All those morals comments and those directions to the reader would have seemed to me to interfere and hinder the advancement of the action, or obstructed my own independent view. Not in the least. Sitting up and taking notice , as Van Gogh had written. The utterances came in different tones and flavours.
Sometimes warning or guiding the reader: The faults will not, I hope, be a reason for the withdrawal of your interest in him. Or providing us with a little moral aedification: We are most of us brought up in the notion that the highest motive for not doing a wrong is something irrespective of the beings who would suffer the wrong. We belated historians must not linger after his example. Which means that the Narrator is aware of the rivalry between a painter and a writer. Which of those two arts is more persuasive?
They perturb and dull conceptions instead of raising them. Language is a finer medium Language gives a fuller image, which is all the better for being vague.. The true seeing is within; and painting stares at you with an insistent imperfection And it was this awareness that kept me so excited during my read. For me this voice has a name: Mary Ann Evans. And I have heard her inside my head, as Sagan says. View all 49 comments. The novel is set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during —32, and it comprises several distinct though intersecting stories and a large cast of characters.
Significant themes include the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism, self-interest, religion, hypocrisy, political reform, and edu Significant themes include the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism, self-interest, religion, hypocrisy, political reform, and education. View 2 comments. Reading Middlemarch was an acquired taste. This was a slow and deliberate read, at first from mild skepticism to more curiosity.
What most interested me was the breadth of human experience in this novel. Eliot is a savvy and learned writer. She refrains from falling back on the worst of Dickensian caricatures, but instead attempts to sketch out what people are, and how they interact with and shape each other. The worst characters have some sympathetic face to them, the best have their own gashes Reading Middlemarch was an acquired taste.
The worst characters have some sympathetic face to them, the best have their own gashes and flaws. They all stand out simply because they are so familiar. We know and recognize idealistic feelings or failings within ourselves, the impulse to try and 'save' another person, deflections or demurs. Our omniscient narrator truly is one. It is not just a literary definition, but the snarky wit and ceaseless descriptions are deeply impressing. It is like being a child again and taught by the most intimidating and brilliant professor you ever knew.
They touch on Fate - but not Fate as the ancient Greeks do, but fate as the influences of our society and our neighbors and family. They talk about Religion and the Pilgrim's Progress, but how religion can blind as well as heal. There's also a staggering amount of historical context in here. This is a very big novel which wants to talk about everything, and in many ways it succeeds. A lot's been said about Middlemarch. I suspect a lot of it is true.
I do know is that this is a place which deserves another visit, and I will return here again. View all 10 comments. Widely regarded as the quintessential Victorian novel, Middlemarch is a superb study of life among the upper and upper middle classes of a fictional rural community in s England. It takes pages to draw its conclusions, but they're pages of some of the richest realist writing nineteenth-century literature has to offer, full of insights into society, human nature, what to do in life when one can't quite make one's dreams come true, and how to make a marriage work.
I've seen it describe Widely regarded as the quintessential Victorian novel, Middlemarch is a superb study of life among the upper and upper middle classes of a fictional rural community in s England. I've seen it described as a book everyone should read before getting married, and I agree -- all the lessons you need to learn about human relationships are in here, and much more besides.
To a large extent, the success of Middlemarch is due to its characterisation. A character-driven novel if ever I saw one, Middlemarch features some of the most memorable characters Eliot ever came up with: an earnest young lady who wishes to make a difference; her husband, a petty and jealous scholar; a hot-tempered doctor who is a little ahead of his time; his wife, a living embodiment of the fact that pretty girls don't always make the best spouses; a pious banker who is not the good Christian he has always professed to be; his nephew, who desperately wishes to win the heart of the girl he loves despite his mounting gambling debts; a talented outsider who doesn't quite know how to make the most of his gifts -- they're all here, and they're described in admirable detail.
Like a scientist, Eliot puts her characters under a microscope, describing their every flaw and weakness, but always in a sympathetic way; even her worst characters have redeeming features, which makes it very easy to take an interest in their vicissitudes. Like an anthropologist, she then puts her characters into a socio-cultural context, showing the whole through the parts and the parts through the whole.
The historical background political changes, the industrial revolution, new medical theories is magnificently drawn, and the stories there are many here are as fine as they come, featuring love triangles, thwarted prospects, intrigue, political aspirations, blackmail, gossip, characters meddling in other people's lives from beyond the grave, and a clash between old values and modern science and technology. Granted, the book takes a while to hit its stride, but once it does, it's unputdownable. As for shortcomings, one could say that Eliot is occasionally a tad too intellectual for her own good.
Frightfully well-read herself, she sometimes has her characters refer to things which seem a bit outside their scope. Likewise, she occasionally loses herself in technical and political details which slightly detract from the main stories, and takes so much time setting the scene for the great developments which are to follow later that the first half of the book is a tad dull.
The second half is brilliant, though -- up there with the great French and Russian realist classics of the period, and then some. Middlemarch is one of those books which yield new gems every time one reads them, and I cherish it for that. View all 8 comments. Once in a while a book comes along that I can't quite rate. Not because it's brilliant, or terrible, but because it has too many elements within it that make me feel different things-often polar opposites.
This is one such book. When I first started reading it I was in a mental slump, which meant I was also in a reading slump. It is lengthy-at nigh on pages-which contributed to the fact that I didn't much want to read it. And, I must say, it is too long. There are some books that need to be that long but they are few and far between: this was written in a double-Dickensian manner. That made it pretty tough going. The characters were not of any interest to me singularly.
