Liberals, Conservatives, and Pride and Prejudice Part 2: Crash Course Literature 412

Liberals, Conservatives, and Pride and Prejudice Part 2: Crash Course Literature 412

Hi I’m John Green, this is Crash Course
Literature. And today we’ll continue our discussion
of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a book that reads like it was written by your
funny and mean best friend, who also happens to be a brilliant novelist and a pretty interesting
moral philosopher. /
I mean, I love my best friend, but I REALLY wish Jane Austen was my best friend. But let’s face it, she wouldn’t have been
that into me. Last time we talked about the political context
of the novel, and how to choose between your personal fulfillment and the good of your
family. Today we’ll look at whether it’s an endorsement
of materialism or a rejection of it. We’ll also consider the novel’s politics–whether
it’s liberal or conservative in its outlook. And we’ll enjoy some sexy, sexy landscape
description. But first let’s consider the epistemological
problems of the novel. Because here at Crash Course we know how to
party. And also we just learned the meaning of the
word epistemological. Let’s go. INTRO
So, epistomology is the study of knowledge–it’s knowing how we know, and what it means to
know. And knowledge is a real problem in Pride and
Prejudice–much of the plot hinges on what people know and when they know it, and how
they can be sure of knowledge. Remember this is Regency England. If you like someone you can’t immediately
Google them or snapchat them or, I don’t know. Compared to today’s young people, I basically
grew up in Regency England. At the beginning of the novel, Jane and Mr.
Bingley meet, but Jane has no way to let him know that she likes him. She can’t just swipe right, or left–I really,
I don’t know. I don’t know any of this stuff.. I’m trying to sound young, and hip, and
relatable, and I should just give up because I’m one year younger than Jane Austen was
when she DIED. I’m sorry, what were we talking about? Right. Jane has no way of discovering just how available
he is. /
Characters have to rely on gossip, subtle inquiries sometimes in the form of letters,
and what they can see with their own eyes. But Austen is skeptical about whether or not
you can trust the evidence of your own eyes. When Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy see each other
they hate each other. /
And months go by before they learn enough about each other to readjust those initial
impressions. Mr. Darcy’s pride flourishes because he
doesn’t know or understand the people around him. The same goes for Elizabeth’s prejudice. In addition to constantly reminding us how
little we know about other people, Austen also questions how little we know of ourselves. Elizabeth is the character that most of us
will identify with. Austen wrote in a letter, “I think her as
delightful a character as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate
those who do not like her at least, I do not know.” /
Well, she was good, and she knew it. But even clever Elizabeth has to admit that
she has been mistaken in most of her beliefs, particularly ones about herself. /
Once she learns the truth of the bad feelings between Darcy and Wickham, she has to acknowledge
her own prejudices and even says, “Till this moment, I never knew myself.” One of the most fascinating things Austen
does in this book is to put the reader into the place of not knowing. Take the scene in which Elizabeth watches
Wickham, whom she likes, and Mr. Darcy, whom she hates, run into each other. /
At this point, she believes that Mr. Darcy has cheated Wickham of his inheritance, but
when she sees them, she doesn’t know what to believe:
“Elizabeth happening to see the countenance of both as they looked at each other, was
all astonishment at the effect of the meeting. Both changed colour, one looked white, the
other red. Mr. Wickham after a few moments, touched his
hat — a salutation which Mr. Darcy just deigned to return. What could be the meaning of it?” Not only do we not know why one turned white
and one turned red, we don’t even know who turned which color. Elizabeth presumably knows that, of course,
but by calling attention to what we as readers don’t know, Austen is also reminding us
of all that Elizabeth doesn’t know–just how often she has to wonder, What could be
the meaning of it?. Speaking of meaning, Pride and Prejudice spends
a lot of time examining the meaning of money. Austen lets us know how much everyone has,
where it comes from, how much they stand to inherit, and so on. Let’s check everyone’s accounts in the
Thoughtbubble. Mr. Bennet has 2,000 pounds per year, which
just about puts him into the upper middle class. But because his estate is entailed and will
be inherited by the nearest male relative when he and his wife die, his daughters will
only have a share of what their mother brought into the marriage. /
Each daughter will get about forty pounds a year. It’s hard to estimate how much this is in
today’s money; it could mean as little as a few thousand dollars though, so definitely
not enough to live comfortably. Mr. Bingley has at least 5,000 pounds per
year, which is very nice. But Darcy has at least double that every year
from rents on his land. He might make even more on the interest from
his investments, so it’s safe to think of him as kind of a multimillionaire. His sister Georgiana has an inheritance of
30,000, so even assuming a conservative investment, she’ll be fine. Wickham inherited 1,000 pounds from Mr. Darcy’s
father and then Mr. Darcy gave him 3,000 more when Wickham decided to quit the clergy. But he spent it all, so he’ll need to marry
rich. Obviously Lydia isn’t rich, but between
paying his debts and buying his commission, Mr. Darcy gives Wickham another 1,500 pounds. Plus, he may even have given him 10,000 more
