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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: PLOT ANALYSIS
Mr. Bennet partially redeems himself in this chapter. He is ashamed about his own finances and sad that Mr. Gardiner has had to pay a large sum to have Wickham marry Lydia. His determination to repay Gardiner shows that he is an honest and fair-minded man.
Elizabeth is ashamed of Lydia’s behavior. Now that she realizes that she loves Darcy, she is sad to think that she will never be able to marry him because of her Lydia’s disgrace. She now accepts that Darcy’s assessment of her family was correct.
Lydia’s elopement is central to the plot, for it threatens to devastate the
life of her older sisters -- both of whom are immensely superior to her.
Mr. and Mrs. Wickham arrive at Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet welcomes them warmly,
but Mr. Bennet is provoked by the couple’s easy manner and shameless impudence.
Elizabeth is indignant over their behavior, and even the gentle Jane is
mortified by their indifferent attitude. Lydia chatters unabashedly about
Wickham and seems to be totally in love with him, in spite of the shabby
treatment that he has given her. In contrast, Wickham does not seem to
be much in love with Lydia. While talking to Elizabeth, Lydia says that
Darcy was present at the wedding. Elizabeth is thoroughly intrigued at
his presence there and writes to her aunt to find out why.
The welcome Lydia and her husband receive from her parents on returning home is very typical. Mr. Bennet, provoked by Lydia’s shamelessness, retreats to his ivory tower; Mrs. Bennet gushes over the newly-weds. During her stay, Lydia clearly reveals her immaturity. She is insensitive to the shame and agony her family was subjected to on account of her elopement. When Elizabeth attempts to shame her for her immoral behavior, it is a futile attempt; Lydia, like her mother, is overjoyed at the marriage and feels there is no reason to repent. Even though she is self assured, Lydia proves she is a thoroughly spoiled girl, who does what she likes, leaving it to others to straighten out the mess she creates.
Unlike Elizabeth and Jane, Lydia does not care about social dignity and status
in marriage. She is even so naïve about her sisters that she recommends
that they also go to Brighton to hunt for grooms.
When she responds to Elizabeth’s letter, Mrs. Gardiner is surprised that Elizabeth does not know the truth about the Wickham marriage. She informs Elizabeth that Darcy had found Lydia and bribed Wickham to marry her. Darcy then made Mr. Gardiner promise that he would conceal this information and take the credit for having paid Wickham. Elizabeth is overwhelmed by Darcy’s kindness and finds it hard to believe that he has done all this. She assumes that his involvement has sprung from his sense of responsibility for Wickham.
Wickham confronts Elizabeth and tries to find out if she knows the truth about
his relationship with Darcy. Elizabeth is evasive and cynical in her vague
response and succeeds in getting rid of him quickly.
Elizabeth is shocked to learn from Mrs. Gardiner that it was Darcy who found Lydia and paid Wickham to marry her. She feels deeply indebted to Darcy; at the same time, she is so ashamed of her family that she wishes she had not confided in him.
It should be noted that Elizabeth is a fiercely independent woman who has never wanted to be under obligation to anyone, especially not to someone she loves. In the past, she has thought that her relation with Darcy was unequal because of the disparity in their social status. Now the balance is further tipped by Elizabeth’s sense of indebtedness to Darcy.
In this chapter, the reader sees a contrast to the first scene between Elizabeth
and Wickham. Wickham’s is no longer boastful to Elizabeth, for he is aware
that she knows the shameful truth about him.
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