Why Is Lydia’s Elopement Perceived As A Disaster And How Does It Affect The Relationship Of Elizabeth And Darcy?

1172 words - 5 pages

Jane Austen lived in the higher class society. It was the world she knew and as a very good observer, she was able to capture the reality of life on paper. The situations she is presenting in her books are very likely to happen in real life too. It is also the case of story of Lydia Bennet and her elopement with Mr Wickham. It was perceived as a disaster, but for the modern reader it can be rather incomprehensible. Why was Lydia’s elopement so scandalous?
Kristen Koster is explaining why it was more difficult for couples to get married then before: in 1753 The Marriage Act, or the Hardwicke Act, was published. It was preventing couples from hasty and secret marriages, because it required the reading of the Banns – Banns were read every Sunday for three subsequent weeks and they contained the order to notify all reasons why the couple should be prevented from marrying each other: “If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in Holy matrimony, ye are to declare it ” (Koster). It enabled the couple’s families to learn about planned marriage and as the case may be to do everything to stop it. Another part of the Marriage Act of 1753 consisted of required parental consent for people under the age of 21 who wanted to marry. It was the case of Lydia, who would need her parents approval, she was only 16 years old. We can only speculate if she would get it. Her parents would be probably thinking of someone richer for their daughter than only a military man, but, especially Mrs Bennet, would be happy to marry her daughter off to the respectable gentleman, even if he was not so noble. Consequently, the parents would not be the risk. So why Wickham did not ask for Lydia’s hand directly?
As it was explained in Mr Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth, Wickham was not fully interested in matrimony. The thing he cared about more was the money. He even tried to elope with a girl before – it was Mr Darcy’s young and rich sister Georgina (Austen ?). However, his attempt was not successful. Few years later he seemingly tried to do the same thing – found rather naive young girl and eloped with her. Although the couple managed to disappear from eyes of Lydia’s relatives, they did not immediately went to Scotland to be married – Scotland was independent part of a state where the Marriage Act was not used (Koster). It is clear that Wickham’s intentions were not honest. As we know, he wanted to marry a rich woman, which was Lydia not. Her family was not suffering from lack of money, but Mr and Mrs Bennet had five daughters and their property could only be inherited by a male (Austen ?). The money-wanting man had no motives to marry one of the Bennets. Wickham only used Lydia as a momentary distraction – he did not need her to be his wife, he needed her to be his woman. Lydia was naive enough to believe that Wickham would marry her eventually, so she was willing to escape, she was willing to stay in England instead of proceeding...

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