Mr. Collins is one of the most memorable characters in Pride and Prejudice, a classic novel by Jane Austen. He is a distant cousin of the Bennet family, who live in Longbourn, a modest estate in the countryside. Mr. Collins is a clergyman who has the privilege of being the rector of Hunsford, a parish owned by the wealthy and haughty Lady Catherine de Bourgh. He is also the next in line to inherit Longbourn, since Mr. Bennet has no male heirs. Mr. Collins is a man who has a very high opinion of himself and his position, but who lacks any sense of tact, taste, or humor. He is always eager to please and impress Lady Catherine, whom he considers as his benefactor and patroness. He often quotes her opinions and advice as if they were infallible and authoritative. He is also very fond of making long and tedious speeches, which bore and annoy his listeners.
Mr. Collins’s main role in the plot of Pride and Prejudice is to propose marriage to Elizabeth Bennet, the second eldest daughter of the Bennet family. He does so not out of love or affection, but out of a sense of duty and convenience. He thinks that by marrying one of the Bennet sisters, he will secure the future of Longbourn and also show his generosity and condescension. He also believes that Elizabeth will be grateful and honored by his offer, since she is not very young or beautiful, and has few prospects of making a good match. However, he is greatly mistaken, as Elizabeth rejects him firmly and politely, telling him that she could never respect or love him. She also criticizes his arrogance and presumption, and his disregard for her feelings.
Mr. Collins does not take Elizabeth’s refusal well, and he accuses her of being ungrateful, obstinate, and capricious. He also tells her that she is playing hard to get, and that she secretly means to accept him. He does not listen to her arguments or explanations, and he insists that she will change her mind once her parents consent to their union. However, he is soon disappointed when he learns that Mr. Bennet supports Elizabeth’s decision and will not force her to marry him. Mr. Collins then quickly transfers his affections to Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth’s best friend, who accepts his proposal without much hesitation. She does so not because she loves him or admires him, but because she is pragmatic and realistic. She knows that she is not very young or attractive, and that she has little chance of finding another husband. She also knows that Mr. Collins can provide her with a comfortable and respectable life, and that she can manage him with patience and prudence.
Some quotes that illustrate Mr. Collins’s character are:
– “I have often observed how little young ladies are interested by books of a serious stamp, though written solely for their benefit.” (Chapter 14)
– “I am not now to learn,” replied Mr. Collins, with a formal wave of the hand, “that it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of a man whom they secretly mean to accept.” (Chapter 19)
– “Forgive me… through the intercourse of friendship or civility.” (2005 film adaptation)
Mr. Collins plays an important role in the plot of Pride and Prejudice, as he represents the contrast between Elizabeth’s ideal of marriage based on love and respect and the social pressure to marry for security and convenience. He also serves as a comic relief with his absurd manners and speeches. He is a foil for Mr. Darcy, who is also wealthy and proud, but who eventually changes his behavior and wins Elizabeth’s heart.