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|Lizzy at Longbourn
Written by Robbin
(4/26/2010 6:36 p.m.)
This is another post on Lizzy’s point of view, specifically her feelings for the men in her life—Darcy & Wickham covering the time after Aunt Phillips party and before the Netherfield ball. Wickham’s story has convinced Lizzy she “knows exactly what to think” of both men. Wickham is a good man ill-used and Darcy is cruel and dishonorable. In Ch. 17 Lizzy relates Wickham’s story to Jane who, like her sister, reacts with concern and astonishment but differs in that she prefers to believe both have been deceived rather than lay blame at the feet of either. Like Lizzy she asks, “Can his most intimate friends be so excessively deceived in him?” and “consider in what a disgraceful light it places Mr. Darcy, to be treating his father's favourite in such a manner” but to no effect. Lizzy feels:
"I can much more easily believe Mr. Bingley's being imposed on, than that Mr. Wickham should invent such a history of himself as he gave me last night; names, facts, everything mentioned without ceremony. If it be not so, let Mr. Darcy contradict it. Besides, there was truth in his looks." (Ch. 17)
I think what Lizzy means by “there was truth in his looks” is that Wickham’s open temper, mannerisms and countenance appeared sincere and his feelings and opinions genuine, perhaps, just what a gentleman ought to own. I think Lizzy’s thoughts about him before the ball all show she is in the grip of some rather intense feelings about him. Lizzy “thought with pleasure of dancing a great deal with Mr. Wickham” and he was “the only partner who could satisfy” unlike her sisters. Lizzy’s sporting with Mr. Collins ends in his claiming her for the first set when she had “fully proposed being engaged by Wickham for those very dances”. Lizzy accepts with as much good grace as she can muster annoyed “Mr. Wickham’s happiness and her own was per force delayed a little longer” for the sake of Mr. Collins. Does the phrase “Mr. Wickham’s happiness” mean she believes he is partial to her as well? It probably does because what else would so much attention portend? The narrator suggests Lizzy’s patience is tried by the rain which “totally suspended the improvement of her acquaintance with Mr. Wickham” after her aunts party. She is in a state of anticipation.
Lizzy also hopes to see “a confirmation of everything [Wickham’s story] in Mr. Darcy's looks and behaviour” at the ball. I guess what she hopes is Wickham’s presence will so discombobulate Darcy that his looks and behavior will expose his guilt and confirm Wickham’s innocence. Lizzy seems so far into Wickham’s court that I wonder what exactly her desire for confirmation of his story means to her? Is she simply trying to be fair in wanting the other side of the story in spite of her belief that she already knows the answer? Does she merely want her opinion of each man confirmed? Does she need to have her opinions justified?
I confess that Lizzy is so quickly smitten with Wickham and his story surprises me in a way. Perhaps her steady and escalating dislike of Darcy might have suggested she could be as passionate in the opposite direction but really I did not suspect she could fall so easily under any man’s spell much less one she has only met for a few minutes one day and a few hours at an evening party. So the question is why? I think there are many factors but perhaps the first is that she is a bit of a romantic unlike poor Charlotte. Wickham’s attentions to Lizzy would be gratifying in any case but I can’t discount that perhaps they come at a particularly dangerous time for Lizzy as she has been hyper-aware of Darcy’s disdain and being an object of sport to him. However, saying all that, I think Wickham is inordinately attractive to Lizzy even without the advantage of being a portrait of temper and disposition the exact opposite of Darcy.
Wickham is physically very attractive, outshining the other officers to all the ladies but I think more importantly to Lizzy he has a similar open temper and a very pleasing address like herself that she finds particularly attractive. He appears to be “good company” as described by Anne Elliot: “clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation” (P, Ch. 16) and I think that appeals to Lizzy as well. Wickham’s choice to confide in her on so personal a subject must also affect her feelings. I think it made for a quick feeling of intimacy which when added to the compassion he inspires helps explain to me Lizzy’s passionate belief in his story. Wickham’s story resonates with Lizzy personally; they both share the honor of being ill-used by Darcy. Wickham takes pleasure in local society, he is not above his company, and he has singled her out for special attention suggesting a value for her company. Lizzy has given her trust (belief) and compassion to Wickham and has developed a passionate resentment for his oppressor on top of the dislike she already harbored. Really I think Lizzy has become Wickham’s advocate. This is Lizzy’s mind set when she arrives at the Netherfield ball and it bodes ill for Darcy! (:D)
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