(sub)Text: Marital Economics in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”

An advantageous marriage is Elizabeth Bennet’s only potential escape from a foolish mother, a disinterested father, three very silly sisters, and a house that’s entailed away to her idiotic cousin Mr. Collins. But she turns down fabulously wealthy Mr. Darcy because he’s prideful—and maybe a little prejudiced. But then, so is she. How do we know if two people are well-suited to each other? What makes a successful match? Is Mr. Collins actually the perfect man? Wes and Erin discuss Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

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Thanks to Abbie Smith for allowing us to repurpose her poster for the cover art. And thanks to Tyler Hislop for the audio editing on this episode.

Comments

  1. I read Pride and Prejudice every couple of years, and I always find something new. One of my friends is a Janeite, and explained to me that Charlotte and each of the 5 Bennet women follow a different strategy for achieving security, all fully aware of the economic situation and their own needs. You can even see it to some extent in Caroline Bingley. Her family wealth should be sufficient for security, but she wants a husband with status, and as Darcy rightly observes, her strategy for that is mean.

    One thing I think is not talked about enough is that Austen is funny. There are passages in the book that tickle me after all these years. The dry wit of the narrator, the silliness of several characters, and the teasing and snarky conversations are delightful. Elizabeth is particularly good at this, as her conversations with Colonel Fitzwilliam demonstrate.

    And Mrs. Bennet is right to worry about getting her daughters married off. She is ungracious and uncharming, but she’s right, and at some level she has taught her daughters that this is what they must do. As Elizabeth says, “… perhaps, if I have very good luck, I may meet with another Mr. Collins in time.”

  2. Love that you weren’t too cool to open with an Austen book, and that the intelligence of her writing came through in discussion. As conversationalists, you two seem like a good match. I’m looking forward to hearing what you come up with going forward.

  3. i never quite understood why austen let lizzy – smart, clever and cool as a cucumber – be duped by wikham, with the rest of her family, from which she strives to distance herself. as does austen. and if this was austen’s way to disclose lizzy’s silly side, how could darcy fall in love with such a one?

    in the 1995 version the whole wikham business is even more difficult if not impossible to swallow, due to the disastrous casting. that it was tricky to find a worthy competitor for colin firth is obvious enough. but Adrian Lukis does not a wikham make. mr lukis lacks any screen presence, charm or charisma. to prefer him and his interpretation of wihkam over even proud or snobbish mr darcy as portrayed by firth is ludicrous. in joe wright’s version the two adversaries are much better matched.

    • The fact that she got duped is one of my favorite parts of the novel. When she is reading through the letter that Darcy sent explaining his dealings with Wickham, she looks back on the events and remembers them in a brand new light. She suddenly sees how she let her wounded pride/vanity make her susceptible to lies about Darcy. It’s so classic. Darcy offended her and she needed so badly to repair her ego that her eagerness to believe him to be awful and disagreeable in every way caused her to suspend her usual good judgment. Normally, she would have judged Wickham to be untrustworthy if he had divulged such private and slanderous information to someone he barely knew, but because she was so thirsty to hear it, she never really allowed herself to notice or think about that. Until the letter of course. After she hears what Darcy said in his letter and looking back she says, “Till this moment I never knew myself.” Which is awesome. Both of them are such wonderful characters for me because they give me hope that, though we have enormous blind spots in our lives, perhaps we can see our own faults and defects and be humble enough to accept it and hopefully grow.

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