How Lydia Bennet Has Shown Me the Value of Living Boldly | Teen Ink

How Lydia Bennet Has Shown Me the Value of Living Boldly

February 19, 2021
By luciasoluri BRONZE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
luciasoluri BRONZE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Described by her father as “uncommonly foolish” and by her older sister Elizabeth as “the most determined flirt that ever made herself or her family ridiculous”, Lydia Bennet is perhaps the most ridiculed character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The youngest of the Bennet sisters, Lydia is selfish, reckless, and completely oblivious to the potential repercussions of her actions. Though these unfavorable qualities cannot be ignored, I didn't find myself resenting her as many readers do. While Elizabeth and Mr.Darcy dragged on in endless intellectual dispute, I was relieved to catch a glimpse of Lydia’s name on the next page, reassured that the predictability of upper class Regency family affairs would soon be disrupted by the chaos she inevitably brings to every situation. Lydia felt like a breath of fresh air, granting me a brief respite from the rigid propriety of the era.

As I came to understand her on a deeper level, I began to observe both my best and worst qualities exemplified in Lydia. We are both lively and possess a lust for life, but we also share an unfortunate propensity to place our individual desires before the wishes of our loved ones. What I lack is her boldness. Lydia is certainly not the brightest character in the novel, but she is, in my opinion, the boldest. Her impulsiveness combined with her disregard of societal norms enable her to live her life fearlessly and authentically. Early in the novel, during the Bennets’ visit to Netherfield, Lydia abruptly inquires as to whether or not Mr.Bingley intends to host a ball, “adding that it would be the most shameful thing in the world if he did not” (27).  Mr.Bingley politely reassures her that he does indeed plan to throw a ball at Netherfield. This interaction reveals Lydia’s boldness, for no other character would dare address Mr.Bingley—a highly-respected, affluent man—so directly.

When Lydia is swept away by Mr.Wickham, she suddenly decides to leave with him for London. She writes in a letter to a friend, “You will laugh when you know where I am gone, and I cannot help laughing myself at your surprise to-morrow morning, as soon as I am missed.” (168). Lydia dismisses the entire ordeal as a joke and is not at all swayed by her family’s disapprobation, despite the fact that her decision to run off with a man she has no intention of marrying jeopardizes her own safety as well as complete social ruin. Her own father goes as far as to declare, “Into one house in this neighborhood they [Lydia and Wickham] shall never have admittance” (179). Lydia’s actions horrify the entire Bennet family, but she follows her own path regardless. She is indifferent to her family’s condemnation, because she relies on her own desires rather than external validation to justify her decisions. If she wants to do something, she does it—and usually without any forethought. It is Lydia’s unique ability to demand what she wants from life that sparks my admiration for her. As much as I wish I could live my life with the same boldness, my tendency to overthink even the smallest decisions prevents me from doing so. 

However, the same boldness that leaves me so in awe of Lydia also has its downsides. Lydia walks a dangerously thin line between bold and reckless. She always seems to take things a few steps too far, giving me a newfound appreciation for my own cautiousness. Lydia’s running away with Wickham epitomizes her utter disregard for the wellbeing of others, as her sudden fleeing places severe strain on the Bennet family. Jane describes their distress to Elizabeth, saying, “I never saw anyone so shocked. He [her father] could not speak a word for full ten minutes. My mother was taken ill immediately, and the whole house in such confusion!” (169). Though Lydia’s abrupt departure leaves her family in hysterics, it ultimately does no significant damage to the Bennets’ reputation and overall well being. The true consequences are that by marrying a man of small fortune, Lydia is forced to live in a state of constant financial instability and depend on the generosity of her sisters for the rest of her life. At the end of the novel, Jane Austen implies that Lydia’s decision to run away with, and eventually marry, Mr.Wickham grants her “neither rational happiness nor worldly prosperity” (178). I have to disagree, for happiness is not necessarily rational. I believe it is Lydia’s bold—and occasionally irrational—tendencies that allow her to live more freely than any other character in Pride and Prejudice.  

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Garden City, Millennium Publications, 2014.

The author's comments:

I am a tenth grader from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I wrote this piece for my English class, and by comparing myself to one of Austen's most hated chracters, I certainly felt I was taking a risk. However, I ended up being excited about the result. I hope you enjoy it!

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.