I felt no sympathy for any of them, nor any empathy, and I didn't much care what happened to them as individuals. That's quite rare in books, but in this case it mattered less than it should have because collectively as Middlemarchers they were sublime creatures. Their intricacies and the way they were threaded together-relying on one another for everything-was spectacularly written. I felt the warm-heartedness and cold-aloofness of the community within my very being. Middlemarch itself as a place is so very intriguing.
It was lacking certain elements of world-building in the guise of description, but if you can imagine the English countryside with rolling hills and brick farms and many a cow then you're half-way there. Middlemarch still exists almost today and I almost live there, which adds to the romance of the whole thing. The location of this book is one of the best things about it and, I suppose, the slow nature of the book reflects the slow nature of countryside life. The era is blameless, too. Regency England right through to the end of the First World War is the golden period of English when it comes to book eras.
It is a magical period to look back on and the books actually written in those times are almost faultless when considering their era and setting alone. I had a hard time reading through this book but there were still so many little things to be enjoyed. It is quite the behemoth and was recently voted as the number one best British book by non-British critics and it can be daunting and perhaps a little tedious, but the way it draws you in a slows down time, lulling you in to a requiem of almost infinite repose is quite something.
View all 3 comments. Shelves: , historical-fiction , completist-book-club , classic. This was a big one! At times a slog, but not too bad in the end. I am very thankful for online summaries Shmoop and Wikipedia as they helped me gather and clarify my thoughts every few chapters or so. While this book is large, I am guessing the fact that it is broken up into several smaller "books" means that at the time it was released it was delivered to the public in easier to swallow chunks.
I did not look this up to confirm, but it would make sense. Instead of being pages total, it wo This was a big one! Instead of being pages total, it would have been eight or nine to page episodes. Speaking of episodes, I think this book would make a good BBC mini-series and I think perhaps it already has. As a lot of the subject matter deals with medical care politics, I was reminded of the hospital storylines in Downton Abbey.
And, while reading was a bit of a chore, I don't think a mini-series would be. Storywise, despite the book being long, the story itself is not very Epic. There are a few key plots focusing on about 4 or 5 characters, but when you reflect on it in the end, not a whole lot actually happens.
In fact, the Wikipedia summary is only a few paragraphs. With that in mind, this is a good book for people who love the writing style of the time period because you get more of that than actual plot. If you like the classics and don't mind a formidable tome, Middlemarch is right up your alley! View all 4 comments. During the last couple of months I've met the entire cast of characters George Eliot created for her novels. They are a varied bunch but the one thing they have in common is that they are very memorable. I just have to close my eyes to picture each of them, or better still, hear them speak, because the tenor of the voice Eliot gives each character goes a long way towards lodging them firmly in the mind - which makes it very odd that the character I find the most memorable is the one who speaks t During the last couple of months I've met the entire cast of characters George Eliot created for her novels.
I just have to close my eyes to picture each of them, or better still, hear them speak, because the tenor of the voice Eliot gives each character goes a long way towards lodging them firmly in the mind - which makes it very odd that the character I find the most memorable is the one who speaks the least. But he does manage to express himself well in spite of his lack of volubility, and it is Eliot's description of these non-verbal communications that makes him live in the mind long after the story in which he finds himself has ended.
Caleb Garth is not one of the main characters in Middlemarch but he is nevertheless a central character, linking the other characters together. By making him a surveyor, a builder and a farm manager, Eliot can move him easily from one part of Middlemarch to another which allows him to play a pivotal role in all the principal plot threads. His quiet wisdom is like a backdrop to the entire narrative. His wisdom reveals itself in the way he thinks carefully before speaking, and in his reluctance to repeat gossip or comment on other people's behaviour in a community in which gossip is everyday currency.
He is an unusual character but not an unlikely one, I think. Indeed, I had the distinct impression that Eliot must have known someone like Caleb, that she had observed that person closely and perfectly understood his heart and mind. The impression is strengthened by the minuteness of her descriptions: the way he raises his spectacles to listen, or pushes his chair back to consider what he's just heard, or fits his fingertips together with much nicety.
The way he moves his hat about the table, sticks his fingers between the buttons of his waistcoat, or stares meditatively at the ground to avoid an awkward question. And she pays special attention to his hands: He looked at the ground, leaning forward and letting his long fingers droop between his legs, while each finger moved in succession, as if it were sharing some thought which filled his large quiet brow. Because Caleb has many thoughts, and even if the thing he most fears is having to speechify , when he does work himself up to deliver his thoughts, his eyes sparkle and his words come effortlessly.
At such a moment he might pause to take a pinch of snuff but he will be so intent on delivering his thought that the snuff will remain between his fingers as if it were a part of his exposition. He was fond of a pinch when it occurred to him, but he usually forgot that this indulgence was at his command. How can the reader not love such a character. And if all that wasn't enough, consider this paragraph: Caleb was very fond of music, and when he could afford it went to hear an oratorio that came within his reach, returning from it with a profound reverence for this mighty structure of tones, which made him sit meditatively, looking on the floor and throwing much unutterable language into his outstretched hands.
I rest my case.
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View all 26 comments. I have not taken a bribe yet. But there is a pale shade of bribery which is sometimes called prosperity. The afterword to my edition compared one of its many cruxes, this one dealing with the slow grave robbing of sin, to the machinations of Macbeth. I will raise those stakes from plot device to the narratology of equivocation: Shakespeare, previously under investigation for suspected connection to the Gunpowder Plot, currently in the thrall of absolutist witch hunter King James, is made to wri I have not taken a bribe yet.
