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Pride and Prejudice | Chapter 46 (Volume 3, Chapter 4) | Summary

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Summary

When she returns to the inn where she is staying, Elizabeth finds two letters from Jane. They are filled with upsetting information. Lydia has run away from Brighton with Wickham, and they are both missing. Elizabeth is dumbfounded. She has never noticed any affection or interest between Lydia and Wickham. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are desperate to make sure that the two get married. If they do not, Lydia's reputation will be destroyed, along with the family's. Mr. Bennet is on his way to London, as Lydia and Wickham were reportedly last seen heading in that direction.

Dismayed, Elizabeth rushes off to find her aunt and uncle and asks Mr. Gardiner to help Mr. Bennet search for Lydia and Wickham. She runs into Darcy and shares the terrible news. He is extremely upset, compounded by his feeling that he might have been able to prevent this episode if he had been more forthcoming about Wickham. Elizabeth, too, feels responsible for not telling all that she knows. Now that she is warming to Darcy, she also wonders if the potential disgrace looming over her family has destroyed any interest he might still have in her.

Analysis

Darcy's reaction to this news is very telling. Elizabeth could have expected him to be judgmental about Lydia's reckless action. However, he reacts with grace and concern.

The reaction of both characters reveals their shared values. Both feel guilt over failing to reveal Wickham's true character. Both are also willing to admit their own failings. Like Jane and Bingley, they are emotional equals—and so, in Austen's hands, they are destined for a happy marriage.

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