Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 600
Extended Character Analysis
Lydia Bennet, the youngest daughter of the Bennet family, is flighty and audacious. Lydia shows a general disregard for those around her and is often wasteful and silly. For most of the novel, Lydia runs about Meryton with Catherine (Kitty) Bennet, her closest sister, flirting with the militia men and creating a source of public shame for the Bennet family. Lydia’s character is reflective of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s many deficiencies in marriage and in parenting. However, she also acts as a catalyst for change within the novel. Without many of Lydia’s actions, other characters would not have met as frequently or been brought together. It is Lydia’s careless choices that force those around her to react, and those reactions result in valuable, story-changing moments.
Lydia’s character is very similar to Mrs. Bennet’s, and because of this, Mrs. Bennet favors her; she lets Lydia be “out” with her sisters and spoils her. Lydia arranges the first meeting between Mr. Wickham and Elizabeth Bennet; while the sisters are out walking through Meryton, Lydia sees a militia man she knows walking with a handsome stranger, who turns out to be Mr. Wickham. Lydia’s outgoing attitude draws Mr. Wickham toward her and her sisters, and Elizabeth is drawn in by his excellent manners, becoming further prejudiced against Mr. Darcy after Wickham lies about Darcy’s past actions. It is also Lydia’s rude and excited nature that pushes Mr. Bingley to host a ball at Netherfield, which accounts for a second and more interactive meeting between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. This particular ball is also a scene in which the Bennet family behaves embarrassingly. The actions of the Bennet family during this ball highlight to Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley’s sisters the defects of the match between Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennet.
Lydia Bennet further affects events when she impulsively decides to elope with Mr. Wickham, the novel’s most antagonistic and untrustworthy character. Lydia’s actions inadvertently bring her family shame. Elizabeth hears of Lydia’s elopement while visiting Derbyshire and making a better acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. When Elizabeth receives the letter about the elopement, Mr. Darcy happens to be visiting her and, because of his past with Wickham, claims partial responsibility for the scandal. This is a turning point within the novel; Elizabeth is sure her regard has grown for Mr. Darcy, but she feels that Mr. Darcy now must view her family as entirely shameful due to Lydia’s actions. Mr. Darcy, however, secretly finds Lydia and Mr. Wickham and forces them to get married by paying off Mr. Wickham’s debts.
Lydia’s carelessness allows readers to understand what lengths Darcy went to on Elizabeth’s behalf. Mr. Darcy asks that his involvement in Lydia and Wickham’s wedding be kept secret, but Lydia slips up and tells Elizabeth that he was present. If Lydia had not accidentally told Elizabeth this, Elizabeth would not have realized that Mr. Darcy still loved her, and she would likely not have been as confident when confronting his aunt. Lydia’s careless nature allows the two protagonists to finally understand the mutuality of their affections.
Lydia Bennet is an example of a character who makes an unsuccessful marriage. Lydia follows in the footsteps of her parents, who are also mismatched and now live in separated disharmony. Once married, Lydia and Mr. Wickham spend life together in an unhappy state, as both Mr. Wickham and Lydia quickly become indifferent towards each other and maintain habits that are not conducive to a fulfilling life.
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