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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice': Elizabeth Bennet and Wickham

When Jane Austen invents characters of dubious morals but speciously charming manners, there are tell-tale signs – Willoughby's too ready opinions, Henry Crawford's flirtation with an engaged woman and - something Elizabeth Bennet failed to notice at first - Wickham's improper disclosures.

It is easy to see how Wickham infatuates even a sensible girl such as Elizabeth. He is charming, handsome and gallant; but she is not blind to his discomfiture on seeing Darcy. What she does not consider until much later (it is part of her education) is that no gentleman would malign another so readily as Wickham does Darcy to a young lady he has only just met. She is taken in by the support his stories of Darcy give to the prejudice she has formed. She has yet to appreciate that Wickham (saying 'Till I can forget his father, I can never defy or expose him') is 'exposing' Darcy even under the pretence of not doing so.

She certainly wants a flirtation with Wickham. As it happens, he has the discretion to be absent from the Netherfield Ball; but she had 'dressed with more than usual care, and prepared in the highest spirits for the conquest of all that remained unsubdued of his heart.’