in order to convince him to marry Lydia and avoid scandal. Thanks, Thoughtbubble. So how much money everyone has is obviously
very important and indicates moral worth, right? Maybe. Darcy is certainly richer than Wickham, and
morally superior. But in a couple of places the novel seems
to make the point that money isn’t everything. Mr. Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine has plenty
of money, but that doesn’t stop her from being portrayed as a killjoy and a snob. Austen satirizes her materialism, like the
way Lady Catherine pays attention to how nice people’s carriages are or how Mr. Collins
fawns over Lady Catherine and her daughter just because they’re rich. /
But Austen satirizes materialism in people who have less money, too, like Wickham with
his debts. The book is also pretty hard on Lydia who
can’t afford to buy lunch for her sisters because she’s spent all her money on a disgusting
hat, saying, “Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought
I might as well buy it as not.” /
Here, Austen seems to be suggesting that how you spend money probably matters as much or
more than how much of it you have. / / /
Quick side note: The growing industrialization of England meant that more artifacts were
available to the average person. And when I say artifacts, I mean everything
from, you know, pots and pans to clothing. Even a generation or two before, the middle
class had been vastly smaller, and there weren’t as many, like, materials to be materialistic
about. So almost all people, almost all of the time
would have been buying lunch, rather than buying bonnets. Maybe, then money can actually chip away at
personal happiness and moral character? Again, not exactly. Austen doesn’t come out and say that you
should marry for money, but the novel does seem to endorse the idea that the characters
who acquire the most money will be the happiest. Clearly Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy will live
happily ever after and so will Jane and Mr. Bingley. Charlotte and Mr. Collins are only a little
happy, because Mr. Collins is almost as horrible as Mary, but they’ll probably be happier
once Mr. Collins inherits. And it doesn’t seem like Lydia and Wickham,
who have the least, won’t be happy at all. They don’t even like each other by the time
the book ends. And it’s only Mr. Darcy’s money that saved
Lydia from total disgrace. And also, we need to remember how and why
Elizabeth falls in love with Mr. Darcy. Part of it is the letter he sends and part
of it has to do with how he rescues her sister, but a lot of it has to do with his estate,
Pemberley. When Elizabeth first sees Pemberley, we get
a rare passage of description in the book: “It was a large, handsome, stone building,
standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills;—and in front,
a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance…
and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!” Now, obviously this is a stand-in for Mr.
Darcy himself, who is also large and handsome and not artificial. But it’s the revelation of his beautiful
estate that really wins Elizabeth’s heart, which suggests that even Pemberley isn’t
just a metaphor for Darcy; Darcy is also a metaphor for Pemberley. Now, it’s easy to argue that this is a conservative
book. Everyone gets married in the end. Elizabeth gets to be both happy and rich. Mr. Darcy, an authoritarian figure who holds
power over a lot of people, turns out to be the hero. And Wickham, the upstart who comes from the
servant class, is the villain. So the established social hierarchy gets reaffirmed
in terms of class, and also in terms of gender. Elizabeth seemed so free-thinking and independent-minded,
but her reward is to subjugate herself to the wealthy aristocrat who said that her looks
were tolerable. So much for the rights of women. On the other hand, you could argue that the
book is a lot more radical than that. Yes, Mr. Darcy makes Elizabeth happy, but
arguing for her own individual happiness is really progressive stance. Like, when Lady Catherine tries to get Elizabeth
to say that she will never marry Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth replies, “I am only resolved to
act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness.” My own opinion. My happiness. Maybe that doesn’t sound revolutionary,
but it is. This book was written in a time when individual
happiness was not privileged over family status and security,
And that was especially true for the individual happiness of women. So Elizabeth saying that she would only act
in a manner that would constitute her happiness is a claiming of full personhood, who has
the right to make her own decisions independent of what her family wants for her–another
radical idea for women in Regency England The novel also suggests that Elizabeth’s
vivacity will have a beneficial effect on Mr. Darcy, hinting that it might be possible
to work from within to change some of the older, more authoritarian systems. She’s not wild or flighty or always buying
terrible bonnets like Lydia, but she is independent-minded. The fact that Mr. Darcy falls for her suggests
that maybe he, and men like him, are capable of change. Now this would be a darker novel or a more
radical one if it actually made Elizabeth choose between happiness and financial security,
instead of presenting all of that—and Pemberley, too—courtesy of Mr. Darcy. But it is no sin for a book to have a happy
ending, and Pride and Prejudice is still a vindication of Elizabeth’s character and
temperament and it makes a really persuasive argument for personal happiness as a moral
category worth celebrating. So go forth and pursue some happiness yourself. And thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “Liberals, Conservatives, and Pride and Prejudice Part 2: Crash Course Literature 412

