Pride and Prejudice Part 1: Crash Course Literature #411

Pride and Prejudice Part 1: Crash Course Literature #411

Hi I’m John Green, this is Crash Course
Literature and it is a truth universally acknowledged that a video series about world literature
must be in want of a Jane Austen episode. /
So here it is. Today, we’ll be discussing Pride and Prejudice,
Austen’s Regency-era novel of life, liberty and bonnets. The book was first published in 1813, it’s
a social satire about a family with five daughters and quite a lot of economic anxiety. And the novel’s characters and themes have
remained relevant for centuries now–which is why there are SO. MANY. adaptations of it, from the Keira Knightly
movie to an Emmy winning web series co-created by my brother. /
Today, we’ll talk about the social and historical context in which the book was written, the
style that Jane Austen helped invent, and the dilemmas the major characters face. And in the next episode, we’ll look more
closely at the politics of the book and its attitudes toward money, class and gender. But for now: It’s bonnets all the way down. INTRO
So we don’t know that much about Jane Austen’s life because after her death her sister burned
most of her letters. Just a friendly note, by the way, to any future
literary executors out there, maybe don’t burn so much stuff? Even if you’re told to. Wait, unless your MY literary executor. Then burn everything. But, here’s what we do know: Jane Austen
was born in 1775 to an Anglican clergyman and his wife; Jane was the second youngest
of eight children. And her father farmed and took in students
to makes ends meet. Jane was mostly taught at home and sometimes
she wasn’t taught at all, although she and her sister did go to a year or two of boarding
school. When she was eleven, Jane started writing
plays and novels, mostly social satires and parodies of “novels of sensibility,” a
literary genre in which women like, cry and sigh and faint a lot. Many of these early works were in the style
of the epistolary novel, which is a story composed of letters, and we see echoes of
that form in Pride and Prejudice. We also see some echoes of Pride and Prejudice
in Austen’s life. She never married, but she did receive at
least one proposal that she accepted for a few hours. And after her father’s death in 1805, her
financial position and the positions of her mother and her sister became increasingly
insecure. By 1816, four of her books had been published. And she was working on a new novel, called
Sanditon, when she died in 1817, at the age of just 41. /
Two more of her works, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, were published after her death. They’re all good–but to me at least Pride
and Prejudice is the most perfect of them–there’s a precision to it. Like Gatsby or Sula, Pride and Prejudice is
a novel in which every single word feels genuinely essential. So what happens in Pride and Prejudice? well, let’s go to the Thoughtbubble:
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet live in rural England with their five daughters: pretty Jane, lively
Elizabeth, horrible Mary, airhead Kitty, and boy obsessed Lydia. When Mr. Bennet dies the estate will go to
a male cousin, so the daughters have to find rich husbands. Or else. / Or else live in poverty or become governesses,
and if you’ve read Jane Eyre, you know how great that gig is. Mr. Bingley, an eligible bachelor, arrives
on the scene, and he and Jane fall in love. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley’s best
friend, definitely don’t. Elizabeth gets a proposal of marriage from
Mr. Collins, the cousin who’s going to inherit the estate. And marrying him would save her sisters from
poverty, but Mr. Collins is awful and Elizabeth declines. So her best friend, Charlotte, ends up snagging
him. Meanwhile, Elizabeth starts to fall for Wickham,
a soldier in the militia. He hates Mr. Darcy, too. / Suddenly Mr. Bingley moves away and Jane
is heartbroken. Elizabeth goes to visit Charlotte and is introduced
to Lady Catherine, Mr. Darcy’s ultra-snob aunt. She sees Mr. Darcy there and he also proposes
marriage but in a very insulting way. She insults him right back. /
much for love at first sight. Some months later Elizabeth is on a trip with
her aunt and uncle. They visit Mr. Darcy’s lavish estate and
Elizabeth softens toward him. Then she gets word that Lydia has run off
with Wickham. /