I will raise those stakes from plot device to the narratology of equivocation: Shakespeare, previously under investigation for suspected connection to the Gunpowder Plot, currently in the thrall of absolutist witch hunter King James, is made to write a play. Antigone is not Dorothea as Shakespeare is not Mary Ann Evans, but the ideal that spreads through science and reform and literature still bumps up against colonialism and antisemitism and orientalism with nary a flickering of the critical gaze.
Blink and you'll miss this amongst the much, much, much else of the quotidian world there is to see, but when such a humanitarian intellect has its tropes, therein lies equivocation. Our sense of duty must often wait for some work which shall take the place of dilettantism and make us feel that the quality of our action is not a matter of indifference. I start with the lackluster to demonstrate how one may take in all without losing one's shit over the people whose differing personal stakes means taking this book at the usual level of academic would mean a sacrifice in their realm of the physiological.
This work is great because of the effort, because of the reach, because "the sign of the times" wasn't used as an excuse to stick to the safety of domestic over here, politics over there, skimming the surface of the banal and forgoing pulling up the roots for generating the Other.
CONTINUE TO BILLING/PAYMENT
If you want to assure me all's well and good in the land of canonical English literature, bring me the likes of this and Lear and Canterbury, where the existence of said Others does not preclude a lack of bashing one's skull into the rock in order to get at its maser, meaner, more equivocating instincts. Doctors do the devil's work, riots couldn't possibly fulfill an ethical purpose, the matters of politics must always be off limits cause no one died by keeping mum. You can't talk gender and class and heretical leanings in any way other than the prescriptivist in the halls of classical literature, let alone discomfort without offering an answer.
It would be weak. It would be vulgar. It would be too close a demonstration of the author's own sleepless nights spent wrestling over the questions of the realities of women, the violence of poverty, and the part God plays in all of it. Obligation may be stretched till it is no better than a brand of slavery stamped on us when we were too young to know its meaning.
Does Evans succeed? Does Eliot succeed? The world succeeds in calling her the latter, until I remind myself that my "world" is a tiny fraction of the population that has only been on top for an even tinier fraction of oblivion-exploded time. Then it, as it always will be until we've cracked the mathematical code of brain waves, fear chemicals, and the fabric of those apocalypses we like to pretend we've tamed into natural disasters, is natural selection.
Write long enough of a tale that interweaves as many of those systems of order we fragile humans tuck ourselves to bed under as does Middlemarch , and you'll get a inkling what we've lost by splitting it into facts, then fields, then categories, then major requirements, then job description, then experience, then a way of putting food on the table.
We may not yet be able to calculate the random to the point that purity or supremacy or hierarchy on the human level is intrinsically understood and may be taught from grade school to be the surest way to annihilation, we may still pay those to demonstrate understanding without an ability to transmute the most "difficult" concept to the grasp of a ten-year-old, but connection. But voice. I am not one of the ones who believe that a death of the old guard will guarantee the eradication of bigotry and all its cries of "rationality" try reclaiming the mad and the crazed and the insane in the halls of the Millennials and see how far you get , but one who knows what it's like to live in a state where the smallest comment in the smallest corner of the Internet justifies the world entire.
As Dorothea said, you would have to feel with me, else you would never know. Most of us who turn to any subject with love remember some morning or evening hour when we got on a high stool to reach down an untried volume, or sat with parted lips listening to a new talker, or for very lack of books began to listen to the voices within as the first traceable beginning of our love.
Quality is running close to a thousand pages and finding it too short. Boil all the difficulties down into the components of society, then humanity, then the mind, and you get a single word of surprising power: perspective. It was an idea that I had never seriously considered in its fullest capacity, and it is a coincidental fortune that I had been reading Middlemarch at the time, a book that exemplifies this curious construct that belongs to all and as a result holds a mighty sway over the complexities of daily life.
There are many books that choose an event of deep and bone-quaking significance and extrapolate, playing out through the combination of imagination and reasoning a story of coping with such and such disaster, crises of faith, function, and physical form. The severely destabilized environment offers a fireswept soil for fertile thoughts, which coupled with the reader's attempt to grapple with whatever disaster is in the pages makes for a powerful method of delivering lessons to a receptive mind, should they find them agreeable. However, the issue lies in the fact that whatever diabolical happenstance the author chooses, it is something that is not frequently encountered by the majority of audience, and the learning is less likely to stick if the occasion never arises.
This is where books like this one, trenchant in the daily life and seeming mundanities with a concern no less piercingly compassionate than those who find success in concerning themselves with the more vicious calamities, become incalculably valuable. The grand experiment of life. You are as a result, as am I, and countless others. Many are collected in this book concerned with the English provincial life of the 's, a time long gone in a country that I for one have never lived in.
What all these human beings hold in common with I and you, dear reader, are the rules by which they live, and the selves by which they are alive.
Middlemarch by George Eliot
What they may not have in common, or at least they do not with me, is the sensitive web of information that runs through their community, and the ways by which the inhabitants treat this information, their perspective of things. More often than not, if the title of Middlemarch been replaced with that of Vanity Fair , the implications would be no farther off from the story told. Men, women, and the disparate channels by which it is "proper" for them to run. Noblemen, farmers, and the methods by which those of different classes see fit to formulate their interactions. Priests, scientists, and the surprising paths faith will make itself known along the lines of knowledge both blessed and dissected.
