Thursday, April 9, 2009

Middlemarch. George Eliot. (1)

1871-1872. New York: Book-of the Month Club, 1992. (1)

Why read it? Marriage thwarts the happiness and ideals of two people. A study of 19th-century provincial society in rural England.

A novel by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), with a double plot. The heroine, Dorothea Brooke, longs to devote herself to some great cause and, for a time, expects to find it in her marriage to the Rev. Mr. Casaubon, an aging and desiccated scholar. After their marriage, within a year and a half, Mr. Casaubon dies. But Dorothea has lived with him long enough to be disillusioned by his scholarly studies on a topic of interest to absolutely no one. Mr. Casaubon leaves her his estate, with the vengeful proviso that she will forfeit it if she marries his young cousin Will Ladislaw of whom he is jealous.

Dorothea tries to live without young Ladislaw of whom she has grown very fond and throws herself into the struggle for medical reforms advocated by the young Dr. Lydgate. Finally, however, she decides to give up her property and marry Ladislaw.

The second plot deals with the efforts and failure of Dr. Lydgate to live up to his early ideals. Handicapped by financial difficulties, brought about by his marriage to the selfish and ambitious Rosamond Vincy, and by the opposition of his medical associates, he finally cultivates a wealthy practice at the expense of his medical standards.

Marriage challenges the efforts of young idealists. Seems to suggest that marriage destroys achievement--or the marriage.

Next blog: Sample quotes.

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