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|Lizzy at Meryton
Written by Robbin
(4/25/2010 12:29 a.m.)
My focus is Lizzy. (:D) I have been trying to gauge her feelings about Darcy as we go along. It now becomes incumbent upon me to include her feelings for this new fellow Wickham. This post will cover the meeting in Meryton (Ch. 15) and Aunt Phillips card party and hot supper which so happens also to be in Meryton (Ch. 16). It does not appear Lizzy has thought of Darcy since she departed Netherfield so it is sure she believes they continue to share a mutual dislike of each other.
This was exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted only regimentals to make him completely charming. His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address. The introduction was followed up on his side by a happy readiness of conversation -- a readiness at the same time perfectly correct and unassuming… (Ch. 15)
Wickham makes his entrance in Ch. 15 in front of Mr. Collins and every Bennet sister but Mary. All four sisters “were struck with the stranger's air” as he walked with Mr. Denny and bowed to them as he passed. They all wondered who he could be. Wickham is physically a rather striking man but I think it is greatly enhanced by his manners and pleasing address. Wickham must be a gem because later even the less discriminating Kitty & Lydia find all the other officers “stupid, disagreeable fellows” in comparison.
Both changed colour; one looked white, the other red. Mr. Wickham, after a few moments, touched his hat -- a salutation which Mr. Darcy just deigned to return. What could be the meaning of it? -- It was impossible to imagine; it was impossible not to long to know. (Ch. 15)
Mr. Bingley & Darcy interrupt the party with the usual civilities, as might be suspected, the first leading the way and the second only acquiescing to his friend’s explanations with a bow. It appears no one but Lizzy notices the cold exchange between Darcy & Wickham and it seems to me the reason she is so fortuitous is that she was observing Darcy when his eyes were caught by the sight of Wickham and so was audience to their exchange. I think this little play reaffirms Lizzy’s poor opinion Darcy. During their stare-off Wickham does what he ought and tips his hat which Darcy “just deigned to return” which to Lizzy might be seen as rude. When Lizzy told Jane, she was disposed to defend both but not so Lizzy. She merely looked forward to meeting Wickham the next day.
In Wickham’s presence again Lizzy “felt that she had neither been seeing him before, nor thinking of him since, with the smallest degree of unreasonable admiration” (16) for he outshines the best of the officers “in person, countenance, air, and walk” as much as they do her fat uncle. I think Lizzy is pretty much captivated. She is happy when Wickham sits by her and he begins speaking of her dearest curiosity—his acquaintance with Darcy. I think his story of ill usage by Darcy and his martyr-like refusal to expose him from loyalty to Darcy Senior inspires Lizzy’s respect, loyalty and compassion: Elizabeth honoured him for such feelings, and thought him handsomer than ever as he expressed them. Wickham answers Lizzy questions to her satisfaction. She is disposed to believe him.
I [Wickham] cannot accuse myself of having really done anything to deserve to lose it [the living]. I have a warm, unguarded temper, and I may perhaps have sometimes spoken my opinion of him, and to him, too freely. I can recall nothing worse. But the fact is, that we are very different sort of men, and that he hates me." (Ch. 16)
I think Wickham’s story resonates with Lizzy. As above, she did nothing to earn Darcy’s ire at the assembly and may feel she has spoken her opinion of him to him too freely as well. I think she believes they are alike in temperament and manners so they are both a different kind of people than Darcy. Wickham’s claim Darcy hates him is reminiscent of when Lizzy told Darcy he has “a propensity to hate everybody” (Ch. 11). Wickham describes Darcy’s dislike of him as thorough and determined which is how Lizzy sees his dislike of her and despite the differences they have both been the object of Darcy’s pique. Wickham’s claim “almost all his [Darcy’s] actions may be traced to pride; and pride has often been his best friend” applies in Meryton and so cannot fail to hit a mark with Lizzy.
Whatever he [Wickham] said, was said well; and whatever he did, done gracefully. Elizabeth went away with her head full of him. She could think of nothing but of Mr. Wickham, and of what he had told her, all the way home… (Ch. 16)
I think Wickham appeals to Lizzy on many levels. The description of Lizzy’s feelings above reminds me of Marianne’s feelings for Willoughby. I think Lizzy is somewhat infatuated with Wickham. She sees that his manners are open and gentlemanly and he is attractive, attentive and grateful plus he has her compassion for his disappointed hopes and admiration for his angelic kindness to his tormentor but that is not all. Lizzy is pleased by Wickham’s unassuming pleasure in the neighborhood and local society which he claims a good, even a sort of balm for his disappointed hopes—he is very accepting of her world. Wickham’s story causes Lizzy to change her opinion of Darcy from a very disagreeable man to one who is cruel and dishonorable. This is a turning point in Lizzy’s view of Darcy:
"I had not thought Mr. Darcy so bad as this -- though I have never liked him, I had not thought so very ill of him. -- I had supposed him to be despising his fellow-creatures in general, but did not suspect him of descending to such malicious revenge, such injustice, such inhumanity as this!" (Ch. 16)
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