Mr. Darcy saves Lydia’s reputation by brokering a marriage. Then it’s happy endings all around:
Lydia gets married; Jane and Mr. Bingley get married, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy get married,
Kitty learns to be a little bit less of an airhead and Mary is presumably still horrible. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So let’s talk life and letters in Regency
England. By the way, Regency England refers to a period
from about 1800-1820 when King George III became mentally ill and unfit to rule. In England, this was a time of political uncertainty
and a lot of economic volatility. There was a rising middle class, a burgeoning
consumer culture, and a move from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. And that meant less overall poverty, but it
also meant a lot of social instability. And It was also a time when people in England
were beginning to talk about the rights of women. Like, Mary Wollstonecraft published “Vindication
of the Rights of Women” seven years after Austen was born, though it’s important to
remember that at this place and time women didn’t really have many rights–they couldn’t
vote, and in Pride and Prejudice, the whole plot begins because all of Bennet’s five
children are daughters, This means that legally, Bennet’s estate
has to go to a male cousin. But there was a growing belief that hey, maybe
women should have rights. Abroad, the American Revolution and the French
Revolution had recently unsettled established social and political orders. Everywhere there were increasing discussions
about rights and responsibilities, liberties and duties. You can even hear this in the famous first
sentence of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single
man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” It has an echo of the American Declaration
of Independence: “We find these truths to be self-evident…” But the comic deflation in the second half
of the sentence is pure Austen. Some people are initially put off by Pride
and Prejudice because they view it as a sort of literaryfied romance novel. And, it is a book primarily interested in
human relationships, especially romantic ones–but I’d challenge the idea that such novels
can’t be great. /
Nobody ever argues that picaresque novels, or bildungsromans, are merely genre novels–even
though they are also genres. But the word “romance” is too often and
too quickly dismissed. By the way, Austen has this completely unearned
reputation for being genteel and conservative. The reality is that her work is very funny
and mean and super smart about human behavior. /
You can hear that in the letters that survive, like when she writes to her sister, “I do
not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great
deal.” Also, this may be a novel about relationships,
but relationships are important. Most of us aren’t going to get to decide
the fate of a city-state or die in pursuit of a great white whale but many of us are
going to have to decide whom to marry. / But also while this book involves lower-case
r romance, it is very aggressively not capital-r Romantic, in the Byron Wordsworth Shelley
sense that feelings are so overwhelming that they supersede logic. I mean, Wordsworth can write a hillside for
thirty-seven stanzas, but if you read Austen closely, you’ll find that there’s a striking
absence of physical description. We don’t know what the dresses look like. We don’t know what the people look like. When there is a physical description, like
the description of Mr. Darcy’s estate or Elizabeth’s petticoat, it means that something
crucially important is happening. And even then these descriptions are very
brief. If we’re being honest, there isn’t even
all that much in here about bonnets. In fact, Austen is suspicious of overwhelming
emotion. Remember how I mentioned the novel of sensibility
and Austen’s early satires? She’s skeptical of feeling too much, of
getting so carried away by emotion that it prevents you from thinking clearly. This is exemplified by Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s
relationship. They don’t fall in love at first sight. Actually, it’s the opposite: hate at first
sight. At a ball, she overhears him telling his friend
that her sister is the only hot girl in the room and that Elizabeth is merely “tolerable.” Given that Elizabeth and Darcy are end up
together, this is a novel that’s suspicious of romantic love, especially romantic love
