Middlemarch: An explosion of tradition or why and how we marry


Middlemarch is perfect. I loved it! Why can't I write a review? Well, for one thing, every time I look back, I replay the whole wonderful experience. I think back to St Theresa in the prelude. I giggle about Dorothea, a wannabe martyr, being pegged by her younger, sage, sister. as Dodo, because she, Dodo, "enjoys giving up." I love the Garth's and Vincy's middle class families which connect and disconnect as families usually do. Rosamond is the ultimate "material girl" with a good temper, but very indulged. The rectors, Casabon and Bulstode are as despicable as Mr. Farebrother is giving,fair and Christian. The doctors, including arrogant and dedicated Lydegate, are of course, concerned with treatment, kickback from pharmaceuticals, and reputation. Will Ladislaw is a devoted hunk who is both artistic and artful, but is of questionable birth and lacks direction. He is a foil to Fred Vincy who is decidedly middle class, but barely graduates from clerical college, has no calling and literally can not write as well as a 9 year old.

Their community, Middlemarch, circa 1820, is very similar to the ours. There are the good, the bad, and the rich. Some of the rich, the Brooks orphans and their uncle, are quite wonderful . They are quirky and generous. In contrast, Casaubon is ridiculous, jealous and vengeful, while Bulstrode believes that wanting to be good is the same as being good. But I digress . This community includes the gentry, a middle class which is always struggling, but getting by, and an invisible lower class, which depends on the largesse of others .

Every time I think about this integrated group of characters and interweaving of plots of deceit and control, I stop and think of the perfect prose. I highlighted over 50 times. Eliot out Austened Austen with her witty, sometimes snide views of marriage, family and religion. You would think that a woman who had a married lover, was estranged from her own family and only married a few years before her own death to a man 20 years her junior, would not care that much about tradition or the institution of marriage. She did. She called marriage "a noose," but also a way to give direction to floundering Fred. In fact, marriage was mentioned in every chapter . I can't possibly select a few examples of Eliot's sparkling words, but believe me, Eliot's strong narrative voice and her characters' honest dialogue is remarkably modern and 19th century at the same time. It is clear, descriptive and poetry. I can't just revisit this novel, this town, without wanting to stay. I want Dorothea to befriend me and tell me the truth because she is a heroine who always speaks her mind. Middlemarch is far away and long ago, and home.