  1. Why do you keep calling Mary horrible? I'm not intimately familiar with P&P but does she actually do anything to deserve this description? I get that she's "pedantic and conceited, lacking in both genius and taste", but like, that's basically every angsty teenager ever. She's lonely and she tries really hard to better herself. I think calling her horrible just like that is just horrible.

  2. Love a season two of this…Since schools change up what literature gets done now and again.

    Namely Life of Pi as an example.

  3. Please please please do The Price Of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. I would love to hear a different interpretation, or any other interpretation other than my own!

  4. It is not Pemberly that changes Elizabeth’s mind, but rather the people in it. She hears his housekeeper’s account of him. You can learn a great deal about a person’s character by seeing or hearing how they treat those in their employ. She hears and sees how he treats his sister, not to mention his respectful, kind behavior towards her aunt and uncle, whom previously, by dint of his social standing, he would never have received. She sees that he is a man of character, who has been known to be kind and warm to family, friends and servants in the past, and who though prideful, is showing that he can humble enough to see where he has been wrong, and change his behavior. She eventually learns that he has gone to great trouble, and great personal discomfort to save her family’s reputation, and to amend what he sees as the harm done by his not making Wickham’s character known. That though he despises Wickham, that being in Wickham’s presence and giving him money cause Darcy great personal distress, he does it, for Elizabeth. To suggest that it is merely the charms of Pemberly that change Elizabeth’s mind does her a great dis-service, and would make her the opposite of someone who could draw Darcy’s interest and affections.

  5. Just did a search and couldn't find if you had done it, but if you got time and want to do so, cover my favorite novel 20 thousand leagues under the sea.


