Money Lessons From 5 Favorite Classic Novels

We often can’t see our own mistakes through our rose-colored lenses. Instead, we can see errors more easily made by others when we are less emotional. The same happens when we find colorful characters in fiction who make blunders we know they should avoid. Reading books provide us with teachable moments.

Five Classics Illustrate Money Lessons: – Decadence Of Money – Social status – Reversal of fortune – Accounting fraud and corporate greed – Virtues of work – Financial independence

These factors play a role in impacting the lives of the characters below. Often, we have experienced some of these very same financial issues but it often crystalizes for us at a distance when we read these classics.

1. THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED BY F. SCOTT FITZGERALD “I shall go on shining as a brilliantly meaningless figure in a meaningless world.” “Wine gave a sort of gallantry to their own failure.”

2. THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET BY DAVID MITCHELL “For white men to live is to own, or to try to own more, or to die trying to own more. Their appetites are astonishing! They own wardrobes, slaves, carriages, warehouses, and ships. They own ports, cities, plantations, valleys, mountains, chains of islands. They own the world, its jungles, its skies, and its seas. Yet they complain that Dejima is a prison. They complain they are not free.”

3. WUTHERING HEIGHTS BY EMILY BRONTE “It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff.” Wuthering Heights is one sad story with a cast of characters hard to tolerate. This Victorian novel is rich with morality, love of money and social status, inheritance, and gender income inequality.

4. JANE EYRE BY CHARLOTTE BRONTE “I am no bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.” “Some of the best people that have ever lived have been as destitute as I am; and if you are a Christian, you ought not to consider poverty a crime.”

5. THE SCARLET LETTER BY NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE “She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.” Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic The Scarlet Letter addresses public shaming, social isolation, conformity, earning money, and feminine resilience. Although it was written in 1850 and based in 1640s Puritan Boston, it remains relevant today.

Indeed, The Beautiful and Damned, based on F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald,  is an excellent example of how not to handle money. At some point, after they were married, Gloria and Anthony decided that they wanted to have the best lives possible while they were in their 20s.

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