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Incidents of Psychological Growth in P & P


A man makes his psychological growth by his volition or by his circumstances.  In either case, life has a reward in time.  No growth is left unrecognised by life. When Bingley visited a second time to Netherfield, Mrs. Bennet wanted her husband to go and invite him. The first time he did like a good husband, this time he asserted and felt it was improper for him to go after Bingley. This time Bingley proposed.

 Mr. Bennet refused to take the responsibility of preventing Lydia from going to Brighton. She ran away. After a futile search in London, he came back. In talking to his daughters over tea, he said he was responsible. He took the entire responsibility of his earlier neglect. For a person who has refused to exert earlier time, to have accepted the responsibility himself is a mental effort. From that point of view, we understand how Lydia returned.

 On receiving Mr. Gardiner's letters about the settlements for Lydia, he vowed to return the money, first ascertaining the amount. He was not in a position to return any money as he had no savings. The money spent on Lydia equals more than two years of his income. But he was determined to return the money, how he did not know.  He was not to pay the money.

 When she was herself not married and faced no such opportunities, Charlotte persuades Elizabeth to dance with Darcy. It is more than a psychological effort. And she gets married.

 Jane was observed by Charlotte as well as Darcy, as not participating in Bingley's emotions. She was found only receiving his attentions.  Even after the family left Netherfield, Jane's one concern was that she must not be known as one who sought after Bingley. She was conscious of her effort of not outgoing.  She tries her best to convince Elizabeth that Bingley was only a good friend. That discussion goes on between the sisters for some time. Again she was not able to see through Caroline's intrigues. After Caroline's visit to her in Gardiner's house, she wrote to Elizabeth acknowledging her blind spot. She asked Elizabeth not to triumph over her. The latter is an understanding. The former is a psychological value she endeavoured to possess.  From her own point of view for the composure she was capable of (the psychological effort she has taken), she received her reward.

 As with Darcy who had to undergo the penance of finding Lydia, Elizabeth, apart from changing her attitude in Pemberley, had a little more to do by moving the change from consciousness to substance.  At Pemberley she did change her view and she saw the immediate response for that.  By virtue of her position, she needed more strength to deserve Darcy. Lady Catherine gives her that occasion. If Collins proposal has become famous in the world of literature, a twenty year old girl, when her sister has eloped, standing up to a lady of rank needs a lot of strength.  If you consider the resourcefulness of her reply and the presence of mind she exhibited in that interview, it is great. It is not enough to possess the strength, it needs to be expressed for it to be powerful.  Catherine gave her the occasion.

 Darcy's escapade with finding Lydia, Elizabeth's encounter with Lady Catherine are on a par with each other.

 In realising that she was vain and recognising that it was not love but vanity, Elizabeth does make a progress.  Elizabeth explains it to herself as the attention of one and the neglect of the other.

 After writing the letter which he believed he was calm and cool in writing, later he realised it was written in a bitterness of spirit. He speaks about Jane's marriage as what he had done for the best. No further apology was necessary. He did recognise that it was beneath him to have employed a ruse.  Towards the end of the story, he confesses to her that he was ashamed of writing the first part of the letter where he exposed Mrs. Bennet and the sisters. "Had you behaved in a more gentleman like manner..." is a phrase which tortured him for months. He says it took some months for him to see the reasonableness behind it.  These are some of the points at which he did make a progress.

Mr. Gardiner was never comfortable with passing as the benefactor. His genuine discomfort made Elizabeth write to her aunt and relive him of his borrowed feathers.

Additional note:

In the psychological effort, what appears to be right in the beginning appears to be wrong at the end. Darcy believed he wrote the letter to E when he was calm and cool. He felt the entire force of the argument that unless she was told about her mother and sisters, the point would not go home. He says he knew it would pain her but it was inevitable. In the writing of it he felt there need be no apology for that. He emphatically declares in the letter that even his mean ruse was done for the best and it is its own justification.  By the time he came to propose to her a second time, he was sorry he wrote that. He was ashamed of it. And wanted the letter to be burned. By this time, it occurred to him that a gentleman does not point out the defect of another person even when it is essential. Then he ceases to be a gentleman. The spirit of his belief in writing the letter was very much like that of Collins who explains the offensive things and apologizes. It doesn't occur to Collins that a cultured person will be sensitive even to mention that. Darcy undergoes that change, whereas Collins and Mrs. Bennet do not. The sense of self-righteousness in each position is vital. The vital man feels right in any company in which he is. It requires a mind to set a standard and evaluate his position while he is in each company.  Darcy's growth was from the vital to the mental. Rather, the negative vital to the positive mental.
Incidentally, in the story, Mrs. Bennet without changing even a little in her position get three daughters married when she tried for one. That is the overwhelming power of the atmosphere.

Mr. Bennet in a small way, Elizabeth substantially, Darcy comprehensively make a psychological effort.

Jane of course is not the main character in the story. She was married because Darcy sanctioned the marriage. We can as well say the intense good will of Elizabeth got her married. So also it was her mother's unquenchable urge for Jane's marriage. Apart from all these things, it is possible for us to consider what her own personal effort was, as a contribution to her marriage. Look at it from the other side. Her relationship with Bingley was only a few week's old. That was a period when a partiality takes a few months or more than six months to mature into an engagement. This is a very slender relationship in terms of time. And Bingley is a character who is not at all capable of taking a decision. Even when Darcy confesses to him his ploy and apologizes to him, he asks "Do I have your blessings?" (it is there in the film, not in the book). With such an unformed person, with so dominant a friend by the side, there is no question of his getting married without Darcy's permission. Any of his sisters will be enough to change his mind and in London he has enough to forget Longbourn. From her own side, there is a compelling contribution that made the marriage possible.

