Pride and Prejudice: Chapter 46 - Summary & Analysis

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      Summary: A day or two later, Elizabeth receives a letter from Jane, telling her the surprising news that Lydia has eloped with Wickham, leaving a note behind for Mrs. Foster. There is a second letter which is even more disturbing. Mr. Bennet and Colonel Foster have gone to London to try to trace her but without much success. Colonel Foster has visited Longbourn to report that he is afraid, Mr. Wickham neither wants to go to Scotland, nor marry Lydia. Mr. Wickham is clearly not a person to be trusted. Jane’s letter also requests Elizabeth to cut short her tour and return to Longbourn.

      Critical Analysis: Lydia’s elopement is received with shock by Elizabeth. The elopement is important for the development of the Elizabeth-Darcy relationship. Darcy is silent on hearing the news and Elizabeth is afraid that the disgrace of her family will lead Darcy to reject her. Darcy on the other hand is filled with tenderness for her. Elizabeth reveals the trust she now places in Darcy, when she confides in him the news of Lydia’s elopement. It is interesting that both blame each other for the present situation. Darcy feels he should have exposed Wickham earlier but his family pride prevented it. Elizabeth too feels that she should have warned her family of Wickham’s true nature.

      Jane Austen clearly criticizes the failure of the Bennets as parents and lays the blame on them. Mr. Bennet haunted by ‘his neglect and mistaken indulgence’ rouses himself and rushes to London.

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