based on instant physical attraction and when characters do get carried away by
their emotions, they’re either fooling themselves, like Mr. Collins, or doing something really
wrong, like Lydia. Pride and Prejudice: Not a capital-r Romance. Yes, it has a wish-fulfilling ending, but
it’s a sly, and ironic and clear-eyed exploration of the individual vs. the collective, happiness
vs. security and how and why people form romantic relationships. /
It’s about love, but rather than presuming that love is only a feeling, Pride and Prejudice
explores how thinking and feeling and need and responsibility intersect to form the experience
that we call love. /
One might even say that it’s a novel about love that deconstructs love. Austen joked that the scope of her works was
narrow, equating her writing with a two-inch piece of ivory “on which I work with so
fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour.” She also critiqued of Pride and Prejudice,
writing to a friend, “The work is rather too light & bright & sparkling; it wants shade.”
/ and yeah, OK, the novel is fun. But reading should be fun sometimes. I mean, we already read To the Lighthouse. And in terms of the prose-style itself, Austen
actually was pioneering a new style here called free indirect discourse. It means that even though the narration is
in the third person, the narrative voice takes on the thoughts and feelings of characters. /
I mean, After unexpectedly meeting Darcy at his estate, the third-person narration captures
Elizabeth’s embarrassment: “Her coming there was the most unfortunate,
the most ill-judged thing in the world! How strange must it appear to him! In what a disgraceful light might it not strike
so vain a man! It might seem as if she had purposely thrown
herself in his way again!” This narrative approach reflects emotion without
stating it–showing instead of telling, as the saying goes–and makes us feel not as
if we can sympathize with Elizabeth, but instead as if we ARE Elizabeth,
/ which to me is one of the most profound and
important things a novel can do: Great books offer you a way out of yourself, and into
others’ lives. Next time we’ll look more closely at some
of the themes, but for now, let’s briefly explore the dilemma facing Elizabeth Bennet
and her sisters. Because her parents have been bad with money,
she knows she has to marry well or face poverty. Or become a governess. And as we know from Jane Eyre, that’s a
terrible option. When Mr. Collins proposes, that’s a fantastic
solution. Except for one thing: She can’t respect
him. Mr. Collins is pompous and foolish and the
very things that make Elizabeth terrific—like her lively mind and her fresh wit—make him
nervous. She tells him, “ You could not make me happy,
and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who would make you so.” But the idea that happiness should be privileged
over security is pretty radical. /
Elizabeth is deciding that her personal individual happiness should outweigh the economic problems
of her family. She is taking a huge risk when she rejects
him. /
As Mr. Collins tells her, she’s poor so she probably won’t get another proposal. He might not have made her happy, but he would
have made her and any unmarried sisters financially secure. And then, Elizabeth takes the same risk or
a greater one when she rejects Mr. Darcy’s insulting first proposal. She can’t make herself marry a man she doesn’t
like. This was the same dilemma Austen herself faced
and her rejection of a suitor made things hard for herself and for her family. But she did it anyway. Now, thanks to the fairy tale ending, Elizabeth
doesn’t experience, like, catastrophic consequences as a result of her privileging happiness. /
But as 19th century English readers would have been very well aware, she could have. And so, the novel helped them, and also helps
us, explore when we should put our own needs first, and when the happiness and security
of others is more important. /
Is doing what is best for you always the right thing to do? Or are there moments when you must sacrifice
your happiness for the good of your family or your social order? We’ll continue our discussion next time
when we’ll also examine whether the politics of the book are radical or conservative. And we’ll answer a vexing question: Why
does Lydia buy such an ugly bonnet? Thanks for watching. Hope it was tolerable. I’ll see you next time.

