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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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CHAPTER FORTY-NINE

An express (special delivery) letter arrives from Mr. Gardiner. The fugitives have been found and he has seen them. Wickham's circumstances are not hopeless: his debts will be paid, and there will be some money left over as a marriage settlement for Lydia. They will be married as soon as Mr. Bennet agrees to make a small annual allowance to Lydia out of her mother's dowry. In the meantime she is to stay with the Gardiners, and she will be married from their house.

Mr. Bennet's reaction to this good news is in character: he makes a joke about it. As he is walking in the garden, putting off the unpleasant task of answering the letter, he thinks about how little is being asked of him. He is to promise a hundred pounds a year to Lydia during his lifetime and fifty pounds after his death. He says that Wickham is a fool to marry Lydia for so little: "I should be sorry to think so ill of him, in the very beginning of our relationship."

Elizabeth ponders the fact that they must be happy about this marriage even though it can bring very little happiness to the partners and is necessary only to give the pair some respectability. She and Jane worry that their uncle must have spent a great deal to pay Wickham's debts and still have something left over for Lydia's marriage settlement (her dowry).



They hurry to their mother's room to tell her the news. She is beside herself with joy. She seems to forget the unfortunate circumstances and is simply thrilled that she is to have a daughter married, and at sixteen! She chatters on about Lydia's trousseau, and wants Jane to ask Mr. Bennet how much he will give for it. Jane reminds her mother that her brother has laid out a considerable sum-they do not know how much-just to bring about this happy event. They are hardly in the financial position to start planning a trousseau. Mrs. Bennet is unfazed by Jane's realistic assessment of the situation. She calls her housekeeper to help her dress so that she can spread the good news of Lydia's wedding in town.

NOTE: The comic aspects of this chapter provide entertainment and keep the novel from rushing too swiftly to its resolution. The reactions of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet to the crisis and its resolution also further define their characters.

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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
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