 It is worth looking into. The best part of it relates to Bingley and the rest relates to her character towards others. For the first time, after the first ball, she frankly acknowledges to Elizabeth her admiration of the man. In the Netherfield ball, Charlotte points out that unless Jane expresses her emotion by participation, she might lose him. She must fix him, says Charlotte. Elizabeth frowns on that design. Certainly Jane is not of that mind.  Darcy's explanation that she receives the attention but does not invite it by participation is the true situation of hers. It is imaginable for us what an effort she must be under. When Bingley went away and she was depressed, she tells Elizabeth that she could relate to him as a good friend.  That is, in spite of the fact that she longs for the marriage, she is under a discipline not to appear to seek it. That comes out more clearly when in the end Bingley returns. Elizabeth meeting Jane in London on her way back from Hunsford was delighted to see that her beauty was not spoiled. Of course there was no romance to touch her heart and disturb her emotions. At the age of 23 we can understand her anxiety for marriage, especially as she had received no proposal till then. In spite of these circumstances, and conditions of despair, that she had not allowed her emotions to disturb her looks shows the composure she maintained. It is no ordinary self-restraint. When her mother kept to her room after Lydia's elopement, Jane does not seek the help of Mary, as she studies a lot. Elizabeth was concerned that the crisis would spoil her looks. Jane attends on her mother all by herself. She still does not allow her emotions to disturb her health. She is no hypocrite. But she was very determined in spite of the general knowledge that she should appear as not one who is after somebody. She has maintained that poise till the day before the proposal. Elizabeth was one who was constantly watching the variations of her interest. It is almost a buried chapter between the sisters. But Jane's effort, a great effort is well brought out in her relationship with her sister. When Caroline first talks about Georgiana, Jane justifies her interest from Caroline's point of view. It is a situation where she is directly the victim. She is naive but honest. Till she was in London and met Caroline, she did not cease to defend Caroline or justify Bingley's forgetfulness.  These are all very small but insignificant events for the reader. But for Jane, from her point of view, they are very significant moments for her not to react or find fault with Caroline.

  When Elizabeth reported to Jane about her refusal of Darcy, she thinks of the pain Darcy would have felt instinctively she takes the other person's point of view. She tries her best to justify Wickam and Darcy much to the annoyance of Elizabeth. We can easily dismiss all those as her immaturity, naivete or downright folly, but if you see from her point of view, at each moment the inner effort she has to take is self-evident. After Lydia's elopement, she could not bring herself to believe that Wickam would not marry, that Lydia had no intention of marying. Several times it comes up in the conversation and she tries to justify the actions of Lydia and Wickam. Even about Colonel Foster she was very appreciative of his efforts and sympathy.  She could not find fault with him for having been indifferent.  After the proposal she was delighted to know that Bingley did not know of her stay in London. His blamelessness was close to her heart.   We can definitely say from her point of view, the equanimity she maintained against odds brought Bingley finally to her.

If we take a comparison of Miss Bingley and Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Bennet remains the same to the end. She is active, full of initiatives, foolish, impatient to possess and accomplish, uncivilised, talks irrelevant nonsense, all of which are capable of spoiling any good work. But she gets three daughters married when she wanted one. She is uneducated, uncultured, unformed, but sincere at her own level in her own work. We can as well say she tries her best to spoil anything that is around.  She has exhausted all her negative propensities ineffectually. The atmosphere that was upholding the marriages was too strong for her to disturb. But the atmosphere waited till she exhausted her urges. It was accomplished in spite of her urges.

Caroline Bingley is endowed with a mind, she is educated. She is capable of good manners. Except when it came to Darcy, when she found Elizabeth as a rival, everywhere her manners are well expressed. Even on the day Jane was leaving Netherfield, she politely insists on her staying on. It is impossible for her to have any self-control or to restrain herself from irrational comments about Elizabeth to Darcy. At no time did it give her the result she desired. At the most important occasions, she made him speak what she alone most disliked. Things went against her. She had to reverse herself and restore her lost civility to Elizabeth. Life which though belatedly sanctioned Mrs. Bennet's desire threefold, entirely blighted Caroline's initiatives. This is because she has a mind and the mind was negative.

If we take up Lydia, she does everything improper. She persuades Wickam to run away with her. She never thinks of marriage. She does not even know that Wickam never contemplates marriage. She is oblivious and stupid. She refuses to go to Gardiner's house. But she gets what she wants. This needs a certain thought. The entire story is written in an atmosphere of intense cheerfulness. There is plenty of folly, hypocrisy,snobbishness, vulgarity, deceit, dominating irrationality, but there is not one vibration of cruelty, malice, viciousness, or venom. Wickam wants to dissipate. He has no vengeance against anyone including Darcy. If anything is there, it is in self-defence, not in malicious revenge. Lydia's dissipation is a delightful intensity to her. It was not calculated against anyone. Even dissipation is rewarded by its intensity. It is significant that Wickam is not punished but is given a commission and a wife. In the story nobody is punished except in the sense of social compromise.

story | by Dr. Radut