Darcy & Lady Catherine: Chapter 11

Chapter 11 of A Man of Few Words includes the famous scene between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine where Elizabeth provides the impressive retort, "In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman's daughter; so far we are equal."

Of course A Man of Few Words doesn't show this scene directly; rather, it is related to Darcy by Lady Catherine.

Lady Catherine reporting Elizabeth's behavior
and giving her consent to the match.
The question I had to answer was why on earth would Lady Catherine rush off to tell Darcy exactly what Elizabeth said to her? Geez, is the woman so obtuse she doesn't realize she is simply tossing oil onto flames, exciting Darcy's already excited interest?

The 1940 film solved this problem by having Lady Catherine be one of those crusty sharp-tongue old ladies who secretly adore outspoken girls like Elizabeth. This is a classic type and can be used to good purpose. The 1940 film does use it to good purpose although the first time I watched it with my mother, she (a fan of the book) couldn't resist leaning over and saying, "Lady Catherine does not do this in the book."

What the original text makes clear is that Lady Catherine possesses a substantial degree of cluelessness. Her cluelessness isn't rooted in stupidity but rather in her entirely subjective version of reality. After all, only Lady Catherine could continue to tout a potential marriage between Darcy and her daughter Anne when no one, including Darcy and Anne, imagines this will ever happen.

In A Man of Few Words, I portray Darcy as not even realizing that anyone thought it would happen:
"Can you believe it?" Lady Catherine said. "[Miss Elizabeth] knows that such a connection would be improper, but she refused to deny the rumor. Yes, I can see that astonishes you." Darcy had risen and was gaping at his aunt. "An obvious falsehood, yet she refused to admit it. I explained about Anne--"

Darcy blinked, head cocked. What about Anne?

Lady Catherine coughed and waved a hand. "And she still refused to acknowledge that there is no attachment between you . . ."

But then Lady Catherine is this type of woman: enough of a hard-headed realist to avoid spouting pure fantasies but too far invested in her view of the world to invite too much challenge to those fantasies. Truth is, Mr. Collins is the best possible clergyman for such a patron!

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