What is the conflict between Lydia and Wickham?

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Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice revolves around the Bennet family, which consists of five sisters who must marry in order to obtain financial security. The primary character is Lizzy, who becomes involved with Mr. Darcy; her pretty sister Jane loves Darcy’s friend Mr. Bingley; and the youngest Bennet daughter, Lydia, attracts Mr. Wickham.

Through most of the novel, there is little conflict between Lydia and Wickham. Lydia is a thoughtless, superficial girl who cares only for balls and meeting young men. She is an outrageous flirt who is completely unaware of how her careless behavior affects her family and her sisters’ prospects.

In describing Lydia and another sister, Austen writes in unflattering terms, “their minds were more vacant than their sisters,” and “Lydia [was] always unguarded and often uncivil.”

Early on, Lizzy unwisely enters into a flirtatious relationship with Wickham. However, in search of a fortune that Lizzy does not possess, Wickham transfers his attentions to the wealthier girls. Lizzy relates to her aunt that, “Kitty and Lydia take his defection much more to heart than I do.” Lydia is disappointed, although there is really no conflict yet between Lydia and Wickham.

After Lydia goes to Brighton, we next hear of her through a letter that Jane writes informing Lizzy that Lydia has “gone off to Scotland with one of his officers...with Wickham!” The Bennets expect that the two have eloped, but it soon becomes clear that “Imprudent as the marriage between Mr. Wickham and our poor Lydia would be… W. never intended to…marry Lydia at all.”

Austen never provides any dialogue between Lydia and Wickham to illustrate what conflict this causes between them, but the reader can deduce that Lydia is disappointed or perhaps even angry with Wickham until the situation gets resolved. Finally, through Darcy’s intervention, Lydia and Wickham marry.

The conflict arises when Lydia soon realizes that Wickham cannot support them. They soon lose what superficial feelings they had for one another. Austen says,

Their manner of living…was unsettled in the extreme. They were always moving from place to place in quest of a cheap situation, and always spending more than they ought. His affection for her soon sunk into indifference; hers lasted a little longer...

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