Why does Wickham elope with Lydia?
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Since such were her feelings, it only remained, he thought, to secure and expedite a marriage, which, in his very first conversation with Wickham he easily learnt had never been his design. He confessed himself obliged to leave the regiment, on account of some debts of honor, which were very pressing; and scrupled not to lay all the ill-consequences of Lydia's flight on her own folly alone. He meant to resign his commission immediately; and as to his future situation, he could conjecture very little about it. He must go somewhere, but he did not know where, and he knew he should have nothing to live on. Mr. Darcy asked him why he had not married your sister at once. Though Mr. Bennett was not imagined to be very rich, he would have been able to do something for him, and his situation must have been benefited by marriage. But he found, in reply to this question, that Wickham still cherished the hope of more effectually making his fortune by marriage in some other [part of the] country.
Now that you've read the quote from Aunt Gardiner's letter found in Chapter 52 of Pride and Prejudice pertaining to yur question, I'll attempt to rephrase it for you.
Wickham's marriage to the wealthy Miss King fell through and the whole town of Meryton was after Wickham on account of the huge debts he had racked up with almost every merchant. It became necessary for him to escape by fleeing the regiment (later resigning his commission) in order to keep himself out of jail. Lydia was enamored of him and so insistent that they were a great couple that she attached herself to him without being asked or invited.
In other words, when Wickham (that wicked fellow) fled to save his neck, Lydia tagged along and called it an "elopement." Only problem was, an elopement, by definition, requires that the potential groom want the young lady's company with designs of at least love and romance and hopefully a marriage. Wickham, by contrast, only tolerated Lydia's presence (perhaps he accepted her physical favors...perhaps not).
Wickham's plan, as he confided to Darcy when Darcy tracked him down and confronted him, was still to ingratiate himself in the heart of some innocent rich young thing or foolish young widow and make his fortune by marrying it--the fortune, that is. That is why Wickham elopes with Lydia: He doesn't. Lydia has a fantasy elopement with Wickham, and Wickham yawns (ho hum) and endures it--she is after all female and disposable.
I never read it as an actual elopement at all. The other daughters talk of being "ruined" because of Lydia's behavior. With Austen it can be hard to read between all the lines, but I always read this episode as Lydia thinking they would marry, but Wickham continuing with his self-centered ways and taking advantage of a young girl. Although Wickham talks of still hoping to marry someone wealthy, it seemed to me that he told Darcy this as a way of getting money from Darcy. Darcy knew Wickham all too well, and Wickham played Darcy for all he was worth.
In the novel by Jane Austen "Pride and Prejudice" Mr. Wickham has no money. However, he is very handsome and a lady pleaser. He has a magnetic attraction to Lydia, the daughter of Mrs. Bennett. She is attracted to pretty things, dancing, nice clothes, and frivolity.
When Lydia meets Mr. Wickham, she is enamored with him. She is somewhat spoiled and demanding and gets her way by coaxing him to marry her. She runs off with him because she has no dowry and he has no money. She knows it is not the marriage that her mother or sisters would approve of. He is in trouble for debts and needs to get away. He takes her a long so that he will not have to go alone. Their good looks and energy seem to compliment each other.
The marriage between the two begins to fall apart. Austen uses the characters to show the difference between a hasty and a good slow developing relationship such as Elizabeth's and Darcy’s.
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