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I do like Eliot's description of the way Bulstrode rationalized his own behaviour. We still have evanglicals who behave this way. At least he does try to make it up to Will. Look what he gets for his pains, tho!
Reminds one that liberation was good for men as well as women. Ugh!
I read Gone with the Wind pretty much right after finishing Middlemarch (HP7 in between), and I have to say Scarlett seems far worse to me (her work ethic notwithstanding). Scarlett's misdeeds had a negative (or potentially negative) effect on so many people, whereas Rosy confines herself to one victim.
Life is like that, tho, sadly. This is one of the things that make this such a great novel. It concerns itself with everyday human failings, and doesn't stoop to the contrived happy ending. People really do have to pay for their youthful follies, poor communication and stupid mistakes.
No excuse for her vindictiveness.
As for Scarlett, good point, but she still did quite a bit of good, including delivering the brat of her lover's wife and saving her life. I can't see Rosy stooping that low to help a rival.
The best thing about George/Mary Ann's writing is that she was so willing to come to the defense of each and everyone of her characters. I felt sorry for Bulstrode, even though he was a bit of a turd, and I even felt some sympathy for Rosy. One of the reasons she was so self-centered was because she was raised to be that way. My only complaint is that Dorothea is possibly a bit too wonderful to believe. I guess there are people like that. I just don't know any... ;o)
I waited until I was done with the book to go back and read the introduction, and I'm glad I did. It was chock full of spoilers. There was quite a bit I'd forgotten since watching the miniseries 15 or so years ago.
What's so great about Middlemarch, as opposed to other Victorian novels I could name (like, say, all of them) is that it's not sappy or sentimental or maudlin or melodramatic. It's very grounded in real characters dealing with real world problems. And like RL, sometimes they get the message and sometimes they don't. No contrived happy ending.
What do you think about the notion that Laidislaw isn't "good enough" for Dorothea? Personally, I don't think she is settling; Will is passionate and ethical (and hot). After putting up with Casaubon, she'd probably jump at the chance to marry someone who could satisfy her, physically as well as emotionally.
And how sad is it that during her marriage to Casaubon, she doesn't even know what she's missing? How much sex education did Victorian women get? Any, at all? Probably none if you were raised by an uncle.
Anyway, I agree with you, littlegeek, about the overall real-life sensibility of the book. It was refreshing, although it did make for a much more difficult read. It was also, as far as I can tell, extremely unusual for a female author of the time to tackle such weighty social issues.
I think the problem with the match between Will and Dorothea was the difference in class, complicated by his opting for a career that (as far as I recall) was even below his class. Marriage was such a different institution back then. Love and physical compatability rarely entered into it. Causabon was wealthy and of her class, and therefore not a bad match (although even her friends were concerned that she'd be unhappy with him).
I agree with you, clamairy, that Rosy's defects were mostly the fault of her upbringing. (Kind of like a lot of kids today!) And to give her credit, she did go to Dorothea and clear Will.
I was going to ask if people were really that snobby back in that era, but I'm sure they were. It was also probably a lot easier to "class your man" just by dress and manner back in those days. As far as class distinctions go, I'm sad to say that some things haven't changed as much as we would like to believe.
Must go to work, but I'll talk more about it later.
*goes to check out cabegley's link*
That reminds me. Several of Jane Austen's books had to do with widows and their daughters being threatened with or actually being evicted from their homes because of the lack of male heirs. What is that law again? Ah yes, primogeniture. Upon death ALL property foes to "the eldest son, or in default of same, the senior living male relative." Sheesh...
Isn't Middlemarch set closer to Jane Austen's time than it is to Eliot's time?
clamairy, I highly recommend the Tomalin biography. (My guess is I could say that about any biography she's written. The few I've read of hers so far have sent me to list all of her books on my bookmooch wishlist.)
I seem to recall Dorothea traveling alone at some point in the novel--anyone remember that? It would have been unusual at the time. Then again, Dorothea was unusually independent.
I suspect that Eliot put a lot of herself into Dorothea. Eliot was a very independent woman, and I think she didn't put a lot of stock into what other people thought of or said about her. (Note to self: find biography of Mary Ann Evans.)
I find Eliot to be a difficult writer. I find her much more slow-going than, say, Dickens, who published in the years immediately preceding her. (Our Mutual Friend, Dickens' last complete novel, was published in 1865, to Middlemarch's 1871-72.) I think that similar issues informed their work, but in Dickens kept them more in the background, whereas for Eliot they are the crux of her writing. I don't think Eliot was as interested in entertaining people as in grappling with weighty matters. Is reading Eliot therefore more rewarding? Do we get more out of her? (I don't necessarily think there's an answer, or at least one right answer.) I have to say, for myself, I'm more likely to pick up a Dickens novel for pleasure than an Eliot. And yet, I thought this was a great book, and I'm so glad I read it. (And will be reading it again in about 10 year's time--my RL book club has it on our list of 100 essential books that we're working our way through.)
I found the concept of work and class to be fascinating. I've read other pieces from the same time period, but none that made the complications of life (for men and women) so clear. Mrs. Garth being looked down upon for having to work really sparked a lot of conversations with friends for example.
Dorethea offered "a living" to Mr. Farebrother who came to live with her. Is that because she could not live on her own inherited property without a male resident? Or did she need a male guardian? Or were her rights more honorary and she had to find a suitable man to actually own the property?
I am thinking of Lydgate's troubles with debt, the Garth's struggles, Bulstrode's exile from Middlemarch due to greed, Featherstone and his family waiting for him to die and then getting nothing for their trouble, Fred Vincy's gambling, Rosamond marrying Lydgate partially for perceived wealth, even Causabon for using his property as a way to control Dorethea from beyond the grave.
The only two irreproachable characters seem to be (Dorethea and Will), the two who were not tempted by money or property.
So? How'd your wedding go? :o)
And ditto clamairy's question--how was the wedding? and the happily ever after?
The wedding went great. It was outside and did not rain, so that was a relief!
We took a short honeymoon (due to work constraints) to NYC. It's one of our favorite cities, and since we knew the place it was great not to have to figure out where things were. We're planning a longer honeymoon to Tahiti. But that's a bit down the road. Thanks for asking. :)