False First Impressions: A Defense of Lydia Bennet

Knight, Aubrey
My presentation is a defense of the character Lydia Bennet in Jane Austen's novel "Pride and Prejudice". I compare her to her ostensibly more admirable sister, Elizabeth Bennet. After outlining their similarities, I attempt to explain why readers usually perceive them in such opposite ways by examining their differences. Surprisingly, none of the substantial differences between Lydia and Elizabeth hold up under scrutiny; we find that some of the negative traits for which Lydia is despised are actually present in Elizabeth's character. We are thus left with a conundrum: Why do we see them so differently when they are not so different? The answer seems to be because people within the novel tell us that this is what we should think. What we can learn from this analysis is that first impressions are not to be relied upon. We must always seek to question the judgments we form of others, regardless of whether they are positive or negative. Typically, readers dislike Lydia because she is vilified both by the other characters and the narrator. However, if we closely compare the two sisters, we realize that they actually have far more in common than we would initially be inclined to suspect.
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