Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice Chapter 41 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
The rapture of Lydia on this occasion, her adoration of Mrs. Forster, the delight of Mrs. Bennet, and the mortification of Kitty, are scarcely to be described. Wholly inattentive to her sister's feelings, Lydia flew about the house in restless ecstasy, calling for everyone's congratulations, and laughing and talking with more violence than ever; whilst the luckless Kitty continued in the parlour repined at her fate in terms as unreasonable as her accent was peevish. (41.12)
In Pride and Prejudice, selfishness and self-importance are the opposite of empathy and fellow-feeling. Here, despite Kitty's histrionics, Lydia can't even see that she's upset. No wonder Lydia constantly misunderstand everything, ever.
"Yes, very different. But I think Mr. Darcy improves upon acquaintance."
"Indeed!" cried Mr. Wickham with a look which did not escape her. "And pray, may I ask?—" But checking himself, he added, in a gayer tone, "Is it in address that he improves? Has he deigned to add aught of civility to his ordinary style?—for I dare not hope," he continued in a lower and more serious tone, "that he is improved in essentials."
"Oh, no!" said Elizabeth. "In essentials, I believe, he is very much what he ever was. […] When I said that he improved on acquaintance, I did not mean that his mind or his manners were in a state of improvement, but that, from knowing him better, his disposition was better understood."
Wickham's alarm now appeared in a heightened complexion and agitated look. (41.33-38)
We hear you. What about this totally innocent conversation could possibly make Wickham freak out? Well, with so many rules about how and what one person can say to another in public, just a slight shift away from the standard is enough to convey a whole bunch of extra meaning—like, "I know you're a liar and a cheat."
"Lydia will never be easy until she has exposed herself in some public place or other, and we can never expect her to do it with so little expense or inconvenience to her family as under the present circumstances."
"If you were aware," said Elizabeth, "of the very great disadvantage to us all which must arise from the public notice of Lydia's unguarded and imprudent manner—nay, which has already arisen from it, I am sure you would judge differently in the affair." (41.15-16)
Huh. So both Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet kind of know all along that Lydia's whole Brighton adventure is going to end in nothing but trouble. It's interesting that Mr. Bennet's approach to raising his daughter is one that is probably more often used for boys (since his theory is that Lydia needs to sow wild oats at some point in her teenage years). Elizabeth, on the other hand, has a little more perspective on the fact that, in their society, what would be water under the bridge for boys would mean social annihilation for girls.