Pride and Prejudice - Extract 2

This GCSE English Literature quiz is the second of two extract questions for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It takes place far into the second half of the novel, as Elizabeth is engaged on her tour of Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle, the Gardiners. This passage represents a crisis for her as she is confronted with the consequences of her parents’ lax approach to raising their daughters and to helping them to negotiate society and its expectations. She also comes to believe that her own ethics, behaviour and character do not stand as independently as she had hoped, but are inevitably affected by those closest to her. At this moment of vulnerability she has no choice but to be humble in her honesty.

How to answer an extract question in an exam:

Read the passage through more than once before beginning to write your answer.

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You will notice different details and aspects of the passage on each reading. Aim in the first reading to gain a general understanding of the extract, paying attention to how it relates to the question you will be answering. On the second reading, you can begin to make detailed notes and annotations, sketching out a rough plan. Once you’ve done this, you will be ready to plan more carefully exactly how you will answer the question.

Remember to ask yourself why the specific passage might have been chosen. In what way does it relate to the rest of the text? Which significant characters and themes appear? Consider what follows later in the text. Can you spot any foreshadowing of later events? Can you specify how the passage follows earlier events? Is a turning point evident? Also consider the extract’s ending: why does the passage end where it does? What significance do you perceive in the final line?

Pay close attention to the actual wording of the question you have chosen to answer. What have you been asked to discuss? Among the many possibilities, the question might concern mood and atmosphere, a particular character or a theme. Perhaps you are expected to give a personal response to the passage or to a character. Dialogue, or the behaviour or feelings of a character might be the focus. Each of these different types of questions requires a different sort of answer. Begin by explaining the passage’s immediate context: briefly note the events which precede the extract and comment upon their relevance. Remember to refer to the detail of the passage, rather than discussing it more generally, or even vaguely. Analyse and discuss the relationship between the passage and the broad themes of the text. Structure your writing by grouping related ideas together. Be careful to leave enough time to discuss the entire passage in order to avoid having an incomplete answer.

Read the extract below carefully before answering the questions.

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Darcy made no answer. He seemed scarcely to hear her, and was walking up and down the room in earnest meditation; his brow contracted, his air gloomy. Elizabeth soon observed, and instantly understood it. Her power was sinking; every thing must sink under such a proof of family weakness, such an assurance of the deepest disgrace. She could neither wonder nor condemn, but the belief of his self-conquest brought nothing consolatory to her bosom, afforded no palliation of her distress. It was, on the contrary, exactly calculated to make her understand her own wishes; and never had she so honestly felt that she could have loved him, as now, when all love must be vain.

But self, though it would intrude, could not engross her. Lydia - the humiliation, the misery, she was bringing on them all, soon swallowed up every private care; and covering her face with her handkerchief, Elizabeth was soon lost to every thing else; and, after a pause of several minutes, was only recalled to a sense of her situation by the voice of her companion, who in a manner, which though it spoke compassion, spoke likewise restraint, said, “I am afraid you have been long desiring my absence, nor have I any thing to plead in excuse of my stay, but real, though unavailing, concern. Would to heaven that any thing could be either said or done on my part, that might offer consolation to such distress. - But I will not torment you with vain wishes, which may seem purposely to ask for your thanks. This unfortunate affair will, I fear, prevent my sister’s having the pleasure of seeing you at Pemberley to day.”

“Oh, yes. Be so kind as to apologise for us to Miss Darcy. Say that urgent business calls us home immediately. Conceal the unhappy truth as long as it is possible. - I know it cannot be long.”

He readily assured her of his secrecy - again expressed his sorrow for her distress, wished it a happier conclusion than there was at present reason to hope, and leaving his compliments for her relations, with only one serious, parting look, went away.

As he quitted the room, Elizabeth felt how improbable it was that they should ever see each other again on such terms of cordiality as had marked their several meetings in Derbyshire; and as she threw a retrospective glance over the whole of their acquaintance, so full of contradictions and varieties, sighed at the perverseness of those feelings which would now have promoted its continuance, and would formerly have rejoiced in its termination.

If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection, Elizabeth’s change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty. But if otherwise, if the regard springing from such sources is unreasonable or unnatural, in comparison of what is so often described as arising on a first interview with its object, and even before two words have been exchanged, nothing can be said in her defence, except that she had given somewhat of a trial to the latter method, in her partiality for Wickham, and that its ill-success might perhaps authorise her to seek the other less interesting mode of attachment.

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (Penguin, 1972)
  1. What is the immediate context for this passage?
    Being surprised by Mr Darcy's visit, Elizabeth's distress leads her to confide in him
  2. What immediately follows this passage?
    Elizabeth realises that Jane has been left alone at Longbourn to cope with worry and with their mother
  3. In this extract, Mr Darcy is presented as displaying which of the following qualities?
    Elizabeth, though extremely distressed, is always alert to the unspoken meanings which lie behind the behaviour of another. She does not always correctly understand others' motives, however
  4. What does Elizabeth believe Mr Darcy to have decided by the time he leaves the room?
    Such a decision would be entirely in line with his past behaviour and with the opinions which he earlier expressed in his letter
  5. Which of the following lines reveals the force of habitual politeness in the face of emotional turmoil?
    Elizabeth remembers to apologise to Miss Darcy for not being able to meet her as arranged. Despite her heightened and despairing emotional state, the rules of politeness are so ingrained that Elizabeth easily falls back upon them during this time of catastrophe
  6. Elizabeth and Darcy are both present and hyper-aware in this moment and also absent. Which of the following does NOT give this impression of simultaneous presence and absence?
    Concrete details such as the handkerchief, Mr Darcy's voice, and the room in which he paces anchor their wandering thoughts and attention in the present moment
  7. How does this passage present gratitude and esteem?
    The last paragraph in this passage is a bit tricky! The narrator comments on the slow growth of affection for someone, based on the observance of virtue and character, as being unfashionably unlike the sudden attraction presumed to be more natural. Elizabeth, the narrator notes, felt such instant attraction for Mr Wickham. Their relationship could not be considered successful
  8. How might the mood of this passage best be described?
    Both characters are highly agitated, which creates a tense mood in this scene
  9. "But self, though it would intrude, could not engross her." What is meant by this sentence?
    She is scathing towards Lydia and seems to feel no sympathy for her sister in this initial moment, but realises that concern for herself as an individual is subordinate to her concern for the impact Lydia's behaviour will have for everyone involved
  10. Elizabeth believes her acquaintanceship with Mr Darcy to be characterised as which of the following?
    Despite her earlier realisation that she should lay aside concern for herself, she cannot help dwelling on her own feelings as she anxiously awaits the return of her aunt and uncle and the possibility of assisting with the situation at home

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