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Free Study Guide: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - Free BookNotes

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: PLOT ANALYSIS

CHAPTER 50

Summary

Mr. Bennet is ashamed that Mr. Gardiner has paid a sum to money to Wickham to accomplish the marriage; he plans to find out the amount and repay his brother-in-law as soon as possible. He even writes a letter to Gardiner to state his plans. He is also disappointed in Lydia’s behavior and has resolved not to admit them at Longbourn. In contrast, Mrs. Bennet has no remorse. Once she hears about the marriage, she ends her voluntary exile in her room and takes her seat at the head of the table. She is in high spirits, allowing no shame to dampen her victory. She is ecstatic about her plans for the married couple but her husband has resolved not to admit them at Longbourn.

Elizabeth regrets that she has confided in Darcy, for it embarrasses her that he now knows of her family’s disgrace. She finally acknowledges her love for Darcy, but she feels the chances of marrying him are now lost forever. She is saddened over the situation, for she thinks that Darcy is just the man to make her a suitable husband; she believes their marriage would be the ideal union, but unfortunately Lydia’s disgraceful union has marred her chances forever.

Mr. Gardiner writes that Wickham intends to quit the militia and enter into a regiment stationed in the north; Lydia wishes to see her family before they depart. Mr. Bennet initially refuses Lydia’s request, but Jane and Elizabeth convince him to receive her and Wickham. It is arranged that after they are married, the couple will proceed to Longbourn.


Notes

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.


CHAPTER 51

Summary

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.

Notes

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.


CHAPTER 52

Summary

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.

Notes

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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