Monday, January 23, 2012

Middlemarch Ch. 1-5 by George Eliot

What struck me first about Middlemarch was how different of a story it was from Herland. Although a work of fiction, Herland read more like a cultural study, a lesson or exchange of ideas about two cultures. Middlemarch, although it has discussion of Puritan philosophy, lends itself more towards (what I would call) modern fiction. In Herland, the “action” of the story was interrupted by the discussions of culture – journals entry style writing. Middlemarch has a more progressive plot line focusing more on the relationships of the people and how they affect the main character – storytelling style writing. The difference in gender of the main characters/narrators could attribute to the difference in style, although there is no clear gender of the narrator of Middlemarch.

A similarity between the two lives in the strong-willed nature of the female characters. The women in Herland and Dorothea share characteristics of strong, independent women who have the ability to think on a higher level than expected. This demonstrates to me the common attitude towards women of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From the fact that George Eliot wrote around the middle of the of the nineteenth century and that Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote in the early twentieth century, I deduce that not much change over that period of time concerning the idea of the education of women.


  1. What do you think of the inward focus of the narrator? Eliot uses "free indirect" style to give us Dorothea's perspective on the world. Can you comment on Dorothea's naive view of Casaubon as it is conveyed through the narrator's voice? See esp. p. 25 and 33.

    1. I am reminded of Van's discussion of "expectations of marriage" from Herland and how he was saying that a woman usually has an idea of what marriage will be like and then finding out the reality of it. Dorothea has great expectations of her marriage to Casaubon, but the narrator's voice lends me to believe that it is not going to be as great as Dorothea imagines. There are several times when we are reading the inner thoughts of Dorothea, and the narrator makes a comment of how she did not know "then" that she was wrong. It gives a certain foreshadowing of doom, or at least unhappiness.

  2. The class actually laughed today when Casaubon and Dorothea were in Rome (in the film) and he said something about gender relations, and she turned and walked away from him. Sex is a problem in an idealistic Puritan-ish woman's world!--Kathryn PR