Youth, age, and the impossible question of determining who knows "best", and for whom. Intelligence, integrity, and the definitions of such valued institutions that choke on pride as quickly as they culture it. The character of hope, the calumnies of coincidence, and all the stories spawned out of a breath that breed as fast as flies and leech opportunities for triumph into broken faith and resignation no less despicable or undeserved than the severest injustice. Your sense of self, your lot in life, two dice that fall in an infinity of possibilities where success cannot define itself by the standards of society alone, no matter how much it may beg and plead.
Then went the jury out, whose names were Mr. Blindman, Mr. No-good, Mr. Malice, Mr. Love-lust, Mr. Live-loose, Mr. Heady, Mr. High-mind, Mr. Enmity, Mr. Liar, Mr. Cruelty, Mr. Hate-light, Mr. Implacable, who every one gave in his private verdict against him among themselves, and afterwards unanimously concluded to bring him in guilty before the judge.
There is a power in judgment in light of the fair and the true, as great a power as reserving said judgment in light of the lack of the fair and the true, despite the judge's inexperience with said lack of the fair and the true. There is a power in the viewing of the great events with careful consideration, as great a power in the viewing of the small highs and the small lows with as careful, perhaps even moreso due to the increased resonance one's own life may have with said small highs and lows. There is a power in resignation to the woes of tragic realities, and an equal power in acceptance of the small coincidences whose resulting happiness does not lower the possibility of their happenstance in the slightest.
There is a power in saying that the author of this book is Mary Ann Evans Cross, and an equal power in saying that it is George Eliot, although this particular writer prefers the former for reasons fully reconciled with their being. As there is as great a power in saying, read this, and wipe all thoughts of soap operas and petty tales of petty concerns from your assumptions and standards of judgment.
There is a voice here that occupies itself with empathy as much as it does with truth, with hope as much as despair, with faith in humanity as much as deep insight into the human condition. And she will not be denied. View all 42 comments. Reading again I find that either Middlemarch has been comprehensively revised and in places re-written or that it has changed in a quite curious way in my imagination in the twenty or so years since I first read it. Now having closed the covers on the last words again, I think I could start it over and read it again, even more slowly looking for the balances and closed character circles that seem typical and at variance with the narrative as a whole view spoiler [ but I will not because the library wants it back hide spoiler ].
Written about the time of the parliamentary reform act of the os the novel looks back on the period of the parliamentary reform Act, while characters can be since as travelling round circles either finishing opposite to where they started, others travel completely around the circle and end back where they started, the world of Middlemarch is itself a closed and viscous circle - inward looking and constrained - it is rocked softly by the air of reform - agricultural prices are depressed by the end of the Corn Laws, Catholic emancipation is still ruffling feathers, the prospect of parliamentary reform threatens excitement and change, even while the railway cuts closer and closer through the landscape and we expect that the town and surviving countryside will be changed utterly just as soon as we close the book and let the characters get on with their lives within their paper world.
Perhaps as is suggested during the novel what is needed is change to the constitution, continuing as they have done for so long is the worst of all ideas, but this is a novel about people, not the big P politics of the Whigs and Tories. As a story, it is really not much at all, very conventional - three couples two of which are emotional triads for part of the story who we see as single persons and then their married lives through various troubles and trials, Eliot steps up the social ladder from her earlier novels she is dealing - true to the title with middle class people in middle England view spoiler [ and it is unmistakably an English novel and not a British one hide spoiler ] , there are some voices of poorer people but we are mostly concerned with people who deal with paper money and cheques.
Despite all this it is a compelling, compulsive read.
I don't remember how precisely the novel struck me the first time I read it, perhaps I was simply awestruck and pigeon holed it as a significant novel while it grew in my imagination. It feels now less like a book that I have read, more like an experience I have lived through. As you might expect in a story focusing on middle class characters money and marriage, money and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. And the apparent or actual absence of money either makes relations impossible or brings them to breaking point, love in this novel does not conquer anything at best it can help people wait.
George Elliot as a young woman withdrew from the Church of England and from formal religious practise, writing as she did in the great age of British church building she is always oblique about her own lack of faith, as demonstrated here in the three clergymen that we see fairly closely - they are all three decent men, one a companionable phlegmatic fellow and enthusiastic fisherman, another for years supplemented his meagre income by winning money in card games, while the third is completely lost in musing over world mythology.
They are typical of the town of Middlemarch, insular and unconvincing as spiritual leaders view spoiler [ the novel as a teacher of post Christian ethics see for instance the influence of Spinoza chapter 80 in particular hide spoiler ]. Spiritual heroism in the story is represented above all by Dorothea view spoiler [ nomen est omen hide spoiler ] Brook , for a while by the idealistic Doctor Lydgate, and to an extent by Will Laidslaw view spoiler [ Will is partly Jewish and partly Polish by descent rendering him doubly foreign and a literal outsider, which puts me in mind of Shirley in which story again it is the foreigner from mainland Europe who is shaking up the islanders with their narrow insular ways hide spoiler ].
The last two are outsiders who come to Middlemarch, they have broader perspectives than the Middlemarchers. Looking at Middlemarch, we might say that if the a relationship is not based on actual compatibility then it must be by default transactional or rely on a dynamic of dominance and submission, the cost of Lydgate's marriage is his soul, it is Dorothea who is to be the St. Teresa of Avila of this story, the time and the place limit her scope, her spiritual energy can only flow in certain limited ways - but the last words of the novel are a paean to the Dorotheas of the world making life better for all of us through their lives.