100 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice Part 1: Crash Course Literature #411


  2. hey your videos are amazingg!!! they are really helping me in trying to pass my alevels D: is there any chance you could do a literature episode on Othello or wuthering heights?? it would be a life saver 🙂 thanks all you guys again for being awesommeeee

  3. i have been waiting for this for SO LONG oh my god this is my favorite book and I’m so glad you’re covering it!!

  4. The novels of Jane Austen were actually written by her cousin Eliza de Feuillide as I show in my book "Jane Austen – a New Revelation". She could not publish under her own name because she was the illegitimate daughter of Warren Hastings, the Governor General of India.

  5. Why does John Green seem so tired compared to old vids? Seems like his vid making energy is at drought levels? Hopefully it changes

  6. It wasn't the case that, legally, land and money always had to go to the male heir.  For instance, in P&P, Lady Catherine de Burgh has inherited Rosings and it will pass to her daughter, Anne, some day.  Mr Bennet's estate, however, has been 'entailed' at some point by its owner and, for 100 years or so, it will pass automatically to the male heir (unless everybody involved – i.e. Mr Collins, in this case –  agrees to break the entail).  This had its advantages.  If, for instance, Mr Bennet had been a spendthrift and had gone bankrupt, the estate would still have been safe, since he would be legally unable to sell it or pledge it as security for a loan.  This is relevant in Persuasion, where Mr Elliot will inherit Kellynch one day even if its present overspending owner, Sir Walter Elliot, ends up in a debtors' prison.Also, only land and buildings could be entailed, not other forms of property.

  7. We're so lucky to have P&P, and Austen's talent recognized! Thanks for this wonderful CCL vid

  8. I might describe Mary as 'pious' or 'opinionated', but brushing her off in one word as 'horrible' is not descriptive of the complexity of the character. Mary always tries hard. She tries to be a good woman, she tries to be accomplished, she tries to match the easy popularity and talent of her older sisters or the heady enjoyment of her younger ones, but somehow never manages it, however much effort she makes (e.g she is described as having technical mastery of the piano, but none of its artistry). Mary is a whole book waiting to be written yet, overlooked by the reader as well as her family, she gets brushed off as 'horrible'. Shame on you. If you know this book well, you should have more insight into Mary.

  9. I feel like this is the right place to comment on everything that is perfect about Pride and Prejudice. And so I shall.
    – Elizabeth Bennet can snark like it's nobody's business, and it's hilarious.
    – Jane. Just, Jane. Everything about her screams sweetness. Lizzie's comment about her seeing the world through rose-colored glasses stuck with me, and now when I draw her, she's always wearing something light pink.
    – Both of Mr. Darcy's marriage proposals, the first because it emphasizes his pride, and the second because it's both of them letting go of their prejudices. See what I did there?
    – The title. It leaves you wondering: who's who? And it turns out, they're both both!
    – Darcy and Georgiana's relationship. It's so sweet, and he's an awesome older brother.
    – Lizzie's roast of Lady Catherine towards the end of the book. There's nothing more satisfying, seriously.
    – How Mr. And Mrs. Bennet's marriage is both comical and foreboding at the same time.
    – The character development. There's so much of it, and it happens to even the most minor of characters, like Kitty.
    – The witty narration overall.
    – Lizzie being introspective.
    – Darcy being introspective.
    – Both of them fixing their mistakes.
    – Jane and Bingley, and Lizzie and Darcy. When both of them finally do get together for real, I wanted to ring out the bells and fling out my arms and to sing out the news (catch that reference)! Jane and Bingley, you can tell they have that fairytale romance nailed down, and Lizzie and Darcy, we get put through so much heartbreak and tension, that when they finally tie the knot, nobody in their right mind is not screaming with delight! They are some of the cutest couples in history.
    – Charlotte Lucas and how she was able to rig the system to see her less-than-stellar husband as little as possible.
    – Catherine Bingley's terrible attempts to get Darcy to give her the time of day.
    – The magic of the English countryside. Really, the magic of Jane Austen's English countryside. You get this feeling that it's just so above everywhere else, and so peaceful, despite all the running off with dishonorable blokes going on within.
    – The fact that Jane Austen wrote it.
    – The 2005 film. Really, it's a work of art.
    – This book smacks you with its themes in the literal title, but you have to actually read it to understand. Not to mention you pick up on the follies of eighteenth century society and the importance of class and reputation, and also a woman's position at that time, it's wonderful.
    – The ending, which addresses everyone's ever after, basically saying that everyone learned to be a better person. The Bennet parents hearted how to parent, Kitty and Mary learned to be more acceptable members of society, Jane and Lizize got to live in big fancy houses with loves of their lives, the Gardiners are basically the parents they both wanted but never got, Georgiana now has an older sister, and even Lady Catherine swallows her pride and makes peace. Actually, the only people who don't get a happy ending are Lydia and Wickham, who are stuck freeloading and in a loveless marriage, and the Bingley sisters, who everyone forgets about by the end of the book anyways.