  6. Economic note: the typical working class worker earned about 40 – 60 pounds a year, which was just enough to live in grinding poverty. The average middle class salary was 100 – 150 pounds a year. This was enough to be able to rent a modest house in a safer part of town and possibly employ a day servant, usually a cook/housekeeper who helped the mistress of the house with domestic management. This was the case from the emergence of larger numbers of workers in the 18th century until after World War II in the twentieth century. This was also the case in the US where the US dollar/pound exchange rate was approximately 5 for 1. So, in the 1920's when Henry Ford started paying his workers $500 per year (he was sometimes accused of inflating the price of labor by overpaying his workers) and pricing the Ford Model T at $500 (give or take) so the well paid working man could afford one, he was putting down a marker on the value of labor that had been common for centuries.

    Think about that during your next encounter with David_Copperfied and read how Aunt Betsy laid out £1000 to buy David's entrance into the legal profession. The average middle-class income in England now is £38,000. Assuming £125 as the pre-WWII average, that puts Aunt Betsy's outlay at around £300,000 in today's pounds. Loving aunt indeed!

    richard hargrove

    BlackAdder (on the Romantic poets): There's nothing intellectual about wandering around Italy in a big shirt trying to get laid.

  7. I know I'm eight months late to the party, but consider including Thackeray's Vanity_Fair in your future videos. I read it for the first time last year and found it to be both quite entertaining quite pertinent to contemporary culture.

    richard hargrove

    Math puns are the first sine of madness.

  8. I’m surprised that there was never an episode on any of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. The Lord of the Rings trilogy’s combined sales makes for the second best selling book of all time with The Hobbit not being too far behind at number 5. Not to mention the franchise has an extremely successful film series as well. Idk, maybe the popularity of The Hobbit/LOTR combined with the fact that this show seems to only focus on books that students are forced to read in school is why those books were never covered on this show.

  9. SO easy to say happiness over security. What is not really spoken of is the harshness of not being secure. Hunger, disease, violence…personal happiness on an empty stomach is not possible.

  10. John… no. Elizabeth's heart was not WON over by his estate but by his altered manners upon seeing him there. She was embarrassed by being there because she didn't want to seem as though she was chasing after him as he did not know she was seeing the lakes. If Pride and Prejudice had gone by the way you have interpreted it as if Darcy were to propose again at ape beret she would have said yes right away because of his estate, Elizabeth's feelings began at gratitude because she had no idea Darcy was so capable of such feelings. It also was the root of her regret of being misinformed of his actions against Wickham. Since Darcy was so amiable as he was at Pemberley Elizabeth was also informed of his good character. She is also one of the most feminist characters as Darcy is also. He gives her a chance to say no if she feels it's not necessary for him to repeat his offer which Mr.Collins did not. Darcy also respect her space and privacy and allows her to speak her mind. Elizabeth is not a gold digger she makes her feelings perfectly known as the book does also.

  11. Hey, John; I'm an English teacher, and a long-time subscriber. I don't always agree with your takes, but I always enjoy hearing them. I thought you hit a home run with this analysis of P&P. What are the odds of your doing something on Transcendentalism or American Romanticism in Season 5? My explanations and discussions tend to put the kids to sleep, so anything you might produce would be greatly appreciated. Keep up the great work!

  12. I think I could've enjoyed literature class as a teen, had my teachers chosen better books to read. I thought the ones that got chosen for us were boring, and I felt like shoving a huge pill down my throat every time I sat down to read the assigned chapters.

  13. Are we getting a season 5 of this? It's, by far, my favorite crash course series and it's highly valuable to many young people just getting their feet wet in classic literature.

  14. I disagree that Elizabeth's opinion of Darcy changed because of the grandeur of his estate. I believe the glowing praise of the housekeeper was far more important to her and made Elizabeth release she had misjudged Darcy. The housekeeper had known Darcy from his infancy upwards and had always found him to be good-natured and kind. Also, the fact that the housekeeper confirms Mr Darcy's account of what transpired between himself and Mr Wickham convinces Elizabeth that Darcy was truthful in this respect, whereas Wickham had told a pack of lies. The realisation that not only had Elizabeth been wrong about Darcy, but had also been mistaken in her opinion of Wickham, shows how she had been prejudiced when forming her opinion of Darcy.

