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The attraction to face and form of the opposite sex is inherent in human nature. It serves the fundamental biological purpose of ensuring propagation of the species. There is a biological attraction of children for the parent of the opposite sex that is transferred to the spouse at the time of marriage. It is so powerful and basic that it can occur between people of any age. The attraction between the sexes can be biological, vital, emotional and mental. The emotional and mental components depend to a large extent on conscious aspects of the personality, such as education, interests, social background, etc. The physical and vital components are subconscious and not subject to rational criteria or control. The attraction between man and woman is a powerful force for overcoming social barriers in both directions.

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Types of attraction:

  • Lydia’s love for Wickham is biological attraction.
  • Jane’s love for Bingley is social and conventional.
  • Darcy’s love for Eliza is social and emotional, not biological.
  • Eliza’s attraction to Wickham is physical and vital.
  • Eliza’s attraction to Darcy is mental and emotional.
  1. Elizabeth’s attraction to Wickham
  2. Elizabeth’s attraction to Wickham is physical or biological. Because it is rooted in the subconscious physical, it is nearly irresistible and almost impossible to remove by conscious effort, even when the mind is disillusioned or the emotions are deeply offended. Therefore, even after she learns that he is an unscrupulous scoundrel, she is able to be angry, ashamed and disgusted with herself but she is unable to feel anger or disgust toward Wickham as a person.

    When Eliza learns that Wickham has turned his attentions to Miss King, who had recently inherited ₤10,000, she is ready to fully justify his actions. “Elizabeth, less clear-sighted in his case than in Charlotte’s does not find this mercenary behavior objectionable in Wickham. “Young men must have something to live on.” Elizabeth never felt that Charlotte must have something to live on[1]. She could never appreciate Darcy’s legitimate aversion to her family. The fact is that Wickham is attractive to her. She talks the language of an adoring heart.

    After reading Darcy’s account of Wickham in his letter, Elizabeth wishes to discredit it entirely. Darcy’s admission of his interference in Jane’s relationship with Bingley doesn’t give her so much pain as this news about Wickham. She repeats that it must be false, and puts away the letter hastily, deciding to never look at it again. She tries to recollect some instance of goodness or trait of integrity or benevolence in Wickham that might defend him from Darcy’s accusations. When she realizes that there aren’t any, and his general appearance and manners blinded everybody, she admits that Darcy must be true. But even then, she feels neither anger nor dislike towards Wickham.

    When Elizabeth becomes conscious of what Wickham really is, she first rejects him mentally. Her surface mind loses interest in him, but subconsciously the attraction remains very powerful. After reading Darcy’s letter, she is even able to see through some of his affectations for the first time. But she is unable to bring herself to expose him publicly, unable even to express anger at him in her private conversations with Jane, because her lower emotions toward him remain intact.

    After Wickham’s elopement and marriage with Lydia, Eliza’s emotions for him subside and she is able to politely hint to him of his duplicity, but she remains incapable of either feeling or expressing strong negative emotion for the man who nearly brought the entire family to ruin. She reproaches herself for having kept the secret about Wickham’s character. She calls Lydia thoughtless. But she doesn’t speak a word about Wickham himself. Even when she is reading Mrs. Gardiner’s letter about Darcy’s role in Lydia’s marriage, at a time when her mind must be overwhelmed by gratitude for Darcy who has helped the man who came close to ruining his own family, she doesn’t mind being interrupted by Wickham. She talks to him amiably and says they are brother and sister now. Her vital liking is unconditional. The vital is not capable of condemning what it likes. She extends her hand to be kissed. She walks quickly away from him because she is trying to suppress her vital agitation in his presence.

    In fact, not a single word of condemnation toward Wickham is expressed by any woman in the story. Mrs. Bennet’s only complaint is that he does not intend to marry her daughter. Once they do marry, she is perfectly satisfied with her son-in-law.

    Elizabeth’s behavior is not unique or even unusual. It is the natural expression of a strong physical attraction that is not subject to conscious discrimination. It can be suppressed and its expression can be controlled, but it is extremely difficult to eradicate.

  3. Consequences of Elizabeth’s attraction
  4. A man like Wickham can never marry Eliza. His character is too false, hers is too true. Darcy and Bingley arrive in Meryton at the moment Eliza meets Wickham for the first time. Ultimately their intervention disillusions Eliza about Wickham.

    Eliza is attracted to Wickham’s false and handsome appearances. She continues to be attracted even after she learns of his true nature. Because of her continued attraction, Wickham wreaks havoc for her and the whole family. It leads to Lydia’s fall, Darcy’s stooping and Eliza’s social ascent.

    Even after his marriage, Eliza has to support him through periodical payments to Lydia from her savings. That is an expression of her continued attraction to Wickham at the physical level.

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