Pride and Prejudice

by: Jane Austen

Lydia Bennet

Lydia is the youngest and wildest Bennet daughter. She is her mother’s favorite because like Mrs. Bennet, she is preoccupied with gossip, socializing, and men. Lydia is described as having “high animal spirits and a sort of natural self-consequence.” She is attractive and charismatic, but she is also reckless and impulsive. Lydia’s behavior frequently embarrasses her older sisters, and when Lydia receives the invitation to go to Brighton, Lizzy makes an impassioned speech about her sister’s character. She explains that “our respectability in the world must be affected by the wild volatility, the assurance and disdain of all restraint which mark Lydia’s character” Lizzie also articulates her fear that Lydia is on the road to becoming “a flirt in the worst and meanest degree of flirtation.” Lydia has an innate tendency toward wild and selfish behavior, but as a character she also sheds light on the failings of her parents, and father in particular. Because of her young age and lack of education, Lydia is presented as not entirely culpable for her behavior because she lacks parental guidance and discipline.

Although Lydia seems initially a harmless and entertaining character, her elopement with Wickham shows that her selfish actions can cause real damage. In the note explaining that she has run off with Wickham, Lydia writes “What a good joke it will be!” From Lizzy’s point of view, however, the focus is “the humiliation, the misery, she was bringing on them all.” Lydia does not think about the repercussions of her actions for herself or for her sisters. She does not learn any responsibility or sense of propriety over the course of the plot. Although Lydia’s reputation is barely salvaged through a hasty marriage, she focuses on her own importance, declaring, “Jane, I take your place now, and you must go lower, because I am a married woman.” She spends her married life relying on the generosity of her sisters and “moving from place to place in quest of a cheap situation.” In a novel where many other characters experience psychological development and growth, Lydia remains foolish and headstrong throughout.