If she is the heart of the novel, the rest of it shows why her impact is going to be limited view spoiler [ the choice of a Catholic counter-Reformation saint as Eliot's spiritual role model is typical of her pushing towards non-conformity even in the little details hide spoiler ].
I wonder if in the story of Dorothea's marriage to cramped and withered clergyman Casaubon, Eliot is showing us the opposite of what she did in Silas Marner , there the isolated miser is transformed through his love, here, perhaps Casaubon is too soured or dried up, or too isolated from his feelings by his mis education and social status, but instead he remains within himself a frightened little child. View all 31 comments. From this book, I learned that I'm not fit to hold a pencil. Aug 02, Bradley rated it it was amazing Shelves: shelf , traditional-fiction , romance. I shelved this as a romance on a whim, but if I'm being perfectly honest, this is just a work of brilliant realism.
And for all that, she brings it out pretty swimmingly in what appears, at first glance, to be a heavily moral tale surrounding a very moral Dorothy w I shelved this as a romance on a whim, but if I'm being perfectly honest, this is just a work of brilliant realism. And for all that, she brings it out pretty swimmingly in what appears, at first glance, to be a heavily moral tale surrounding a very moral Dorothy who turns out to be an idealist of the first degree.
Not idiotic in it, but always looking out for ways to make it work in a world that is quite as flawed as we all know it. You can guess how it might go. Decide everything on high ideals, let others walk all over you and grin and bear it because of your high ideals, get roped into truly atrocious circumstances where your lifestyle and your happiness is curtailed because you refuse to bend your high ideals That's a tragedy and pretty uplifting at the same time, assuming you, as a reader, can bear to sit through it.
It did. But this isn't the whole story. It's just Dorothy's story and she remains a good person throughout it all. The rest of the tale is a whole village of characters, some of whom take front row seat during the tale, hopping from marriages to politics to deathbed wills to rumormongering, firesales on reputation, finance, and absurdity. This novel is pretty fantastic.
It's just like our modern epic realist modern novels, dealing with almost every single important issue of the day while always remaining very grounded and it never becomes a spectacle. The thing is It never comes close to Collins, either. It just feels comfortable with a very deft hand at personal philosophy and making the very best out of your life despite everything.
Do not assume this has anything much to do with religiosity, for all that. She has plenty to say against the church, social conventions, and the idiocy of everyone, but it's not a satire. It's earnest, thoughtful, and really gorgeous. Maybe a few minutes ago I wouldn't have said so, but as I wrote this review, being thoughtful about what I read, I suppose I am. View all 20 comments. After months of pain, I put my finger on one of the reasons why.
It was published in before the literary realism of Flaubert's Madame Bovary gained a foothold in the lit world. For example, something that especially drives me to the brink is Eliot's constant long-winded commentary on the Made it Past Page , But Cannot Read Even One More Page of Telling Compared to Showing Reading this now seems akin to being impelled to eat an overcooked steak with a plastic fork and butter knife.
For example, something that especially drives me to the brink is Eliot's constant long-winded commentary on the dialogue and acts, e.
I know this novel is much beloved, and I understand why. It just seems to me that I've gone over pages and nothing much has happened, that there is no true narrative drive. Picking the book up has become as enjoyable as going for dental work or filling out my tax return. I am NOT saying this novel is poorly written or conceived. It's simply that I cannot read nearly 1, pages of this style of writing. Oct 10, Phil Williams rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: The jackanapes and mongrels who need to learn that people aren't so bad as they seem.
When I finished reading this book, I wrote in the front of it that 'This is the most rewarding book you will ever read' and left it on a bookshelf in Fiji, dreaming that someone would go through the effort of reading the whole thing based only on my comment. I doubt anyone's picked it up since then; Fiji is a strange and frightening place. I spake the truth, though. It strikes me that most of those who've read Middlemarch these days are hapless souls who resent it as the mammoth task some crooked When I finished reading this book, I wrote in the front of it that 'This is the most rewarding book you will ever read' and left it on a bookshelf in Fiji, dreaming that someone would go through the effort of reading the whole thing based only on my comment.
It strikes me that most of those who've read Middlemarch these days are hapless souls who resent it as the mammoth task some crooked professor set them at university. I read it for myself, unwittingly, and was pleasantly surprised. George Eliot conjures a massive spectrum of characters, and gets into the head of every major player in the novel.
We are shown what motivates the most despicable figures as well as those we are drawn to, and as a result there is no one in this book who you cannot relate to in some way or another, or at the very least understand. In my opinion that is what makes it such a grand read: George Eliot understood people. She shows you that everyone thinks in their own way, and it makes it hard to judge anyone when you can observe this. Though it is that lasting impression of how we might perceive one another that really makes Middlemarch stand out, the story itself is continually interesting for its sheer breadth.
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George Eliot set out to give a panoramic view of a provincial town, and she achieves this incredibly. It is a long read, but every step in the story builds up to the picture of the whole. Sometimes I found myself confused as to how I'd ended up in a situation where I was reading what should essentially have amounted to little more a 19th Century soap opera, but what confused me was that I was enjoying it so much.
I was desperate to know what would become of these marriages and debts and everything inbetween. This is such a detailed character study that you become genuinely interested in their lives, no matter how mundane the details might appear if you stepped back and really thought about it. Middlemarch is not a book for everyone, I imagine. The insight George Eliot shows might bore rather interest many.
