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Compare and Contrast Elizabeth and Lydia in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – Literature Essay

Compare and Contrast Elizabeth and Lydia in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – Literature Essays
In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the five Bennet sisters clearly divide into two groups. Elizabeth is head
of the well-behaved girls and her equivalent Lydia,

represents the badly behaved. Lydia’s misbehaviour is a significant catalyst for Elizabeth uniting with Mr. Darcy; however, it was through accident rather than design. Although Elizabeth expresses some concern about Lydia’s future happiness after she elopes, these two sisters hardly communicate with each other during the story.
Both Lydia and Elizabeth are the favourites of the parent they most resemble in personality. While Elizabeth is least liked by Mrs. Bennet, Lydia is her favourite and therefore overindulged. Lydia Bennet is the youngest daughter and behaves very foolishly throughout the novel. Her only interests are bonnets, balls and flirting with the soldiers stationed in town and she causes Elizabeth great embarrassment, behaving immodestly at the ball. Lydia’s description is of being less beautiful than either Jane or Elizabeth, but her youth and high spirits make her appealing.

Mr. Bennet had married a woman he found sexually attractive without realizing she was an unintelligent woman and Lydia is similar to Mrs. Bennet at the same age. Mrs. Bennet’s favouritism towards Lydia and her comments on how she was once as energetic as Lydia reveals this similarity. Like her mother, Lydia has little common sense, no judgement, and no understanding of the consequences that her behaviour has on her family, especially her two older sisters. She is unrepentant after her elopement and never considered that such a scandal would disgrace the whole family and ruin any chance of good marriages for any of her sisters. Lydia is uneducated, vain, and selfish. She fails to consider that her sister Kitty, who adores her, is upset at not being included in the invitation to Brighton. “Wholly inattentive to her sister’s feelings, Lydia flew about the house in restless ecstasy”(178). Not only does Lydia lack good sense and decorum, she is a bad sister too.
In contrast, Elizabeth is an intelligent, young woman with a razor-sharp wit and rich sense of humour. Elizabeth has the ability to laugh off her misfortunate and continues to be optimistic despite her situation. She is her father’s favourite and they enjoy a close relationship. Elizabeth demands respect and wishes to acquire the kind of marriage that will allow her to retain her individuality. While not completely disregarding the financial situation of potential suitors, she is determined to marry for love.
Throughout the novel, Elizabeth learns lessons and changes the way she thinks about some situations. She admits her own faults and overcomes her prejudice against Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth regards Jane as more noble and kind-hearted than herself and she becomes aware of her own social and emotional prejudice as she watches her sister. When her friend Charlotte marries Mr. Collins, Elizabeth condemns the marriage as ridiculous but comes to understand and accept the position her friend was in. The marriage between Mr. Collins and Charlotte is based on economics rather than on love. Jane Austen is not endorsing this kind of marriage, rather she is pointing out that it is the only option for a woman in Charlotte’s position (Teachman 66).

Jane Austen describes Elizabeth as “strong and intelligent, yet bewitching in a completely feminine way”. Her moral integrity is highly evident in her refusal of Darcy’s first marriage proposal. At the time, she believed Darcy to be arrogant and she was furious with him for ruining her adored sister Jane’s, chance at happiness. Elizabeth is very sensible and tries to curb the behaviour of her sister Lydia. She has the for-sight to realize that Lydia is too silly and irresponsible to visit Brighton and Elizabeth is rightly afraid of the consequences of her sister’s actions. She advises her father to withdraw his permission, “…she will, at sixteen, be the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous”(179). It is interesting to note that Elizabeth went to her father with her concerns and not Lydia herself. The lack of interaction between Elizabeth and Lydia throughout the novel would suggest that they are not close at all.

Elizabeth is a strong member of the Bennet family and she rushes to her family’s side when she hears of Lydia’s misconduct and the pain it is causing her family. Elizabeth’s closest relationship is with her older sister Jane; and they have a great friendship. Although Jane hides her feelings from most people, Elizabeth knows that she really loves Bingley and is hurt by his leaving. Elizabeth is deeply involved in helping Jane and Mr. Bingley unite and she cares deeply for the happiness of her sister Jane. So not only is Elizabeth a kind and sensible character, she is a good sister too.

The worth of each character as a sister appears to influence their nuptials. The marriages of the two older Bennet girls seem to be ideal. Jane loves Mr. Bingley, and he is rich, kind and well liked by society. Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage is the best match of the novel. The series of events which they both experienced gave them the opportunity to understand one another and the time to reconcile their feelings for each other. Their mutual understanding is the foundation of their relationship and will lead them to a peaceful and lasting marriage. They have physical attraction, financial security, romance and companionship.

In contrast, Lydia’s marriage is the worst of the bad marriages in the novel and they are given the least happiness of all the couples. Much like the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet their affection for each other is soon “sunk into indifference”(298). And despite the money that Darcy gave to Wickham, they are the couple in the worst financial situation.

The best marriages in Pride and Prejudice are comparable to the best sibling relationships. Such relationships share the same warmth, honesty, loyalty, intelligence and understanding. Lydia’s marriage shows that love cannot be brought on by appearances, and must gradually develop between two people as they get to know one another. Love has been built up over a long period of time between the two sisters Jane and Elizabeth, as it has in the ideal marriage. Lydia’s elopement and marriage are typical of a relationship where physical desire has become more powerful than good sense. The wane of Wickham’s and Lydia’s passion is an inevitable outcome, and only a disastrous married life can be in front of them. Their marriage was based on appearances, good looks, and youthful exuberance. Without mutual love and respect, Lydia and Wickham’s marriage gradually disintegrates and Lydia becomes a regular visitor at her two elder sister’s homes when “her husband was gone to enjoy himself in London or Bath” (299). Through Lydia and Wickham’s relationship, Jane Austen illustrates that an impulsive marriage based on superficial qualities, swiftly cools and ends in discontent and unhappiness.