March 28, 2010

"Pride and Prejudice" and "Fiddler on the Roof"

Have you ever noticed how the musical Fiddler of the Roof has the same basic set-up as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: man has five unmarried daughters without doweries? Fiddler is Pride, with Elizabeth's father Mr. Bennett turned into the main character, Tevye.

Over the last decade, Pride and Prejudice has become the most cited literary work for illustrating evolutionary psychology. It seems to me that Fiddler could serve a similar role, perhaps an even broader one extending beyond the rather narrow limits set by evolutionary psychology. Having recently watched a high school production of Fiddler, I was surprised by how so much of the plot and dialogue revolves around the kind of human sciences questions that interest me. Yuri Slezkine's The Jewish Century uses Sholem Aleichem’s source material Tevye stories as a central metaphor, and I suspect that many other theories could find something colorful and well-known in Fiddler to use as examples.

I mentioned this recently, and an anthropologist friend replied:
Some thoughts on Pride and Prejudice and Fiddler on the Roof:

On the one hand, comparing the two shows how traditional Eurasian societies are broadly similar in some respects, compared to societies in Africa or New Guinea, say. Having lots of daughters in Africa or New Guinea isn’t really a problem: you might be worried about not having sons around to protect the family, and carry on the patrilineage, but marrying off daughters is hardly a problem. In polygynous settings, women are in short supply, and daughters are often welcome as a source of bridewealth. By contrast. in Eurasia, where polygyny is not very frequent, finding a “single man in possession of a good fortune” for a daughter (let alone five daughters) is a real problem. (The alternatives – having them marry a man with no prospects, or become a rich man’s mistress or a prostitute, are pretty unsatisfactory). Some Eurasian societies – classical Greece and Rome, India, and China – dealt with the problem ruthlessly by killing baby girls. But this is (officially) not allowed for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

On the other hand, the big difference between P&P and FotR (apart from social class) is that marriage in the latter case was arranged. Arguably this is one area where Christianity made a difference (ref below). The guys who adapted Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye stories as a musical and movie were Americans, and probably shaded things somewhat in a pro-marriage-choice direction, compared to the original. They even make Mr. Tradition unbend just a little at the end about his third daughter’s intermarriage (in the movie at least; I haven’t seen the stage musical). In the original stories, she’s socially dead, never seen again.

One note about love marriages versus arranged: societies with love marriages have a greater frequency and importance of dances (ref below). This shows up in both cases: Austen’s young ladies are constantly looking forward to the next ball, which is a major arena for mate choice. And Tevye (at least in the movie) shows a shocking progressive streak by actually dancing with his wife. The lines of guys dancing with guys, women with women, that you see in the earlier part of the movie, before Tevye mixes it up, is what you generally get in societies with arranged marriages. Something for all you h-bd-ers to think about as you try and figure out which folk-dancing class to take.

References:

Unilineal Descent Organization and Deep Christianization: A Cross-Cultural Comparison Andrey V. Korotayev Cross-Cultural Research, Vol. 37, No. 1, 133-157 (2003)

Courtship Patterns Associated with Freedom of Choice of Spouse
Paul C. Rosenblatt and Paul C. Cozby Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Nov., 1972), pp. 689-695

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

35 comments:

Mr. Anon said...

But is there a "Zombie on the Roof"?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pride_and_Prejudice_and_Zombies

Anonymous said...

The claim that in ancient Greece and Rome anyone killed off young girls, much less routinely, is absolutely ludicrous. Your anthropologist friend is sadly misinformed; or if I am in the one in error, let him bring forth the evidence to support his claim. It's hogwash!

Paul Ciotti said...

"Something for all you h-bd-ers to think about. . "

What is an h-bd-er?

rast said...

Don't forget the shoggoth on the roof, Mr Anon.

Anonymous said...

Schopenhauer thought that arranged marriages were better because romantic love is just an illusion that will wear off. An Indian I know had a arranged marriage. He told me he wanted to get married on a certain date because it was the date of his parent's marriage. He said he didn't care who the girl was. Talk about different cultures. A lot of people would benefit from arranged marriges.

Anonymous said...

Are we allowed to point out that, in FotR, the middle daughter marries into a socio-political conspiracy which succeeds in slaughtering 75 million people, just in the Tsar's possessions alone [before the very same people exported their madness to China]?

Or would Komment Kontrol give us the 200 Years treatment for pointing out that unpleasant little factoid?

stari_momak said...