But it interests me like hell, so a pox on the naysayers. I conquered the biggest tome for this year. And I loved it. View all 5 comments. This is the book that I would answer if I were hypothetically asked what book could have single-handedly become the reason that my relationship would ever fall apart. More so than Infinite Jest or Proust, other examples of books that have consumed or are consuming my life in one way or another.
I didn't realize I had a reading problem until I realized that my boyfriend was unpacking around me; literally unpacking boxes right from under my feet - while I sat there and turned the pages. Or when I This is the book that I would answer if I were hypothetically asked what book could have single-handedly become the reason that my relationship would ever fall apart. Or when I realized the house was suddenly quiet because he had taken the dogs out for a walk. He could have lit his face on fire and I'm not entirely sure I would have even noticed.
Even while I was helping with the moving, or at work doing work-y types of things - I was usually thinking about Middlemarch. So, people in my daily life? The glazed look on my face, all of the, "I'm sorry, what did you say"'s? It was because of this book. And there's not even a good reason for that. Infinite Jest is the kind of book that it seems okay to let the rest of your life fall apart around you as you read it.
It seems appropriate to become one of those people while reading Infinite Jest. It lends itself to that sort of behavior. But George Eliot? I would have said before I read it. Are you kidding me? Get a life, woman! But, dude. I totally became that person. Admitting there is a problem is the first step to seeking help. So I'm here. Seeking help. Just like Infinite Jest it's a book that could be re-read numerous times and you'd probably get something different out of it each time. That Eliot was a whip-smart woman, and I bemoan the fact that I just don't know enough about history at times to keep up with a brain like hers.
The notes in the end were exceptionally helpful, though annoying at times when they pointed out chronological mistakes - like the characters couldn't possibly have known about a certain popular book yet because in the real world it hadn't been published yet during the time in which the story was to take place.
I don't need to know those sorts of things, but thanks anyway. If you don't like details about every little thing, you won't like this book. There's so much detail it makes the whaling chapters in Moby Dick sound almost appealing. Never mind, I just got over it. I can't imagine writing a book like this, just like I couldn't imagine David Foster Wallace writing a book like Infinite Jest.
The amount of time, and energy - holy cats, the psychic energy that must have gone into putting down so much information that covered such a wide variety of topics - it makes me need a nap just to process it. Middlemarch - the 19th-century answer to Infinite Jest?
You know how most women are all ga-ga over Colin Firth and none of them can really explain why? I'm that way about Rufus Sewell. He's the dreamboat in the red coat. Just in case anyone thought I was all drooly-cup over the old guy. Middlemarch may look like pages of repressed English people who won't do exciting things, but in fact, it's a thrill ride if the ride were called "Class Consciousness and How it Will Kill Your Love Life and Your Business". This book has more action than all three Pirates movies.
George Eliot was not messing around. May 09, Roy Lotz rated it it was amazing Shelves: highly-recommended-favorites , novels-novellas-short-stories , anglophilia. Some gentlemen have made an amazing figure in literature by general discontent with the universe as a trap of dullness into which their great souls have fallen by mistake; but the sense of a stupendous self and an insignificant world may have its consolations.
I did not think a book like this was possible. A work of fiction with a thesis statement, a narrator who analyzes more often than describes, a morality play and an existential drama, and all this in the context of a realistic, historical Some gentlemen have made an amazing figure in literature by general discontent with the universe as a trap of dullness into which their great souls have fallen by mistake; but the sense of a stupendous self and an insignificant world may have its consolations.
A work of fiction with a thesis statement, a narrator who analyzes more often than describes, a morality play and an existential drama, and all this in the context of a realistic, historical novel—such a combination seems unwieldy and pretentious, to say the least. Yet Middlemarch never struck me as over-reaching or overly ambitious. Eliot not only manages to make this piece of universal art seem plausible, but her mastery is so perfect that the result is as natural and inevitable as a lullaby. Eliot begins her story with a question: What would happen if a woman with the spiritual ardor of St.
Theresa were born in 19th century rural England? This woman is Dorothea; and this book, although it includes dozens of characters, is her story. But Dorothea, and the rest of the people who populate her Middlemarch, is not only a character; she is a test-subject in a massive thought experiment, an examination intended to answer several questions: To what extent is an individual responsible for her success or failure? How exactly does the social environment act upon the individual—in daily words and deeds—to aid or impede her potential?
And how, in turn, does the potent individual act to alter her environment? What does it mean to be a failure, and what does it mean to be successful? And in the absence of a coherent social faith, as Christianity receded, what does it mean to be good? As in any social experiment, we must have an experimental group, in the form of Dorothea, as well as a control group, in the form of Lydgate.
The two are alike in their ambition. He is a country doctor, but he longs to do important medical research, to pioneer new methods of treatment, and to solve the mysteries of sickness, death, and the human frame. She is full of passionate longing, a hunger for something which would give coherence and meaning to her life, an object to which she could dedicate herself body and soul. Lydgate begins with many advantages. For one, his mission is not a vague hope, but a concrete goal, the path to which he can chart and see clearly.
Even more important, he is a man from a respectable family.
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Yes, there is some prejudice against him in Middlemarch, for being an outsider, educated abroad and with strange notions; but this barrier can hardly be compared with the those which faced even the most privileged woman in Middlemarch. For her part, Dorothea is born into a respectable family with adequate means. But her sex closes so many paths to action that the only important decision she can make is whom she will marry.