  15. I also think that the book ending in the happiest way possible for Elizabeth (married to a man she loves who loves her back AND is super rich) is also a way to reward her for being rebellious (like seeking her own happiness and interest over financial stability). She gets to have it all precisely because she is the way she is and not because she is pretty or agreeable or simply lucky. And Darcy saying that her looks are "tolerable" is a big hint to that as well! He only started to fall in love with her when he learned more about her and her personality.

  16. I don't agree , is the letter that awakes Elizabeth of Darcy character and before Lidia runaway, everyone thought good of Mr wickham and even looked it good him pursuing a rich woman, so I don't agree with that point of view I also think that Elizabeth aside to be a rational but most important self confident, she knew her value so I think she never really believed she couldn't get a nice "gentleman" also she was young she still believe in love , the opposite of Charlotte

  17. I really enjoyed listening to this. I am playing Mrs Bennet in the play and was really interesting.

  18. Elizabeth was just seeing what she had turned down in person. It was really the servants accounts of him being a great master that led her to believe she had been completely deceived of his character.

  19. Hi Crash course, can you do something by Haruki Murakami? I'm really curious what you would have to say about his writings. Thanks 🙂

  20. Hello? Have you completely forgotten Mr. Bennet and the fact that he is probably the greatest influence on Elizabeth's character? Her father, as opposed to her mother, insists on self-respect. Elizabeth does the best in the end because she clung to her self-respect, and her wit obviously derives in great part from her father, as well.

  21. You're basing wealth simply on income. Darcy was more like a modern billionaire because of what he was worth, not simply on his income.

  22. Oh my God. Mr. Bennet WAS NOT a member of the middle-class. Mr. Bennet was a member of the upper classes. He was a gentleman . . . a landowner. His wealth was generated from the land via tenant farmers. Despite the fact that Mr. Darcy's estate earned five times as much as Mr. Bennet's, both men were on the same level socially. And two thousand pounds a year also meant that Mr. Bennet WAS WEALTHY . . . only moderately so. Mr. Bennet had also married beneath his class with Mrs. Bennet, who was an attorney's daughter. However, their daughters are still members of the upper classes. The Bingleys were members of the middle-classes. Despite being wealthier than the Bennets, their wealth came from TRADE. Jane Bennet, like her father, had socially married beneath herself with Mr. Bingley. However, Mr. Bingley has a chance of becoming a member of the upper class by ditching his connection to trade . . . like Sir William Lucas.

  23. It was the conversation with the servant about Mr Darcy that changed Elizabeth's mind, not her viewing of the estate!

  24. "Each daughter stands to inherit about 40 pounds a year, it's hard to estimate how much this is in today's money"

    cracks knuckles in finance major

    According to the time value of money, the future value of a dollar amount can be computed as [FV = PV * (1+i)^n], where FV is the future value, PV is the present value, i is the interest rate and n is the number of periods. We know the present value (40), we'll peg inflation at the economic average of 2.5%, and P&P was written 222 years ago so n is 222.

    Running these numbers, we get a future value of 10,230.27. They'd still qualify for Medicaid! However, using this same math, it should be noted that Mr. Bennet is not upper middle class (typically seen at least in the US as an income ranging from $130,000 to $250,000). His 2,000 pound annual income would be a very handsome $511,513.48 today, putting him solidly in the top 1% of households for FY 2018.

  25. Anyone else who only just now realised Bridget Jones is actually a retelling of Pride and Prejudice? Never occured to me xd

  26. Can you do Shane next? I'm teaching it to my IB students this year and it'd be a novelty to have a western on the list!

  27. For women in the novel, it wasn't about materialism, but about security. A spinster with no money was a beggar, like Miss Bates in Emma. Like the sisters in Sense & Sensibility, they needed to be well wed or live a life of poverty or life off the kindness of relatives.

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