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Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen
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In chapter 16 of Pride and Prejudice, how does Mr. Wickham claim he was wronged by Mr. Darcy? What characteristics are apparent regarding Mr. Wickham at this point in the plot?

In chapter 16, Mr. Wickham claims he was wronged by Mr. Darcy because he was not offered a job as a clergyman that Mr. Darcy's late father had promised to him. Wickham portrays this as a betrayal of trust and a harsh financial blow. At this point in the plot, Mr. Wickham is depicted as very handsome and personable, and as mistreated by Mr. Darcy.

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A modern reader might need a little background to understand how Mr. Wickham claims he was wronged by Mr. Darcy. In the Regency period, a gentleman could become a paid clergyman by having the local lord offer him a "living." The living was a set salary that went to the pastor of the local church. These livings (jobs as pastors) were highly coveted, and people would often pay a fee to get a living for a family member.

Wickham tells Elizabeth that Mr. Darcy's father, while he was alive, promised him the living for the local parish church. As the local lord, the living would have been the late Lord Darcy's to give out to whomever he pleased.

This was an important gift to be offered. It would have secured Wickham a comfortable income and the status of a gentleman. However, Wickham says that after the old Mr. Darcy died, his heir, the Mr. Darcy in the novel, betrayed his father's trust. He did not honor his father's promise to give Wickham the living.

When Elizabeth, in shock, asks how Darcy could be so cruel, Wickham explains that Darcy hated him since childhood. Darcy, according to Wickham, has long been jealous of Wickham because the older Mr. Darcy favored Wickham over the younger Darcy.

At this point in the plot we know that Elizabeth considers Wickham extremely attractive and personable. She says he is, compared to the other officers, "far beyond them all in person, countenance, air, and walk ...". She finds he is an excellent talker, saying to herself: "the commonest, dullest, most threadbare topic might be rendered interesting by the skill" of Wickham. From these statements, we might assume Elizabeth is falling in love with Wickham.

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