Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#9: Middlemarch (George Eliot)

on June 21, 2016

It took me nearly 2 months, but I finally did it. I finished reading Middlemarch this week. It is an epic novel that is immensely grand in scope. However, I often found myself getting lost in Eliot’s florid prose.

Middlemarch has a complex plot with lots of subplots that make up this massive novel. The story centers around Dorothea, a young girl who is not “beautiful” in the traditional sense, and her quest for love. Despite her outward appearance, Dorothea has a beautiful, compassionate soul. Her kindness is only outshone by her superior intellect. It appears that she has met her perfect partner in Casaubon, an older scholar who is wealthy and can provide a lovely life for Dorothea. After their marriage, the young bride encounters Ladislaw while on honeymoon in Italy. Ladislaw is an artist that is passionate and opinionated about life. (It probably doesn’t hurt that he is also described as extremely handsome!) Dorothea and Ladislaw are both aware of the sparks between them, but neither will admit them or act upon them since the young woman is newly married.

The old scholar becomes fatally ill, making Dorothea a wealthy young widow. Just as the reader becomes hopeful that she will finally be able to act on her true love, Casaubon’s evil spirit is clearly seen. In a final attempt to control his wife and break her spirit, Casaubon wrote a proviso of his will, forbidding Dorothea from marrying Ladislaw. The widow’s situation seems hopeless; she may either live a secure life, enjoying the financial status of her marriage, or follow her love and spend her days with few material possessions.

Middlemarch is an important novel due to the fact that it addresses many important topics of the day. Eliot explores the changing roles of women while redefining the true meaning of beauty in a society that was focused on what could be seen with the natural eye. The juxtaposition of love, material possessions and social status as sources of absolute happiness in the novel allows the reader to examine their personal views on the subject while observing the outcome in the lives of the characters of Middlemarch.

I completely understand the status of the novel that is considered Eliot’s masterpiece. I expect that I will return to this charming English village again in the future (although using a different edition…I will share more about that in an upcoming post on Livin’ Life). For now, I’m looking forward to returning to the modern world and reading a little contemporary literature for a change.

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