misunderstandings had not been cleared up!
“Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments or renewal of those offers which were last night so disgusting to you. I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on wishes which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten; and the effort which the formation and the perusal of this letter must occasion, should have been spared, had not my character required it to be written and read. You must, therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention; your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your justice.”
3. The Conversation Surrounding Mr. Darcy’s Second Proposal
The sweet exchanges between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth once matters are resolved and she thanks him for his assistance with Lydia are just wonderful warm fuzzies. For the lover of romance, this is just what was needed!
“If you will thank me,” he replied, “let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.”
Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, “You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.”
2. A Chance Meeting at Pemberley
While not quite as sweet as the bits between our dear couple near the end of the novel, the chance meeting at Pemberley is a good one. Can you imagine how you would feel if your crush (who you had rejected previously) caught you taking a tour of his or her house? This meeting is wholly necessary to assist in preparing the rift between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, and that’s why I have it at number two.
They were within twenty yards of each other, and so abrupt was his appearance, that it was impossible to avoid his sight. Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of both were overspread with the deepest blush. He absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immovable from surprise; but shortly recovering himself, advanced towards the party, and spoke to Elizabeth, if not in terms of perfect composure, at least of perfect civility.
She had instinctively turned away; but stopping on his approach, received his compliments with an embarrassment impossible to be overcome. Had his first appearance, or his resemblance to the picture they had just been examining, been insufficient to assure the other two that they now saw Mr. Darcy, the gardener’s expression of surprise, on beholding his master, must immediately have told it. They stood a little aloof while he was talking to their niece, who, astonished and confused, scarcely dared lift her eyes to his face, and knew not what answer she returned to his civil inquiries after her family. Amazed at the alteration of his manner since they last parted, every sentence that he uttered was increasing her embarrassment; and every idea of the impropriety of her being found there recurring to her mind, the few minutes in which they continued were some of the most uncomfortable in her life. Nor did he seem much more at ease; when he spoke, his accent had none of its usual sedateness; and he repeated his inquiries as to the time of her having left Longbourn, and of her having stayed in Derbyshire, so often, and in so hurried a way, as plainly spoke the distraction of his thoughts.
1. Mr. Darcy’s First Proposal
I love romances where the male and female leads fight like cats and dogs at first. While Pride and Prejudice is certainly a bit more dignified when it comes to the “fighting,” it nonetheless has one of the most fantastic battles between the female lead and male lead. When Mr. Darcy insults Elizabeth and still expects her to accept him, you can’t help but cheer when Elizabeth puts him in his place. Even if she misunderstood a lot about him, Mr. Darcy needed to realize that his position in society won’t automatically get him everything he wants. Though he doesn’t realize it immediately, it is because of the rejection of his proposal that he is humbled and strives to become a better man. This is why I think that Darcy’s failed proposal deserves the number one spot in the top ten scenes of Pride and Prejudice.
“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
I’m fairly certain I missed some good parts! I certainly know there is some great dialogue that isn’t featured, as I was thinking mostly in a general sense of a scene rather than a specific portion of the text. What do you think is missing? What would make your number one?