In Pride and Prejudice, what is Mrs. Bennet's reaction to Lydia's scandal and what does it show about her character?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As we read this excellent novel it is impossible not to ignore the harsh, biting irony of the authoress and the way that she shows her true opinion of a variety of characters. Of course, a frequent target for her satire is Mrs. Bennet, who has so much to be made fun of. When Elizabeth returns back home with her aunt and uncle, she goes up to see her mother. Austen describes her as follows:

Mrs. Bennet, to whose apartment they all repaired after a few minutes conversation together, received them exactly as might be expected; with tears and lamentations of regret, invectives against the villainous conduct of Wickham, and the complaints of her own sufferings and ill-usage; blaming everybody but the person to whose ill-judging indulgence the errors of her daughter must be principally owing.

Note the judgement in the last remark. Mrs. Bennet conveniently ignores her own fault in bringing up Lydia to be the flirt that she has become, and chooses to blame everyone else instead. Of course, the amusement is heightened when we consider how Mrs. Bennet magically changes her opinion of "the villainous Wickham," going on to describe him as a wonderful son-in-law once he has been forced to marry Lydia. Such responses show Mrs. Bennet to be incredibly self-absorbed and lack self-awareness about the impropriety of her own conduct.

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