Faced with two options—the young, handsome, and rich Sir James Chettam, and the dry, old scholar, Mr. Casaubon—she surprises and disappoints nearly everyone by choosing the latter. Moreover, she doesn't even hesitate to make this choice, insisting on a short engagement and a prompt wedding. Dorothea does this because she knows herself and she trusts herself; she is not afraid of being judged, and she does not care about status or wealth.
The first important decision Lydgate makes is who to recommend as chaplain for the new hospital, and this, too, sets the tone for the rest of his story. His choice is between Mr. Tyke, a disagreeable, doctrinaire puritan, and Mr. Farebrother, his friend and an honest, humane, and intelligent man. In other words, he distinctly does not trust himself, and he allows his intuition of right and wrong to be swayed by public opinion and self-interest.
Also note that, unlike Dorothea, Lydgate agonizes over the decision for weeks and only finally commits himself in the final moment. For we cannot know beforehand how our choices will turn out; the future is hidden, and we must dedicate ourselves to both people and projects in ignorance. The determining factor is not whether it turned out well for you, but whether the choice was motivated by brave resolve or cowardly capitulation. Casaubon is soon revealed to be a wearisome, passionless, and selfish academic, her choice was nonetheless right, because she did her best to act authentically, fully in accordance with her moral intuition.
He allowed himself to yield to circumstances; he allowed his self-interest to overrule his moral intuition: and this dooms him. Eliot, I should mention, seems to prefer what philosophers call an intuitionist view of moral action: that is, we must obey our conscience. Dorothea continues to trust herself and to choose boldly, without regard for her worldly well-being or for conventional opinion. Lydgate, meanwhile, keeps buckling under pressure. Dorothea ends up on a lower social level than she started, married to an eccentric man of questionable blood, gossiped about in town and widely seen as a social failure.
But this conventional judgment means nothing; for Dorothea can live in good conscience, while Lydgate cannot. But is success, for Eliot, so entirely dependent on intention, and so entirely divorced from results? Not exactly. For the person who is true to her moral intuition—even if she fails in her plans, even if she falls far short of her potential, and even if she is disgraced in the eyes of society—still exerts a beneficent effect on her surroundings.
Although Rosamond is vain, selfish, and superficial, the presence of Dorothea prompts her to one of the only unselfish acts of her life. From reading this review, you might get the idea that this book is merely a philosophical exercise. The portrait she gives of Middlemarch is so fully realized, without any hint of strain or artifice, that the reader feels that he has bought a cottage there himself.
Normally at this point in a review, I add some criticisms; but I cannot think of a single bad thing to say about this book. She moves effortlessly from scene to scene, from storyline to storyline, showing how the private is interwoven with the public, the social with the psychological, the economical with the amorous—how our vices are implicated in our virtues, how our good intentions are shot through with ulterior motives, how our hopes and fears are mixed up with our routine reality—never simplifying the ambiguities of perspective or collapsing the many layers of meaning—and yet she is always in perfect command of her mountains of material.
A host of minor characters marches through these pages, each one individualized, many of them charming, some hilarious, a few irritating, and all of them vividly real. I could see parts of myself in every one of them, from the petulant Fred Vincey, to the blunt Mary Garth, to the frigid Mr. Casaubon, to the muddle-headed Mr. Brooke—almost Dickensian in his comic exaggeration—to every gossip, loony, miser, dissolute, profilage, and tender-heart—the list cannot be finished.
Perhaps Eliot's most astounding feat is to combine the aesthetic, with the ethical, with the analytic, in such a way that you can no longer view them separately. Dorothea Brooke, thirsting for knowledge and a meaningful occupation, deludes herself that she would gain those things by marrying Casaubon, a cold, obsessive scholar more than twice her age. Casaubon himself is mired in self-delusion about his life-long research, which Dorothea soon finds out to be obsolete. Th " We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time The idealistic Lydgate deludes himself that by marrying the pretty but high-maintenance Rosamond Vincy he would gain both beauty and love, without having to give up the ideals that he lives for.
Rosamond's delusion is that by marrying Lydgate, whose fledgling medical profession she despises, but whose aristocratic connections she covets, she would gain status while being maintained at the high standards that she has gotten used to. Bulstrode, MIddlemarch's banker and pious benefactor, has successfully deluded the whole town of his decidedly unpious past before it came back with a vengeance in the form of a certain Mr. Brooke, who champions the liberal spirit of the Reform Act, is under the delusion that by merely being idealistic, he has changed the world, while neglecting to reform his own estate.
The main interest of the novel consists of seeing how these very human characters cope with the consequences of their delusions. Dorothea soon realizes that Casaubon and his work are not what she thought they were, but she holds up her end of the bargain by being a loyal spouse to him, though her heart sinks when she imagines the loveless and futile years that stretch out before her. Casaubon's sudden death mercifully terminates the disastrous marriage, and Dorothea's integrity, after further trials and tribulations, is ultimately rewarded by her finding love with Will Ladislaw.
Lydgate discovers how his love of a pretty face slowly compromises his ideals and ends up in mediocrity, very far from what he aims for as a young medical reformer. Rosamond selfishly persists in her delusions without any regard for what it costs her husband. She finally gets what she wants, but at what price? Bulstrode's past misdeeds eventually catch up with him and destroy the life that he has so painstakingly constructed in Middlemarch. Brooke's political dilletantism never change the world, but it successfully opens up a path to meaningful occupation for an otherwise aimless young man.
