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Elizabeth And Lydia And The Social Context Of Pride

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The previous sections have shown that Mr. Darcy becomes attracted to Elizabeth’s intelligence, compassion and imprudent behavior. But if Elizabeth’s liveliness and transgression enhance her beauty, why doesn’t Mr. Darcy fall in love with Lydia, whose transgression and vigor are even more accentuated? By comparing Elizabeth and Lydia and by analyzing the openness of their transgressions as related to the social context of Pride, it is possible to understand why Austen favors Elizabeth as her heroine. Elizabeth asserts agency, but follows protocol (though she exploits it for her own ends). Lydia, on the other hand, openly goes against conventions and, though she ends up married to Mr. Wickham, a glimpse at her future suggests that she will not have a happy life. As previously stated, Austen could not be too revolutionary in her writing and needed to conform to the social expectation that transgressive women be punished. Austen cannot support Lydia’s behavior because if she did, she ran the risk of being outcast as a subversive writer. However, Austen does not entirely conform to the conservative tradition of punishing transgressive women; she allows Lydia to be married instead of ruining the family name and being abandoned and ostracized. By focusing on Elizabeth’s wit and intelligence and on the importance of female education, topics which were accepted almost unanimously among her contemporaries , Austen diverts attention from the feminist core of her work, which is
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