They even make Mr. Tradition unbend just a little at the end about his third daughter’s intermarriage (in the movie at least; I haven’t seen the stage musical). In the original stories, she’s socially dead, never seen again.

That of course is the number 1 anthropologically relevant thing in the movie (i've not read the stories or seen the musical). The secular Jew is, if not fine, accepted eventually. The Russian not.

Another relevant scene is the L'Chaim dance sequence. Just for the sheer difference in the way the two peoples dance. For the Jews is it pretty much the standard middle/near east shuffle around (typically in a circle). The Russians on the other hand show both individual physical prowess (definitely not stressed in the Jewish dancing) and, behind that, coordinated team work. I'll hand it to whoever wrote the music (assuming he is Jewish), he wrote one of the best Russian-sounding dances out there. Also, note how everything -- cloth, hair and facial hair styles, is different from the one group to the other.

Both of course differ from the Caile' or Square Dancing' or 'Contradance' of the Europeans of the North Atlantic Seaboard -- that shows our genius for integrated, coordinated, complex formations of people. Its why a 'British Square' was very rarely broken.
(BTW, Its also true that a Jewish team wrote a favorite "Nazi" song, popular among neo-nazi's today -- in "The Future Belongs to Me")

MSG said...

Deformed or otherwise unwanted children in the Roman Empire were exposed -- abandoned to die. See, e,g.:

http://www.stoa.org/diotima/anthology/wlgr/wlgr-privatelife249.shtml

But it seems that exposed infants were often taken in by slave traders and sold as slaves. So I suppose a percentage of abandoned daughters ended up as prostitutes.

rob said...

"If I were a zombie Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum"

Second anon, chances are you're wrong. in "The Rise of Christianity" Rodney Stark claims that lower rates of female infanticide in Christian communities gave them a significant reproductive advantage over the pagans. He comes to the lower infanticide conclusion by basically counting skulls in sewers and waste heaps.
In modern pagan societies like China and India they kill baby girls. People chalk it up to 1-child in China,which exacerbates it, and India doesn't have a population control policy like that.

More male than female babies are born, but males die at a higher rate. In a culture where girls marry at 12-17 and men at 25-35, there can be excess men numerically, much less in eligible man shortage that women think always exists. Female infanticide helps fix the ratio.

Africans don't do female infanticide. African men don't do much work, and a woman can always hoe a garden in loose polygamy. It's something I sort of giggle about when feminists contrast India/China and Africa. As long as the men are worthless, women will always be prized.

Interestingly, Black Africans even those living in the west have a lower sex ratio (less skewed towards boys at birth) than whites. Wouldn't surprise me if sex ratio followed Rushton's Rule. That's impressive, because it is fairly hard to select for an unbalanced ratio.

fdfderet said...

Speaking of Fiddler on the Roof, I highly recommend BREAD GIVERS as an entry into understanding Jewish history and culture.

http://www.allreaders.com/topics/info_31047.asp

georgesdelatour said...

FOTR is the most explicitly racist American film after Birth Of A Nation. The father accepts his daughters marrying anyone for love, as long as they're Jewish. When the final daughter marries a non-Jew he cuts her off completely, and the audience is expected to see his segregationist attitude as right and good. It's quite a contrast with "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner".

Anonymous said...

Stari_Momak, of course Fiddler on the Roof does showcase Jewish men displaying a heck of a lot of individual physical prowess backed by coordinated teamwork on the dance floor. Check out the bottle dance at Tzietel's wedding. As for the Nazi song, I think you're thinking of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" from Cabaret, written by Kander and Ebb, who were Jewish. It's pretty hilarious if neo-Nazis really do use that song, not that anyone needed more proof that neo-Nazis aren't the brightest bulbs.

I can't believe I'd never noticed how well Pride & Prejudice maps on to Fiddler on the Roof. Pretty cool.

Anonymous said...

More male than female babies are born, but males die at a higher rate.


This used to be the case. Thanks to modern medical care, males now outnumber females in all age brackets up to 55. The western world actually has a female shortage. (From a male perspective, of course.)

Anonymous said...

"Are we allowed to point out that, in FotR, the middle daughter marries into a socio-political conspiracy which succeeds in slaughtering 75 million people, just in the Tsar's possessions alone "

No, because that's completely a-historical. Perchik was not a Bolshevik and the 1905 revolution was not the Bolshevik revolution. For all you know Perchik wised up, opened up a business in 1907, and was a prosperous merchant in Kiev in 1918 when the Bolsheviks threw him in jail and raped his wife.

Lucinda said...

