*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Pride and Prejudice. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the book.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Pride and Prejudice to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
One of the standard character tropes that is seen time and again is the dimwitted teenage girl whose only thinks of two things: boys and clothes. In the world of Pride and Prejudice, this very basic character is played by Lydia Bennet.
The youngest of the Bennet girls and her mother’s favorite, Lydia is not unlike many a teenage girl. She likes dancing, flirting with the officers and basically having fun. While the accepted practice in the Regency era was that the younger daughters don’t come out in society until their older sister are married, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have bent the rules for their children.
Spoiled by her mother and ignored by her father, Lydia nearly ruins the reputation of her family and her elder sister’s chance of marrying well when she runs away with Mr. Wickham. But Lydia does not care that she is living with a man without the benefit of marriage and Wickham is not exactly rushing her to the altar. Lydia only becomes Mrs. Wickham when Darcy agrees to pick up the tab.
While on the surface Lydia is appears to be the average teenage girl, she represents so much more. In running away with Wickham, Lydia not only nearly ruins her life, she also nearly ruins the lives of her family members. In a society where reputation was everything, one rumor, whether true or not, could kill the social status of a family. Lydia is a powerful character during Jane Austen’s time as she is during our own because she only thinks of herself and does not care about the consequences of her actions, especially when her actions affect others. If the reader only takes one thing away from the character of Lydia Bennet, is the message of using your brain and thinking of the possible consequences before acting on a thought.
To sum it up: While Lydia is not a central character, she is still an important character. Sometimes the character that ends up affecting the most change in the narrative is not the main character, but a side character whose actions have an effect on the arc of the main character. Though Lydia remains static as a character, the other characters are forced to become dynamic because of her actions. Lydia is also a standard character trope that has been seen time and again. In creating a standard character who does not change, but whose actions force others to change, Jane Austen created a character who is just as important to story as Elizabeth or Darcy.