In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, we see how Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Lucas’s friendship evolves throughout the story. While they may have different views on love and marriage, they share a bond that is unbreakable.
The same may be said of their relationship in Her Spirits Rising to Playfulness. Here’s the book blurb, which indicates what’s at stake for Elizabeth:
While Elizabeth is confident, independent, and determined, even she knows that she can’t carry out her mission to make Mr. Darcy fall in love with her alone. Luckily, she has a friend in Charlotte she can always count on.
Charlotte is practical, observant, and level-headed. Together, the two ladies make a formidable team.
In the following excerpt from Chapter 2, Charlotte is not only a helpful sounding board for Elizabeth but also a true friend who is eager to support her in any way possible. She is not just a confidante to Elizabeth but also her partner in crime.
By the time she returned to Longbourn, implementing her scheme was her favorite wish. She would have liked to hash out her scheme with her elder sister, but she did not dare for fear of how Jane would react. The latter being more forgiving than Elizabeth, she might very well disapprove. Thus, Elizabeth kept her own counsel until she could consult like-minded company, namely her intimate friend, Miss Charlotte Lucas, from the neighboring estate, Lucas Lodge.
Elizabeth confided in her friend her ambitious scheme for obtaining a marriage proposal when she could. Though Charlotte had advanced to seven and twenty years of age without making any matrimonial prospects for herself, her intelligence and acumen were unsurpassed, or so Elizabeth supposed, when it came to helping her devise the most advantageous course of action to ensure her success in reaching her goal.
“How very intriguing,” Charlotte uttered, her eyes lit with curiosity. “How may I be of help?”
“As a woman of sound judgment, I thought it prudent to entreat your opinion on how to best set my plan into motion.”
“What, then, is your scheme?” Charlotte questioned.
“Alas! I have none planned as yet. That is to say, while I am clear on the outcome, the means of bringing it about have yet to be determined. Pray, how does a young woman go about enticing a man to tender his offer of marriage?” Elizabeth’s countenance expressed her utter despair.
Charlotte uttered gently but curiously, “Pray tell me, why did you not simply request advice from your mother? I am certain that she would know how best to proceed.”
Elizabeth’s mother, Mrs. Francine Bennet née Gardiner, was a woman of limited knowledge and uncertain temper whose life’s purpose was to marry off her five daughters. Her heart was invariably in the right place, but her means were sometimes questionable.
“Heavens forbid. If my mother gets a whiff of my plan, she will organize the entire nuptials before I realize what has occurred.” Elizabeth shuddered. “A prospect I would find most unsettling, for I have no intention of getting married.”
“If I understand you correctly, you hope to receive a marriage proposal, though you have no intention of being swayed by it?”
“Indeed, that is my precise meaning. I will never return this particular gentleman’s affections as he is the last man I would consider accepting as my husband.”
“Indeed, your audacity is commendable. However, I do not comprehend your stratagem. Why would you go to the trouble of getting a marriage proposal without intending to accept it? It appears rather peculiar,” Charlotte uttered with a tilt of her head.
“Explaining the matter to you is likely to be the most straightforward part of the whole affair,” Elizabeth stated with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
“Very well then, so what is it you are attempting to accomplish?” Charlotte asked.
“My primary aim is to secure the notice of a certain gentleman of fine standing. I must draw him in and secure his affections, and only then can I spurn his advances,” she uttered with a coy smile.
Charlotte’s brows rose in astonishment. “So you intend to have the gentleman make an offer of marriage and then refuse him?”
“It is not at all like you to engage in such folly. You must really detest this man.”
“Oh! I do—I really do.”
“Who is the gentleman in question?”
“That would be Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.”
Charlotte’s eyes sparkled with surprise. “Oh my, so it is to be a game of vanity. Is this your way of assuaging your wounded pride because he declared you not handsome enough to tempt him? You want to show the gentleman that his wealth and social status cannot tempt you. That is very brave of you, my dear Eliza.”
“It was not merely the insult to me that has put me in such a perturbation of spirit. It was a more recent affront against my dearest sister, Jane. Charlotte, you cannot possibly imagine what he has done!”
“What has he done?”
“I overheard him vehemently argue with his friend Mr. Bingley that the idea of making an offer of marriage to Jane had to be abandoned, for he finds our family’s lack of fortune and want of connections an insurmountable impediment. It was all I could do not to run up to him and demand an explanation for such abhorrent behavior.”
Charlotte gasped. “You must have been so hurt and disappointed. What an insult against your sister. It is incomprehensible how anyone can be so callous.”
“That is true, and I vow no mercy for him. That is why I am determined to discover a way to exact revenge. I do not wish to accept an offer from him. I only want to make him suffer the humiliation of being rejected by a Bennet daughter.”
Charlotte shook her head. “It is a daring plan, Eliza. Can you, with surety, resolve to take such a course?”
Elizabeth nodded resolutely. “My determination is set, and I shall need assistance in my endeavor. Will you support me?”
Charlotte smiled in assent. “I perfectly comprehend your feelings and am ready to help you with whatever I can. Let us devise an approach that will draw the notice of Mr. Darcy.”
After a moment’s reflection, Charlotte devised a plan of attack. “I believe, my dear,” she said, “to set the stage for an offer, a most delicate balance must be struck. You once argued that dancing is the best means of encouraging affection, did you not? You must find ways to employ that stratagem. If you get such an opportunity, like a Scottish reel at an informal gathering, seize it!
“Additionally, affectionate gazes from across the room on your part may effectively set the stage. Perhaps a stroll through a garden, or a pleasant jaunt to some other pleasing location, Oakham Mount, for instance, would afford intimacy conducive to your purpose. But you must be careful not to be too obvious in your intentions, for that could jeopardize the entire endeavor.”
Elizabeth nodded in agreement. “Your advice is most sensible. What other steps should I take, pray tell?”
“Bestow simple tokens of endearment,” Charlotte replied with a smile. “Listen to his words with enthusiasm. Even the slightest brush of your hand against his arm should suffice. Ensure he is always aware that you are in his presence, yet do not be imprudent or aggressive. Nay, too much familiarity could have an adverse effect on him.”
“To put it another way,” Elizabeth began, her spirits rising to playfulness, “observe how Miss Bingley behaves and then do the complete opposite.”
Her friend chuckled. “Exactly!”
The bond between Elizabeth and Charlotte is one of the most special relationships in Pride and Prejudice. They complement each other perfectly, with Charlotte’s practicality balancing out Elizabeth’s impulsiveness.
It would be great if we all had a friend like Charlotte—someone to listen, someone to lean on, and someone to give us thoughtful advice and comforting support. Indeed, Elizabeth is lucky to have her.
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