Brilliant! I'm a huge Jane Austen fan, and I never thought of the parallels with Fiddler on the Roof. I take issue, though, with your "Christians, Jews and Muslims" aggregation, though. Muslims ARE polygynous, and this is the cause of many of their social problems. One MAJOR difference between Judeo-Christian culture and Muslim culture is the following: In both the world of Regency England and that of the Jewish shtetl, a wayward daughter might be considered "dead" socially (pious Jews might actually go through a mourning ritual for her), but she would not actually be physically killed. Not so with the Muslim world. When a Muslim girl says, "my parents would KILL me if I did that", she is speaking the literal truth.

Seamus said...

Schopenhauer thought that arranged marriages were better because romantic love is just an illusion that will wear off. An Indian I know had a arranged marriage. He told me he wanted to get married on a certain date because it was the date of his parent's marriage. He said he didn't care who the girl was. Talk about different cultures. A lot of people would benefit from arranged marriges.

Yeah, but as Apu (in "The Simpsons") said in response to his mother's efforts to arrange a marriage for him, "But mother, one out of every 28 arranged marriages ends in divorce."

Marc B said...

"Are we allowed to point out that, in FotR, the middle daughter marries into a socio-political conspiracy which succeeds in slaughtering 75 million people"

That's the first thing I thought of when I sat through this musical last Spring, but I chose to soft-pedal this uncomfortable detail so as not to detract from girlfriend's immense enjoyment of the production.

The playwright's son acknowledges this and has moved away from the Radical leftism espoused by his father and the Trade Unionist Ashkenazim of the Bronx and Brooklyn of the early to mid 20th century.

But this aside, just like my own, has nothing to do with the discussion, but should still be pointed out.

Fred said...

"That's the first thing I thought of when I sat through this musical last Spring, but I chose to soft-pedal this uncomfortable detail so as not to detract from girlfriend's immense enjoyment of the production."

Have you watched "Birth of a Nation" with your girlfriend? I think it's funny that you list "divisiveness" as one of your interests on your blogger profile.

Whiskey said...

I suppose it is a different matter to try and maintain a tiny, small, and persecuted tribe, by controlling out-marriage, versus a hugely dominant group facing no mortal demographic threat.

It was fairly credible in 1900 that Jews could cease to exist in Russia, within a few generations. Indeed, they ultimately DID cease to exist, as a practical matter! However even the best efforts of both Stalin and Hitler did not make Russians disappear. [Though you could make a case that Stalin's mishandling of the invasion led to many if not most of the 20 million deaths and the demographic crisis now afflicting Russia.]

Western individualism is an acid that eats away at smaller, vulnerable groups via out-marriage, or indeed on groups that depend above all else on rigid arranged marriages.

You don't see honor killings among Korean, or Japanese, or Jewish groups in the US. The former two know their homeland's peoples remain, and the latter seem to have simply given up maintaining group identity (in the US at least). Muslim honor killings if this theory is correct is the response to identity annihilation, as is the well known Yazidi killings in Iraq.

Arranged marriages also suck for most women, and benefit most men. Muslim or Yazidi or Orthodox women if completely free to choose mates might well decide to maximize their own earning/career power in the West and pursue Alphas ala Western women. Why not? And in short order these communities die off like the Shakers.

ggbbnnjjoll said...

FOTR is the most explicitly racist American film after Birth Of A Nation. The father accepts his daughters marrying anyone for love, as long as they're Jewish. When the final daughter marries a non-Jew he cuts her off completely, and the audience is expected to see his segregationist attitude as right and good. It's quite a contrast with "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner".

Father wanting his daughter to marry her own kind = the violence of the KKK?

Gimme a break!

Trust me, BOTN is not only about white fathers wanting their daughters to marry white men. It isn't merely about cultural tribalism.
It says blacks are essentially wild, childish, and sexually deranged savages who must live under white rule.
True or not, it's more than simple tribalism involving social customs.

Btw, BOTN is one of a greatest films ever made. FOTR is only okay.

fdfderef said...

But is there a "Zombie on the Roof"?

Yes, the final scene of Dawn of the Dead(original).

Anonymous said...

I suppose it is a different matter to try and maintain a tiny, small, and persecuted tribe, by controlling out-marriage, versus a hugely dominant group facing no mortal demographic threat.

Yeah, like those hugely dominant groups who had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO FEAR from those small, tiny, persecuted little peoples.

Peter A said...

Indeed, they ultimately DID cease to exist, as a practical matter!

