Pride and Prejudice Chapter 50 - 53: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Lucy Barnhouse
In Chapters 50-53 of ''Pride and Prejudice,'' the Bennets deal with the aftermath of Lydia and Wickham's scandalous act. Marriage does not entirely resolve the situation. Mr. Bingley returns to the neighborhood, but it's unclear what this means for the Bennets.

Chapter 50: Prevailing on Wickham

The connections between marriage and fortune, always important in the society described by Pride and Prejudice, are never more painfully apparent than in Chapter 50. Mr. Bennet is left to unsettling reflections on his family's financial circumstances. Hoping for a son to inherit their property--inheritance law prevents daughters from doing so--the Bennets did not save money earlier in their marriage. Now they must rely on the kindness of Mr. Gardiner in paying Wickham to marry Lydia. Thus, her reputation and the family's is partially salvaged.

Even under these circumstances, Mrs. Bennet's thrilled to have a daughter married. She fantasizes about where Lydia and Wickham will live and is outraged when Mr. Bennet refuses to buy wedding clothes for Lydia. He's eventually convinced to at least let the couple visit. Meanwhile, Lizzy regrets telling Mr. Darcy about Lydia and Wickham. She knows it puts another social barrier between them. And yet... she misses him. She realizes now she would welcome his proposal. That's not because Lydia's predicament has brought home their dependency on marriage for financial survival. Rather, it's because she's convinced 'that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her.'

Chapter 51: The Happy Couple?

Lydia and Wickham greet Mrs. Bennet

When Lydia and Wickham arrive at Longbourn, Lizzy is dismayed to see that her youngest sister, far from being chastened, is still 'untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless.' She even asks for congratulations and insists on her social privileges as a married woman. It is left to Jane and Lizzy to be embarrassed for her. Wickham, to Lizzy's disgust, is equally self-assured.

Lydia shows off her ring at Longbourn

Although Lizzy thinks that 'there cannot be too little said on the subject,' Lydia is full of chatty enthusiasm. She even offers to 'get husbands' for her sisters when she and Wickham are settled with his new regiment in the north. In telling the other Bennet sisters about her marriage, she complains that her uncle was running late. She then says that after all, that wouldn't have mattered, as Mr. Darcy could have given her away. She won't tell Lizzy any more about Mr. Darcy's presence there, saying the entire thing was supposed to be a secret! Lizzy, her curiosity roused, writes to Aunt Gardiner to beg for as much news as she can honorably provide.

Chapter 52: A Letter

Lizzy is delighted to get a long letter from her aunt within a very short time. Reading the letter, Lizzy learns that it was none other than Mr. Darcy who found Wickham and Lydia in London! Darcy then tried to convince Lydia to leave Wickham. When that didn't work, he bargained with Wickham to determine how much money could convince him to marry Lydia. By the time Darcy spoke with Mr. Gardiner, everything was practically settled.

Aunt Gardiner explains that Mr. Darcy insisted on paying everything himself, saying that he felt responsible for not exposing Wickham's history of seduction. She adds that she thought Mr. Darcy had another motive (his love for Lizzy, though she only hints at this). She presumed, she says, that Lizzy already knew that Mr. Darcy not only paid Wickham's debts, but also Lydia's dowry, and essentially bought Wickham his new job. The money spent would amount to a six-figure sum today.

Lizzy is stunned by both Mr. Darcy's generosity and her aunt's assumption that she and Mr. Darcy are an item. Aunt Gardiner closes her long letter by sharing how much she likes Mr. Darcy and gently teasing her niece for not being more forthcoming. Lizzy is overwhelmed. She's amazed by how Mr. Darcy has sacrificed his own pride... and saddened to think that, even though he seems to love her, Lydia's scandalous affair means that they can never marry. 'For herself,' Austen tells us, 'she was humbled; but she was proud of him.'

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