    Wow. This got really long. In my defense, it is my favorite book of all time, and like, the only classic I've read where nobody is actively dying. It's got vibes of silly aristocratic squabbles, while also discussing a serious issue plaguing women for centuries, both warns of how a bad marriage situation is bad for everyone, but also showcases some of the sweetest love in history, and okay, I'm starting again. I should really stop, but I can't. There's just too much to love about this book. It's on the lighter and softer side of novels, and is essentially a love story, but the deep themes combos with the satire perfectly, making it the best thing since sighing deeply.

  10. Wait, Mr. Bennet died? I thought he helped find Lydia when she went off with Wickam. Can someone point me to the page that says he died?


    Just me? Okay.

  12. I've never really understood why people hate on Mary, there isn't really a lot about in any of the books. I actually find her the most interesting because she chooses the shun the expectations society expects of her. Any other Mary fans out there?

  13. John I just want to say I love you & your work is amazing but I got a mad bone to pick with you about "The Day After" of Looking for Alaska and the hole you put in my heart

  14. I just read P&P and am just finishing up S&S. I'll read a line, put the book down and say to myself, "over 200 years later, in a different time and country, now that was hilarious." Amazing. Thanks for the video and crash course. I find both novels as economic stories, rather than romances. It strikes me, as how predatory people were, to snag rich spouses of either gender. Nobody would actually work. Business was slyly alluded to, but not defined. All pursuits were music, reading, and getting a rich spouse. Meanwhile, I put the book down to get ready for work.

  15. Why are you hating on Mary! I'm playing her in a Pride and Prejudice play right now and though she is awkward and out of place in her family, I would never say she is horrible.

  16. The plot starts because women didn't have rights!? The fact that the girls couldn't inherit had nothing to do with laws against women but with the fact that estate had been entailed, it was not a normal situation but merely a dramatic factor in the story. Jesus christ i can't stand this guy.

  17. I didn't read the book completely — just the chapters and passages that I thought were missing in the 2005 movie adaptation; I'll read it from start to finish someday — so I'm just basing my opinions in the movie, but I don't think Mary is "horrible". She's a sourpuss, sure, but I find Lydia and Kitty more intolerable than Mary. I really don't like Lydia mostly because of how selfish and irrational she was and how her poor decision led her to a life of unhappiness/poverty — how judgey of me, I know. But it's just so frustrating how fickle and naive she was yet at the same time, stubborn and unwise.

    She should have listened to her family, thought a little more about her family (if you can't save your family from bankruptcy, at least retain from inflicting shame upon your poor family's name and reputation), and thought over her decision a little better — know Wickham's character better. Of course, she didn't know he was some gambling womanizer (?) and it wouldn't have been easy for her to figure this out because he was good at keeping secrets and making people like him, but still!! Elopement?? I doubt that dude professed his undying love for her — she just ran away and attached herself to the soldier.

    Kitty, on the other hand, is an airhead. She just kept on laughing and laughing — what's so funny girl?

  18. I skipped from the first few cc literature videos to this one and there's a noticable decline in enthusiasm on John's part-what happened?

  19. I was at the book store where I picked up a variation of Pride and Prejudice, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, at the time I thought that it was a funny joke, but it turns out that it has all the same writing as Pride and Prejudice, just with scenes of zombies eating people. I so far have loved the book, Jane Austen is much wittier than other authors of that era making her still enjoyable to read today.

