Discuss Jane Austen's art of characterization with reference to the following characters: Mr. Collins, Charlotte Lucas, Wickham and Lydia Bennet.
Austen identifies specific Regency/Victorian behaviors typical of the society in which she worked: The preoccupation with social class, the need for distinction, the necessity for marriage as a symbol of social status, and the double face of society. She also characterizes women by the weakness of the times: They were property and half educated. This was a particular problem Austen loved to bring out.
Charlotte Lucas exemplifies this latter point. She was a mindless puppet of her family who decidedly chose to marry Collins admittedly because it will at least bring her some form of stability, security, and income. She even admits that he is "tolerable" and that she feels it is the properly expected thing to do.
In Mr. Collins, she characterizes the first element: His overactive admiration for Lady Catherine just for being an aristocrat, his assumption that he was in a position of privilege under her mentorship, and his ridiculous regard for himself are typical of the mentality of class distinction and separation. When he married Charlotte, he viewed the entire thing as his obligation and as a favor to her more than anything else, after all, women were the property of their husbands.
Lydia is the traditional co-dependent and unintelligent female whose parents did not do their job in bringing her up correctly, was consistently feeding herself with fantasies and ended up living them up by eloping with the horrible Wickham and disgracing herself in society. However, right when she was in the epicenter of shame, her luck was made by Darcy's intervention, she was able to marry Wickham and returned to Longborn with a totally arrogant behavior, and flaunting her marriage status as if it were a victory over her sister. Equally, society seemed to have "forgotten" all about her shameful elopement and happily accepted her back in- all because of the marriage.
Mr Wickham was the typical heartless man who lied and lived up as a high minded Captain of the Army when in fact he was a double dealing hypocrite whose reputation was only made by his rank, and because he was connected to Darcy's family. He abused his stay in the Darcy family and he showed a lack of morals in eloping with Lydia, whom he didn't even love. Eventually he, too, returned back in the positive only because of the intervention of Darcy's money.