Umm, Whiskey, you might to take a look at who controls a lot of Russia's wealth today. I'll give you a hint - Abramovich is not a Christian name, nor is Fridman.

Drawbacks said...

In case anyone's wondering, he wasn't really born Sholem Aleichem ("Salaam Aleikem" as the Arabs would have it), but Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich.

stari_momak said...

Stari_Momak, of course Fiddler on the Roof does showcase Jewish men displaying a heck of a lot of individual physical prowess backed by coordinated teamwork on the dance floor.

Sorry, not in the same league as the Russians -- good at balancing the bottles, yes, but none of the quick footwork or joyous leaps and spins of the Russians.

I can't believe I'd never noticed how well Pride & Prejudice maps on to Fiddler on the Roof. Pretty cool.

Uh, shouldn't that be reversed?

Christopher said...

Let's get back to the dancing. Does your anthropologist friend have anything to say about leading and body contact? In Ceili and square dancing and all that, the steps are pretty much set, pardon the pun. This means, in my experience, that a knowledgeable capable female can, in fact, lead/guide. So I'm thinking dancing ranges from segregated by gender, to mixed gender but very formalized steps with limited touching, to today's really informal somewhat free form to... Hey, it just occurred to me now that the free form stuff started with non-touching, but now features touching, which, by the way, can be fairly, uh, 'playful.'

And then, of course, there's tango --male lead required + significant touching.

stari_momak said...

And then there is the wonderful world of Jamaican 'daggering' .

Anonymous said...

(I've not read the original stories, because I couldn't manage to locate a copy, so I'm just speaking of the play/movie.) Teyve is presented not as ultimately in the right, but as someone who has to adapt. The three husbands in succession all challenge the expectations of the parents. The first isn't as well-to-do as Golde would have hoped. In addition, since he proposes to Tzeitel after she is already engaged to another man, it causes some consternation. The second, Perchik, pushes the envelope far more. There are lots of scenes that emphasize this, but one of the more subtle things was the fact that he was the only one not wearing a formal outfit at the wedding, instead wearing a ordinary jacket and cap.

The third man, the Russian, is the greatest departure. At one point he chides the girl for being prejudiced - and I suspect there are no parallel scene in Birth of a Nation.

The statement that When the final daughter marries a non-Jew he cuts her off completely

is rather oversimplified. Try watching the final scene.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

No, because that's completely a-historical. Perchik was not a Bolshevik and the 1905 revolution was not the Bolshevik revolution."

It was a socialist revolution.

Anonymous said...

Peter A,

most of Russia's wealth now is controlled by Putin and other high ranking FSB officials, who tend to be Russian or other gentile. They are generally not thought to be doing a great job of it, although admittedly the previous generation of oligarchs (Jews and otherwise) did not do that either.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

"What is an h-bd-er?"

Someone who is interested in human biodiversity.

David said...

> It's quite a contrast with "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner". <

"A Jew is a man who wants his daughter to marry a Jew, and your daughter to marry a black."

- the "scabrously incorrect" Alex Linder about 10 years ago

cioa italia said...

The claim that in ancient Greece and Rome anyone killed off young girls, much less routinely, is absolutely ludicrous."

It was pretty routine. There is a letter from a soldier serving in egypt to his wife at home, asking about her health and various other endearments. He then instructs her to expose the child, should it be a girl.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide
In early Rome, it was common to "expose" girl infants (or feeble males) after the second daughter. This is actually pretty well known. I think a lot of apologists for paganism resent the idea that Christianity actually did something for human rights. While infanticide continued, especially among the poor, there is no doubt that it was stigmatized and criminalized in a way it hadn't been before, and that it declined. The same happened among the Arabs after Islam. Once the kid was out and breathing, it had its rights. BTW, that was the law among the Jews too. Jewish law, like Islam, was always indifferent towards abortion for all intents and purposes; but once the child breathed independently, it had the right to life.

Anonymous said...

David,
You do realize that the fact that one or even a few Jewish pundits have expressed that sentiment does not make it a universal belief among Jews, right? There is no supreme arbiter of opinion for all Jews. You Jew-haters have this nasty habit of cherry-picking the worst statements of a few Jews to attempt to smear all Jews.

David said...

But I can't think of a counterexample, even among my acquaintances. Maybe Larry Auster?

Very aggressive, very outspoken support for "diversity" (as opposed to merely passive or routine support) is, in my personal experience, overwhelmingly common among Jewish people.

Again, I literally cannot think of a counterexample. This is as frightening to me as it may be to you.