Essay, Research Paper: Pride And Prejudice By Jane Austen

Literature: Jane Austen

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Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is the story of an English family in the early
1800's. The central theme in the story is the necessity of making a good
marriage for each of the five daughters in the Bennet family. Elizabeth Bennet
is the central character in the novel and the second oldest daughter. The role
of her sisters' characters influence Elizabeth's thoughts about her own romantic
interest, Fitzwilliam Darcy, throughout the novel. Lydia Bennet, Elizabeth's
youngest sister plays an important role in Elizabeth's feelings for Darcy.
Ultimately, Lydia's improper behavior brings Elizabeth and Darcy together,
justifying Austen's portrayal of Lydia as an uncivilized, idle, and irrational
young woman. Lydia Bennet's role in Pride and Prejudice is twofold. She is the
first of five daughters to be married which supports the novel's main theme of
the necessity of making a good marriage. Her elopement with Wickham brings
disgrace to the family, nevertheless, she does marry which satisfies her
mother's wish to see all of her daughters marry well. "The business of her
life was to get her daughters married." (Vol. I, Chapter 1). Lydia's role
is also that of her mother's favorite daughter. She is like her mother in many
ways; insensitive, simple, and brassy. "In Lydia's imagination, a visit to
Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly happiness. She saw herself
seated beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with at least six officers at
once." (Vol. II, Chapter 18). Lydia is the complete opposite of Elizabeth
who is sensitive, intelligent, and considerate. Austen uses Lydia's rash
behavior as a means for Elizabeth, the central character, to understand that
Darcy is "the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit
her." (Vol. III, Chapter 8) Throughout the novel Elizabeth misunderstands
Darcy's intentions and actions, and rejects his initial proposal of marriage
believing that they are ill-suited. When Lydia elopes with Wickham, Elizabeth is
mortified but realizes that Darcy's previous accusations against Wickham and her
family were justified. "Oh! how heartily did she grieve over every
ungracious sensation she had ever encouraged, every saucy speech she had ever
directed towards him." (Vol. III, Chapter 10) Darcy arranges the proper
marriage of Lydia and Wickham, saving the entire Bennet family from disrespect
and embarrassment. When Elizabeth attempts to thank Darcy he admits "that
the wish of giving happiness to you...led me on, I thought only of you."
(Vol. III, Chapter 16) Lydia's reckless, improper behavior provides the catalyst
for the engagement of Elizabeth and Darcy. Throughout the novel, Lydia is
portrayed as an uncivilized, idle, irrational 16 year old girl. She is lacking
in common sense and good judgment, disregarding the consequences of her actions.
"Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty;
but I thought I might as well buy it as not." (Vol. II, Chapter 16). When
Lydia returns to her family after eloping with Wickham she shows no remorse for
the disgrace she brought to the family. "She turned from sister to sister,
demanding their congratulations...she went after dinner to show her ring and
boast of being married." (Vol. III, Chapter 9). After the marriage of
Elizabeth and Darcy, Lydia continued her disregard for common decency as shown
in a letter to her sister; "Wickham would like a place at court very much,
and I do not think we shall have quite money enough to live upon without some
help." (Vol. III, Chapter 19). Throughout Jane Austen's Pride and
Prejudice, Lydia Bennet is portrayed as an uncivilized and irrational young
woman; the youngest of five sisters who is the first to marry. Lydia is a minor
character in the story in comparison to her older sister, Elizabeth, but she
plays a major role in the marriage of her sister and Darcy. It is Lydia's
improper behavior (elopement) that opens Elizabeth's eyes to Darcy's true
goodness and affection, allowing her to admit her love for him. Both central
characters are able overcome their pride and prejudice, admit their own faults,
and build a stable, happy marriage.
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