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Who is most responsible for Lydia’s downfall in “Pride and Prejudice”, and how does Austen use this episode to shape the novel?

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Introduction

Who is most responsible for Lydia's downfall in "Pride and Prejudice", and how does Austen use this episode to shape the novel? Word Count: 954 words. In a novel alert to the complexities and insecurities of social position, preoccupied with questions of responsibility and respectability, the episode, in respect to Lydia's downfall, emphasises the vulnerability of the Bennet daughters and give rise to considerations of primary responsibility for Lydia's downfall. "She has no money, no connections" (p225). The fault, for Lydia's downfall, does not lie with Wickham; I do not excuse the soldier's behaviour nor suggest that he is not at fault for carrying out such a ridiculous, care-free affair but he has no duty to be responsible for Lydia. Mr Bennet, however, is supposedly the established pinnacle of his family and hence is to be held accountable for his family's actions especially as his spawn so happen to be female, and in such a world (that Austen habited and wrote about) where women were, seemingly, entirely dependant on the whim of men, even more so. ...read more.

Middle

Elizabeth acted out of duty, not out of care for his youngest sibling. 'the cares that must now fall wholly upon her [Elizabeth], in a family so deranged; a father absent, a mother incapable of exertion, and requiring constant attendance' (p227). In fact, the only person who appears to want Lydia's best interests is, someone who at a younger age would have sympathised with these same 'interests', Mrs Bennet. '...such prospects and such realities as these' ['herself [Lydia] the object of attention'... 'tenderly flirting with at least six officers at once.']... 'could have only been understood by her mother, who might have felt nearly the same.' (p191) Lydia has become this pitiful creature through mirroring her role model, her mother. Some blame can be endowed on the child's mother; under Mrs Bennet's foolish eye her youngest daughter has become a pathetic woman who enacts conventional melodrama or mistaken, self-indulgence and passion. Mr Bennet does learn from the unfortunate episode, of Lydia's romantic attachment, and becomes a more responsible father, 'though Mrs Wickham frequently invited her [Kitty] to come and stay with her, with the promise of balls and young men, her father would never consent to her going' (p310). ...read more.

Conclusion

Darcy acts out of love for Elizabeth. 'Her heart did whisper that he had done it for her,' (p263) and her instincts are triumphantly confirmed when Darcy confesses that his main motivation in saving Lydia was "the wish of giving happiness to you" (p295). Romantic love makes individual happiness both the motivation and the goal of moral and social change. As a result of Elizabeth's influence, and in the hope of pleasing her Darcy rethinks his pride, opens himself up to new social alliances and acts to ensure Lydia's respectability. His reward, when Elizabeth accepts his second proposal, is 'happiness... such as he had probably never felt before' (p295). By the end of the novel, as a result of Lydia's downfall, Darcy has been converted into a figure of comic reconciliation. Darcy, the new aristocratic man, uses his power and knowledge to re-establish social harmony, a harmony symbolized by multiple marriages: Lydia's to Wickham, Jane's to Bingley, and most important, his own to Elizabeth. Darcy is shown to be loving and therefore lovable; thorough his desire for the heroine, he is transformed from an aggressive and potentially threatening figure into an ally and a husband. ...read more.

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