Saturday, 7 December 2013

Some thoughts on Volumes I & II of George Eliot's Middlemarch.

I at least have so much to do in unravelling certain human lots, and seeing how they were woven and interwoven, that all the light I can command must be concentrated on this particular web, and not dispersed over that tempting range of relevancies called the universe.
- George Eliot, Middlemarch.

One of my 25 re-reads is Middlemarch, which I'm reading along with Beth and some others. I've just finished volumes I and II, and I'm writing this to share my thoughts with others who are reading along, as well as those who have read it. It contains spoilers for the first two volumes, so if you've not yet read it you might want to skip this post and wait for the spoiler-free review at the end of the month!

So far, so good. I'm enjoying Middlemarch much more the second time around, my heart, and, indeed, mind are very much into it.

What to make of Dorothea... I do feel for her. I do have sympathy with her. But she is a little frustrating. I liked that she admired Casaubon partly because of his resemblance to John Locke, but the real issue is down to education, Dorothea's thirst for knowledge that could only be satisfied, she believed, by marrying an intellectual such as the astonishingly unsuitable Mr. Casaubon. It's not that he's vile, he's not a wicked man, just so cold and flat. I wasn't surprised that she cried after his letter of proposal, and I certainly wasn't surprised when she cried during her honeymoon. One of the most miserable paragraphs in literature:
Miss Brooke, however, was not again seen by either of these gentlemen under her maiden name. Not long after that dinner-party she had become Mrs. Casaubon, and was on her way to Rome.
I can only imagine the wedding was as romantic and as joyous as that last sentence. If only she could have had a good education afforded to the gentlemen of the novel. Mr. Casaubon, "the ghost of an ancient", is dull, and so is Dorothea when she is with him, something that is shown very clearly by contrast in her conversations with Will Ladislaw, Casaubon's cousin. Of course, Mr. Casaubon does not approve.

Meanwhile, more characters are introduced, though so far I can't quite take to them. I feel my attention waning when they appear - I'm far more interested in Dorothea, and her sister Celia, whose frankness at times is amusing (I'm thinking especially of an early exchange, where Celia complains that he is ugly and slurps his soup). Fred Vincy's potential development is very interesting, though.

And, finally, I'm enjoying the odd flashes of Eliot's humour - I laughed out loud at, 
The objectionable puppy, whose nose and eyes were equally black and expressive, was this got rid of, since Miss Brooke decided that it had better not have been born.
Other quotes I liked: the quote at the top of this post, and
We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, “Oh, nothing!
So, these are my brief thoughts. Nothing terribly inspiring, I know, but I am enjoying this a second time around, and I'm grateful to Beth for organising this. I hope to have something a little more worthy to say when it comes to my final review!


  1. I really enjoy reading your thoughtful posts, O!

    While Dorothea's thirst for knowledge was admirable, she let it become almost a god and, combined with her lack of flexibility, it really worked against her happiness. She was able to acquire knowledge from books and people around her, but I think she struggled to find someone who could/would converse with her on the intellectual level that she desired. Casaubon was the first man she'd met who was impressed with her intelligence and did not expect her to act like the typical Georgian female …….. at least at first ……

    I loved Celia. She was comfortable with who she was and, I thought, had much more depth and perception than what she showed on the surface.

    1. Celia's very interesting, I'm looking forward to learning more about her.

      And that's a perfect description of Dorothea, thank you for putting it in much better words!

  2. Dorothea is definitely a tragic character to me at this point--so much passion that has no real outlet, so much wasted potential. I'm still trying to understand how the other characters fit in and to get a feel for the overall context of the story. I can't help but be rooting for Fred (and Mary) and hoping he can get it together.

    Thanks so much for reading along with me! If it's okay, I plan to include links to yours and the other check-in posts in my own post which should go up a little later.

    1. Yes, I like Fred, too. But, as I say, I'm not so into the other characters, but I shall be patient!

      And yes, it's fine to include my post in your links :) I shall look forward to reading other people's thoughts.


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