Monday, April 7, 2014

A Note On Chapter 29, Book 3 Of Middlemarch

Chapter 29 of Middlemarch is another really high point in the psychological dissection of Casaubon as a shrivelled up, insecure, highly self conscious egoist, his self consciousness of his abiding failures feeding his shrinking-of-self insecurity and in the dissection of his marriage to Dorothea and in the contrasting presentation of her increasingly expansive sympathetic nature.

In that it's a complement to the magnificent Chapter 20.

It seems to me Eliot comes most novelistically alive so far in depicting Casaubon in his marriage to Dorothea.

The narrator's phrasing about him soars in its aphoristic brilliance, such as for example;

...his soul was sensitive without being enthusiastic: it was too languid to thrill out of self consciousness into passionate delight; it went on fluttering in the swampy ground where it was hatched, thinking of its wings and never flying...

This is narrative telling, not showing, though there's showing aplenty too, and the telling, not showing, works brilliantly well, making a cliche out of the admonition to writers "Show don't tell."

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