Warning: This blog post will include controversial opinions concerning Mr. Collins and Elizabeth Bennet's relationship.
You've been warned.
Rejection, whether you're doling it out or taking it, is tough. And I can't help but admire Elizabeth's courage to reject Mr. Collins.
I wish you very happy and very rich, and by refusing your hand, do all in my power to prevent your being otherwise. In making me the offer, you must have satisfied the delicacy of your feelings with regard to my family, and may take possession of Longbourn estate whenever it falls, without any self-reproach. This matter may be considered, therefore, as finally settled.
Some of you might scoff at me and say, "Halle, c'mon. 1. She never really considered his offer. and 2. No one actually wanted to marry Mr. Collins--not even Charlotte. She was just desperate." To those people, I urge you to remember the context within which our beloved characters lived. There was no guarantee that another man was ever going to come along and sweep Lizzy off her feet--as Mr. Collins himself points out.
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 of 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.
While Mr. Collins tries to be polite by consistently mentioning her loveliness and amiable qualities, his disbelief and subsequent bluntness is understandable. Affection was not always something an elegant female took into consideration. Sure. You could hope for it, or perhaps it would develop over time. But there was no guarantee that Elizabeth would ever marry with affection--or marry at all, for that matter. And the thought of being a spinster for life in the nineteenth century was more than just a little anxious-making. Yes. Jane Austen herself never married. But she continuously reiterates the necessity of marriage (in the nineteenth century) through her characters' marriages.
To refuse Mr. Collins, as silly and ridiculous and mildly repulsive as he was, was a bold move on Elizabeth's behalf. But then again, I myself am very familiar with the concept of choosing no one rather than just anyone, choosing to be alone rather than someone who cannot fathom our soul. But, if I'm being honest, that choice isn't always as easy as it is in theory. Sometimes it's nice to have someone to text; someone to do the things your friends don't want to with; to just have someone. And I have to wonder, if Darcy had never turned his proud ass around and become the man we all ardently admire and love, would Elizabeth ever come to regret not marrying Mr. Collins?
Cue gasp and immediate surge of anger on behalf of any Pride and Prejudice fan ever.
I'm being entirely serious.
Being alone is not an easy thing, even when you're one and twenty and the world is your oyster. I can't imagine how difficult it would have been to choose to be alone when a woman could not really be her own person in society. To reject a secure, comfortable life with no definite possibility of a similar life with someone you love is a tough choice indeed.
I would never judge Lizzy if she ever second-guessed her rejection of Mr. Collins (if Darcy never turned himself around, of course). Does anyone else remember that old saying, "You don't know what you have until it's gone"? I sometimes find myself looking at an old crush's Instagram pictures of him and his new blonde girlfriend and wonder if I made a mistake not pursuing him. Like I mentioned in last week's post, it's completely natural to wonder about the road untraveled. What if?
Could we have been happy? Would he have been able to change? Would I have been able to change? Could we have ever made it work when we were arguably very different?
Do I, in my heart of hearts, honestly think Elizabeth and Mr. Collins could've lived a happy life together? No. But the same goes for Mr. Collins' actual bride, Charlotte. He is not the sort of man that a woman fantasizes about marrying. He's not a Darcy, or a Bingley, or a Mr. Tilney, or a Mr. Knightley. That being said, Mr. Collins has good intentions, a malleable personality that could be softened over time, and a steady income and established household. Charlotte was much more suited to live out her life with a man like Mr. Collins that Elizabeth was. But I still have to wonder if Elizabeth had never found love with Darcy, would she ever look back fondly on Mr. Collins' proposal? Maybe she would've even wanted to turn back the clock and give a different answer. Perhaps looking upon the situation with improved clarity, reflection, and inevitable maturity that comes with age.