Sunday, March 23, 2014
A Note On Book 1 Of Middlemarch
Principally for my own later referring back, I'm going to record, as they strike me, a few thoughts on Middlemarch.
A friend asked me whether I thought Dorothea Brookes's impulse to self sacrifice is "misguided or has she chosen the wrong object?"
I answered as follows, now being three quarters of the way through Book 1:
....From what I so far understand from the novel your distinction seems without a difference: her impulse seems misguided and due to that she has chosen the wrong object, if by object you mean her husband and service to him. Her impulses are misguided due to defects, imbalances, in her nature and character.
She seems to me to be foolishly and irritatingly self suppressing in being so fanatically self sacrificing. She is shown to be "ardently submissive." Her 18 year old piety has her repressing her sexuality at every juncture, even feeling conscience bound to forgo riding horses, which she has sensually enjoyed.
She is absurdly "theoretic." She is too "abstract," so abstract she can not see what is in plain sight before her. Her sister, less intellectual and more conventional, at least so far, is more sensible, common sensical and clear seeing. So, in one sense, are all those, everone really, who think her choice of a husband is nuts, against nature and bad for her.
Her annoying self sacrificing piety is actually, it seems to me, an argument in favour of the strength of the common sense of conventionality as evident in her uncle, in Chettam, in her sister and in Mrs, Cadwallader, even while Dorothea appears to be set apart from most by her apparent spirited vivacity, radiance, intelligence and moral seriousness, and even as Eliot makes the limits of conventionality, bound by the constraints of "provincial life," apparent.
So, thematically, Eliot seems nothing so far if not dialectical, everything having divergent qualities in tension with each other, qualifying each other, and complicating apparent meaning.
If the virtues of mercy and self sacrifice are what Eliot means primarily to extol, that has not yet presented itself to me...