  20. Elizabeth Lizzie Alexandrina Bennett
    Mary Emily Bennett
    Katherine , kitty floncea Bennett
    Lydia Anne Bennett
    Jane vickria Bennett

  21. I couldn't agree more with all the points mentioned in the video! I fell in love with 'Pride and Prejudice' and this summed up everything I adore about it 🙂

  22. Mr. Bennett owned the estate by "Fee Tail," which was a legal mechanism used to keep property in the family and prevent its sale, essentially it granted the property to the last heir of your body (male with your last name) to ever exist, and all the sons and grandsons in between get Life Estates on the property. Women could actually own property, inherit property, buy and sell property at the time.

  23. Couple of errors?

    The Bennett’s estate is entailed away to a male heir. This was the choice of the person who left the estate to Mr Bennet and not imposed by common law as is implied in this video.

    Mr Bennet did not make bad financial decisions. His only fault is not having a son.

  24. Wait Jane Austen has a reputation as being genteel and conservative? I’ve only read p&p but i loved it precisely because it was full of sick burns lol.

  25. “I haven't any right to criticize books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

    ― Mark Twain

  26. Is it just me or is he talking really slow in this ep?? Which is just normal speed bc he talks so fast (same with hank lol)

  27. I don't know…I watched this because 30 pages into the book I was asking myself, "Why should I care about these characters?" After watching this I still can't answer that question.

  28. Conservative? Lol. How do people not pick up on the sarcasm in Pride and Prejudice? Maybe I'm weird but there are certain lines that make me giggle with how mean they can be. >.>

  29. Generally, Mr Bennet would have been free to leave his estate to his daughters.  The reason he cannot is because some ancestor of his entailed the land so that it could only pass to his male heir – rather like a title of nobility.  Entail was useful in some ways.  It made the land inalienable so that, for instance, the current owner could not lose it in a game of cards, or be forced to sell it to pay his debts.  That is why, for instance, in Persuasion, William Eliot can look forward to inheriting the Kellynch estate, unencumbered, from Sir Walter Eliot, even though Sir Walter is up to his ears in debt.  In Mr Bennet's case, however, entail is not so good.  Lady Catherine owns Rosings herself, by contrast, so that estate cannot have been entailed.

  30. Elizabeth was clearly selfish and inconsiderate of her duties to her family. But perhaps the worst failure is that of the parents who shirked their responsibility to arrange marriages for their children.

  31. Regency England occurred between 1811 and 1820. Elizabeth has to face poverty because her father, Mr. Bennet, had failed to put away money for his daughers' dowries. He had assumed that he and Mrs. Bennet would be able to conceive a son to inherit the estate and take care of the sisters . . . until it was too late. Mr. Bennet had money. Frankly, Two thousand pounds a year meant in the late 18th and early 19th centuries that he was moderately wealthy. But each Bennet sister lacked a decent dowry to attract a husband, thanks to their father's failure to put aside money for them.

  32. Elizabeth softened towards Darcy after speaking to a servant who had known Darcy all his life and praised him greatly. The video suggested the change of heart came from viewing his estate.

  33. I agree that P&P is too "sunny and happy", like when Lizzy rejects Darcy, she and her family doesn´t suffer from it, there is not a consequence of her rejecting a rich marriage. In contrast, we have Persuasion, in which the main character does suffer the consequences of her action, and her family in a way does so. In a way, I think Persuasion is a much more realistic novel, and perhaps, a more personal one

  34. This is fascinating. I write as a hobby and I always write in 3rd person, however I always want to put readers into the mind of my chars so I try to be descriptive of how a certain char feels and acts in a certain situation. Like in one story my main char travels to another world and I want the reader to learn more about the world itself through her POV. So it's fascinating to know that this style of writing was popularized by Austen. I love this book but I haven't read it since high school, so I don't remember the exact writing style, only that it made me laugh a lot, which surprised me honestly because I didn't think a book from that time period could be funny.

  35. "we hold these truth to be self evident that all men are created equal, and when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I'ma compel him to include women in the sequel!"

  36. Hank must've been upset that you said she fell in love with Mr. Darcy because of his estate. I believe it was because of his letter.

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