This scene plays a vital part in the story, and Lady Catherine herself is very useful, which she would like, as she always likes to be useful!
First of all is the structural significance. It is very important because it affects the future events of the story. It is this meeting which spurs Darcy to propose to Lizzie, for the second time. After this confrontation, Lady Catherine passes on the substance of the conversation to Darcy, and tells him that, when pressed, Lizzie would not agree to satisfy her Ladyship and promise her never to marry her nephew. This is what gives Darcy the hope that Lizzie is not absolutely and decidedly against him anymore, and unfortunately for Lady Catherine, the effect on Darcy is opposite to the one she intended!
Having this scene at this point provides a contrast to the previous happy event of Jane and Bingley’s engagement, as well as contributes to making the ending more romantic – love will always prevail, even if it means going against wishes of the relations, the Aunts in particular!
This passage also shows how important social class really is to families such as Mr. Darcy’s. It also reinstates the feeling of dislike for Lady Catherine which was previously provoked when you first meet her. We also begin to see that, through Elizabeth’s quick and witty responses, she is beginning to regret refusing Darcy’s proposal, and I find that this one short scene increases your admiration for Lizzie dramatically!
This scene in particular would really provoke the reader into disliking Lady Catherine even more than they may have before. Austen creates this reaction through her comments to Lizzie, which show her pride about her family and prejudice against people such as Elizabeth. “Do you know who I am?” and “the voice of every member of their respective houses” prove about how important she considers social standing. Also, there are many words and phrases that Lady Catherine uses which would easily turn you against her, with her arrogance, self-importance, pomposity, bullying and patronisation of Elizabeth! Harsh comments such as “without family, connections, or fortune” show again the importance of how the family is seen in the eyes of society and also her prejudice against families who are much lower than her in society. It also makes the reader dislike Lady Catherine as this comment is insulting Elizabeth in every possible way. Lady Catherine is clearly a very proud woman – common in this family I think it is fair to say ;)
Lady Catherine’s insisting on Darcy marrying her daughter, because of an agreement made when they were very young, is quite frankly, ridiculous! Arranged marriages... never a good idea! And besides, the final success of the marriage depends on the people who are meant to marry! As well as Lady Catherine seeming very ridiculous, she also seems very unromantic. She says nothing about the importance of love and her argument is based entirely on class and money. She is further dislikeable as a result of Elizabeth’s self-defence and willingness to carry out the fight with Lady Catherine in the first place and through the wit which is displayed in her replies, also increasing your admiration of Elizabeth.
Personally, I think that Lady Catherine’s reasons against Lizzie aren’t the best...
3. If she married her nephew Darcy, then she would not be acknowledged by anyone of her relations and acquaintances – what a heavy misfortune that would be for Lizzie, to miss out on the pleasure of seeing Lady Catherine... shame!
To these weak reasons, Lizzie has some wonderful, and powerful, replies and reasons why she could marry Darcy...
1. Firstly, she doesn’t think being ignored by her relations and friends will matter to her, or Darcy a great deal! And I am with her!
2. Lizzie doesn’t understand why Lady Catherine thinks that she can have any influence with her and her decisions in her life! Who is she to Lizzie? She is so wholly unconnected with her!
3. In regards to the differences in social class, "He (Darcy) is a gentleman and I am a gentleman’s daughter – so far we are equal!" (You go girl!)
4. If Darcy wants Lizzie to be his choice of wife, why shouldn’t she accept him? It is his choice and shouldn’t he decide what he wants to do, and not his aunt?
5. If Darcy did propose to her, not that she will admit it, doesn’t it suggest that perhaps Darcy is not happy with the arranged marriage between him and Anne? I think so Lady Catherine...
Overall, this scene is so necessary to the plot and so well written that it makes it, in my opinion, one of the best scenes in the entire book!
Your affectionate friend,