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The Macksey Journal

Abstract

This thesis examines two of the most detested female characters in all of Jane Austen’s novels, Lydia Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and Maria Betram from Mansfield Park. I begin by examining the faults possessed by each woman and then dive deep into their roots. Lydia is flirtatious, impulsive, and silly, while Maria is vain, classist, and naive. Yet, these bad qualities are not entirely their fault- both women are a product of how they were raised and the expectations placed upon them by their families and Regency society. Both women fall spectacularly from grace and despite not being completely responsible for their defects and actions, receive long-lasting punishments that modern readers can only understand by learning about the Regency legal system and its treatment of women in relation to marriage, property, and divorce. Lydia is married thanks to Mr. Darcy’s intervention, but is trapped in a loveless marriage with not enough resources for the rest of her life. Maria, on the other hand, is publicly divorced and exiled from her family and friends. These punishments are not actually justice, but a reality faced by many women of the time, as well as a way for the protagonists of Austen’s novels to receive their heart’s desires.

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