Meanwhile, all of these characters' struggles are contrasted with the Garths' earthy integrity. Garth is an estate manager who does his job capably and honorably, without any pretensions to status or unearned wealth. Fred Vincy and Mary Garth are the only couple that is not under any delusions of each other's characters and goes on to a long and happy union.
Eliot's writing is infused with penetrating insights into human nature without ever losing compassion and understanding for their frailties and errors, a quality that she shares with Tolstoy. She never sentimentalizes her characters, except perhaps for the idealized Garths. They are all believably human, and they drive the narrative instead of the other way around. Eliot also has a great eye for the ludicruous and her wicked sense of humor constantly enlivens what could have been a ponderous account of provincial English life.
One may read Middlemarch for the portrait of a Midlands town on the cusp of industrial revolution in 19th century England, which Eliot admirably delivers, but ultimately it is Eliot's insight into the universal human condition that makes it eternally relevant. Finally, this book is a profoundly wise, if rather melancholic, reflection on the loss of youthful hopes and ambitions, and their replacement by the more realistic and inevitable compromises of maturity. Which, Eliot says, is not a bad thing in itself, as " the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs".
View all 36 comments. My experience in Victorian literature is rather limited, and as the mahogany curtain concealing Middlemarch opens to a tight-knit British town where men and women, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters receive and perceive each other, I was reminded of Pride and Prejudice , which I enjoyed a few years ago. However, with a comparable event to the denouement of the latter novel occurring after a mere 50 pages in this one, it was clear that the heroes and heroines of this book were going to pass thro My experience in Victorian literature is rather limited, and as the mahogany curtain concealing Middlemarch opens to a tight-knit British town where men and women, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters receive and perceive each other, I was reminded of Pride and Prejudice , which I enjoyed a few years ago.
However, with a comparable event to the denouement of the latter novel occurring after a mere 50 pages in this one, it was clear that the heroes and heroines of this book were going to pass through many heavens and hells. Eliot's writing is of the kind that values depth in the inspection of any element, whether it be an event, person, conversation, action, sentence, glance, or slight tremor of the lip. Her characters are incredibly real, and I could see various parts of myself in so many of the characters that you can only appreciate what a keen observer of homo sapiens she was.
At the same time, there is enough humour present that you feel safe that you are not listening to a preacher with a pen, but a relatable voice from a retrograde age, who could conceivably be cheeky enough to conclude a serious story with a common joke. The multi-layered web of human relationships develops, strengthens, lacerates and shines in different gradations of light and shadow with each page and chapter, and towards the end of the reading over three weeks, I was left with a pleasant sense of the book being one of those that highlights and gently prods us to reflect on both our follies; the time we waste, the base thoughts we have, the weaknesses we occasionally run to; as well as the opposite, that of our natural compassion, reticent intelligence and conscious understanding of others' daily toils.
In the same vein, the main impression I had from early on in this novel was the great equaliser at work in this universe, that when one meets fortune, you are apt to expect misfortune; and a misfortune only continues until a fortune comes rolling along. To the inhabitants of the town, who could easily be you or me, all of us who are, on average, walking along the path carved at the midline between our most joyous nights and gloomiest days. Readers also enjoyed. About George Eliot. George Eliot. Mary Ann Evans, known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era.
She was born in at a farmstead in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, where her father was estate manager. Mary Ann, the youngest child and a favorite of her father's, received a good education for a young woman of her day. Influenced by a Mary Ann Evans, known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. Influenced by a favorite governess, she became a religious evangelical as an adolescent.
Her first published work was a religious poem. Unable to believe, she conscientiously gave up religion and stopped attending church. Not only did Eliot dislike the constraints imposed on women's writing, she disliked the stories they were expected to produce. Her disdain for the tropes of conventional romance is apparent in her treatment of marriage between Rosamond and Lydgate. Both and Rosamond and Lydgate think of courtship and romance in terms of ideals taken directly from conventional romance.
Another problem with such fiction is that marriage marks the end of the novel. Eliot goes through great effort to depict the realities of marriage. Moreover, Eliot's many critics found Middlemarch to be too depressing for a woman writer. Eliot refused to bow to the conventions of a happy ending. An ill-advised marriage between two people who are inherently incompatible never becomes completely harmonious. In fact, it becomes a yoke.
Such is the case in the marriages of Lydgate and Dorothea. Dorothea was saved from living with her mistake for her whole life because her elderly husband dies of a heart attack. Lydgate and Rosamond, on the other hand, married young. Two major life choices govern the narrative of Middlemarch.
One is marriage and the other is vocation. Eliot takes both choices very seriously. Short, romantic courtships lead to trouble, because both parties entertain unrealistic ideals of each other. They marry without getting to know one another. Marriages based on compatibility work better. Moreover, marriages in which women have a greater say also work better, such as the marriage between Fred and Mary.
She tells him she will not marry if he becomes a clergyman. Her condition saves Fred from an unhappy entrapment in an occupation he doesn't like. Dorothea and Casaubon struggle continually because Casaubon attempts to make her submit to his control. The same applies in the marriage between Lydgate and Rosamond.
The choice of an occupation by which one earns a living is also an important element in the book. Eliot illustrates the consequences of making the wrong choice. She also details at great length the consequences of confining women to the domestic sphere alone. Dorothea's passionate ambition for social reform is never realized.