Bibliophiliac is the space where one passionate, voracious reader reflects on books and the reading life. You will find reviews, analysis, links, and reflections on poetry and prose both in and out of the mainstream.

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

Friday, July 15, 2016

Middlemarch #Eliotalong Week Two

Middlemarch #EliotAlong
hosted by Bex at An Armchair by the Sea
Chapters 15-28

Last week one of those Facebook Memories popped up for me, and I had to laugh. It was from 2012, and guess what book I was reading? Then, this morning, it happened again! It seems that in July 2009 I was posting about Middlemarch on Facebook. I wonder what page I was on?

No matter how many times I read Middlemarch, I am newly enthralled with every reading.

This time around I am writing more in the margins, especially since I am now way ahead of the read along schedule. I honestly can't stop reading.

Chapter 15 properly introduces the overarching metaphor of the web. In constructing Middlemarch as a panoramic narrative, Eliot pays attention to numerous intersecting lives and fortunes, introducing multiple characters, each with their own subplot. But there are parallels; questions of love and marriage, and finding the perfect mate; questions of work and vocation, finding the work that will fulfill the worker and contribute something to the larger world. Here is the narrator speaking directly to the reader about her purpose: 
I at least have so much to do in unravelling certain human lots, and seeing how they were woven and interwoven, that all the light I can command must be concentrated on this particular web, and not dispersed over that tempting range of relevancies called the universe.
But of course, the reader will have noticed, Middlemarch is compelling in part because it is universal, Eliot seems to be able to see directly into the human heart, and she does so with compassion and humor.

So: poor Tertius Lydgate! He has come to Middlemarch to do important work and to escape the distractions of London and London society! Ha! He has walked directly into the web of the most adorable spider in Middlemarch. Rosamund Vincy has one purpose: to capture husband who is somewhat above her circle of admirers in Middlemarch, and in walks Tertius Lydgate, nephew to a Baronet! He is exactly what Rosamund thinks she wants. And Lydgate sees in Rosamund a rest from the cares of the world, a adorable and adoring beauty who will soothe him at the end of a long day.

Did anyone else think that Lydgate and Dorothea would have been remarkably well-suited?

I know, I know: you're all team Will!

Dorothea is paying dearly for her bad decision in accepting Mr. Casaubon's marriage proposal. He's ghastly! She's married to a mummy and living in a mausoleum.

Casaubon is beastly. He is devastatingly selfish, and doesn't know it. He is punishing, harsh, vindictive, and has no soul. It is so painful to contemplate Dorothea's future life as his partner. At times I get frustrated with Dorothea's self-abnegating, sacrificial approach to life with Casaubon. She is beginning to understand who and what Casaubon is, but she's still willing to sacrifice her every pleasure and every joy to his "work". But she's beginning to resent him for it: how can she not?

I hope other readers are getting as much pleasure out of Middlemarch as I am. I'm eager to hear what you're thinking!


Terra said...

Your review is prompting me to put Middlemarch on my must read list. I love the kind of plot lines in the book that you describe here.

bibliophiliac said...

@Terra-Yes! You've got to read this book--it's so good!

Pan Alchemist said...

Actually! I did think Lydgate and Dorothea would have made a good match! At least from Dorothea's side. I don't know if he would have liked to have to fill her appetite on knowledge after a day's work. But she would have loved it. And I think she would have been very proud of him and his profession of choice. I don't even want to go into Rosamond. I will spoil someone, somewhere, somehow. But let me say that she irritated me more than Casaubon by the end - or near the end.

And talking about Casaubon. I agree whole heartedly with you. (As I have before.) I must admit I also ended up feeling frustrated with Dorothea for constantly putting his wants ahead of hers. But I suppose it was the times. It isn't as though she could leave him. I suppose she was just making the most out of a bad situation. At least, later, regarding his work (I know you have read this), she doesn't.

Pan Alchemist said...

[PS: I just read your introduction. I laughed out loud for real. "I used to paint and draw and write all the time; these days I am a high school English teacher." It sounds like me, to a tee! (No wonder we agree on so many points.) I also 'used to'. Now I prep lessons, set exams and mark. Oh, and read. ]

bibliophiliac said...

@Pan Alchemist-Oh yes, the job that ate my life!

I'm almost finished with the book. Only about 30 pages left, but I'm holding back because I don't really want this book to end.

Rereading those chapters where Rosamond is revealed for the shallow and self-centered little miss that she is.....poor Lydgate! Eliot demonstrates over and over how punishing it is to be married to the wrong person.

I love this book.