The Role of George Wickham in Shaping Elizabeth's Feelings Towards Mr. Darcy

Categories: Pride And Prejudice

Jane Austen's novel "Pride and Prejudice" features a diverse cast of characters, each contributing to the development of the story. Among these characters, George Wickham, often considered a minor figure, plays a crucial role in the evolving relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Through his lies, manipulations, and amorous escapades, Wickham becomes both the source of Elizabeth's initial disdain for Mr. Darcy and a catalyst for her changing affections.

Elizabeth's Changing Opinions of Wickham

Throughout the novel's first half, Elizabeth holds a favorable view of George Wickham, perceiving him as the epitome of a gentleman.

Wickham manages to charm her through his fabricated stories about his past interactions with Mr. Darcy. In Elizabeth's eyes, Darcy's actions are driven solely by pride, as she believes Wickham's account: "It is wonderful, for almost all his actions may be traced to pride; and pride has often been his best friend. It has connected him nearer with virtue than with any other feeling" (page 75).

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This false narrative of Wickham's encounters with Darcy reinforces Elizabeth's preconceived notions about Darcy, whom she initially finds disagreeable: "I have spent four days in the same house with him, and I think him very disagreeable" (page 71). Wickham, in contrast, appears to be everything Darcy is not—charming, amiable, and engaging (page 77). The stark contrast between their personalities makes Wickham all the more attractive to Elizabeth, strengthening her initial admiration for him.

However, Elizabeth's perception of Wickham takes a sharp turn when she uncovers his history of amorous adventures. Wickham is involved in three such escapades over the course of the novel, each contributing to Elizabeth's evolving opinion of him.

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Wickham's Amorous Adventures

The first of Wickham's escapades involves his failed elopement with Georgiana Darcy, Mr. Darcy's younger sister. This pivotal event significantly influences Darcy's view of Wickham and eventually leads to Elizabeth's revelation regarding Wickham's true character. Elizabeth's own feelings about Wickham's involvement with Georgiana are evident when she exclaims to Mr. Darcy, "...that I might have prevented it! I, who knew what he was" (page 236).

Wickham's second amorous adventure, often overlooked, is his short-lived attempt to court Miss King, who is poised to inherit her grandfather's fortune (page 134). This incident subtly shapes Elizabeth's opinions and feelings toward Wickham, causing her to reflect on her previous attraction to him. She confesses to her aunt, "I am now convinced... that I had never been in love" (page 132).

Wickham's final and most significant amorous adventure is his elopement with Lydia Bennet, Elizabeth's youngest sister. This event triggers a strong negative reaction in Elizabeth, transforming her initial fear into profound disgust and loathing. However, when she learns of Darcy's role in resolving the situation, her feelings become more complex, and her affections begin to shift.

It is important to note that the consequences of Wickham's elopement with Lydia profoundly impact Elizabeth's perceptions of both Wickham and Darcy. Elizabeth's feelings and opinions undergo a significant transformation as she navigates the complexities of her relationships with these two men.

Contrasting Personalities

The stark contrast between Wickham's and Darcy's personalities plays a pivotal role in shaping Elizabeth's emotions and judgments. Initially, Wickham's natural charm and easygoing demeanor cast Darcy's pride and arrogance in a harsh light. Darcy attempts to explain his reserved nature to Elizabeth, stating, "We neither of us perform to strangers" (page 153). However, Elizabeth is captivated by Wickham's cordiality and dismisses Darcy's initial awkwardness.

As events unfold in the novel, the two men's personalities seem to undergo a complete reversal. Wickham's inherent greed and self-centeredness come to the forefront, while Darcy's character evolves. Mrs. Gardiner, Elizabeth's aunt, remarks on this transformation, saying of Darcy, "But how come you told us he was so disagreeable... he has not an ill-natured look. On the contrary, there is something pleasing about his mouth when he speaks" (page 219).

Elizabeth's evolving perception of the two men's personalities is a significant factor in her changing affections. She initially falls for Wickham's charm while avoiding Darcy's seemingly haughty demeanor. However, her prejudices gradually dissipate as she witnesses the genuine change in Darcy's character, leading to a heightened affection for him.

By the end of the novel, Elizabeth's affections have shifted significantly, and she begins to see Darcy in a new light. Her internal thoughts reflect this change as she ponders, "A man who has once been refused. How could I be foolish enough to expect a renewal of his love?" (Page 290).

Conclusion

George Wickham, often regarded as a minor character in "Pride and Prejudice," plays a vital role in shaping the relationship dynamics between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Initially, through his lies and manipulations, Wickham reinforces Elizabeth's negative perception of Darcy. However, as the consequences of Wickham's amorous adventures unfold, Elizabeth's opinions of both men evolve.

Wickham serves as a catalyst for Elizabeth's changing feelings and judgments. His actions and character highlight the stark contrast between Darcy's and Wickham's personalities. This contrast prompts Elizabeth to reevaluate her initial prejudice and ultimately leads to her heightened affections for Mr. Darcy.

In conclusion, George Wickham's multifaceted role in "Pride and Prejudice" significantly impacts the development of the novel's central relationships, demonstrating the complexity and depth of Jane Austen's storytelling.

Updated: Nov 02, 2023
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The Role of George Wickham in Shaping Elizabeth's Feelings Towards Mr. Darcy. (2016, Jul 17). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/pride-and-prejudice-mr-wickham-essay

The Role of George Wickham in Shaping Elizabeth's Feelings Towards Mr. Darcy essay
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