View Poll Results: Middlemarch by George Eliot

Voters
14. You may not vote on this poll
  • *A bookworm's nightmare!

    0 0%
  • **Take a nap instead

    1 7.14%
  • ***Finished but no reason to skip meals

    2 14.29%
  • ****Don't forget to unplug the phone for this one!

    0 0%
  • *****A bookworm's bibliophilic dream!

    11 78.57%
Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 44

Thread: Middlemarch by George Eliot

  1. #1
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    3,620

    Middlemarch by George Eliot

    What are your thoughts on this novel, which has been called the best novel written in the English language? Is such a lofty claim justifiable?

    Here's my thoughts:

    There are some great parts in Middlemarch: mainly those centred around the barren marriage of Dorothea, a virtuous young woman, to Edward Casaubon, a scholar obsessively persuing academic work that had been superceded by current German scholarship and refusing to publish anything. However Middlemarch is not the sum of its parts. Some of the characters are two-dimensional, particularly the love interest, wayward artist Will Ladislaw and the ending, though perhaps "realistic" is disappointing.

    Eliot as a writer makes her intellectualism clear on every page, leading to a lot of dry moments where you have to flick back to the notes to make sense of it. It's as if she's purposely trying to not sound like a female novelist so she decides to be terribly serious, albeit it with some nice moments of wit. As a novelist, she does not show the skill of Dickens or Hardy. Middlemarch is really a character study of Dorothea and a moral lesson in social responsibility. The little intrigue that there is is in the manner of Dickens but without his passion behind it. It feels as if it was added purely to keeps us reading what is quite a long book.

    The novel is quintessentially Victorian, with all the pros and cons of Victorian literature. The pros are the study of the social customs of the middle classes and how these affect the characters' lives. The cons are the clutter, discussing minor characters instead of focusing on the main plot. Therefore this is quite a stuffy read, as opposed to Dickens or Hardy.

    It is a must-read for anyone interested in 19th century literature but as a read for anyone else, I would probably not recommend it unless you have the patience of a saint.



    EDIT: can someone add a poll?
    Last edited by kelby_lake; 10-07-2012 at 06:55 AM. Reason: Can you add a poll for me?

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Posts
    114
    I don't think so. I read it and considered it dull compared to her earlier works such as "Silas Marner" and Mill on the Floss." I don't think I'm alone in that assessment. I have an old literature book from 1900 that said her later works such as "Middlemarch" and Daniel Deronda had "more tedious passages" and"on the whole, duller characters." To each his own, however.

  3. #3
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, The Middle East, UK, The Philippines & Papua New Guinea.
    Posts
    2,612
    Blog Entries
    1
    It was an interesting book, as I had not read any of her work before, but I would baulk at saying the best novel in the English language. She built up the characters in a commendable manner, especially the loveless marriage of the two main characters and some of the other personalities were also depicted well through the dialogue involved.

    It was in a way, almost refreshing to read a story with a considerable element of implicit romance that never strayed once down the path of sexuality. Victoriana at it’s peak?

  4. #4
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    3,620
    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    It was an interesting book, as I had not read any of her work before, but I would baulk at saying the best novel in the English language.
    I agree. I can see why it might have been selected but I don't really agree. Saying that, I can't think of any English language novel that would rival the Russians or the French.

    I'm inclined to agree with Manichaen that it is a major example of Victoriana.
    Last edited by kelby_lake; 09-28-2012 at 05:49 AM.

  5. #5
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    3,620
    I've now finished Middlemarch and it is the epitome of Victoriana. I wouldn't call it the greatest novel written in the English language though, not even one written in the 19th century.

  6. #6
    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    India
    Posts
    1,502
    I don't remember it much, but I do remember thinking it was an excellent novel when I finished, and I voted based on that. It's true that it's rather tedious, though.
    Exit, pursued by a bear.

  7. #7
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    3,620
    Quote Originally Posted by mona amon View Post
    I don't remember it much, but I do remember thinking it was an excellent novel when I finished, and I voted based on that. It's true that it's rather tedious, though.
    It's very cluttered I found and incredibly didactic, yet there's some good stuff in there.

  8. #8
    Registered User wordeater's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    109
    Blog Entries
    1
    I had to read diagonally, found it boring. It lacked humor and suspense. The story never really aroused my interest.

    I think it's acclaimed because it contributed to realism in English literature. It's influenced by French writers like Balzac and Flaubert. It shows the life of ordinary people in an English provincial village. Virginia Woolf called it one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.

  9. #9
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    3,620
    Eliot seems to be more concerned with politics than with fiction. The novel's large cast isn't organised as well as it might be in a Dickens novel.

  10. #10
    Happy kid with a pencil
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Sheffield, England
    Posts
    11
    Middlemarch was the first novel I read as part of my undergraduate degree. I don't remember much about the intricacies, of which there are many, but I do recall describing it as essentially a study in the re-evaluation of ideals.

  11. #11
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    Posts
    1,269
    Quote Originally Posted by kelby_lake View Post
    Eliot seems to be more concerned with politics than with fiction.
    I don't understand this - the references to the Great Reform Act are only background to the panoramic study of an English provincial town and characters


    Quote Originally Posted by kelby_lake View Post
    The novel's large cast isn't organised as well as it might be in a Dickens novel.
    I love Dickens, but I'd never say he was organised. His first great success, Pickwick Papers doesn't even have a plot. His most organised plot, Tale of Two Cities has the least interesting characters. I'd have thought the interlocking stories in Middlemarch (Dorothea, Lydgate, Fred and Mary, Bulstrode) are very satisfactorily interlocked to give a sense of a whole society, with the individuals all presented with sympathy, even Causabon and Bulstrode at some point.

    Viginia Woolf said of it ""the magnificent book that, with all its imperfections, is one of the few English novels written for grown-up people." By which I suspect she meant among other things, it has a mature attitude to sexual relations, although hardly spelt out. All those irritiating, drippy, saintly, sexless angels in the house which male Victorian novelist liked (Dickens' Amy, Thackery's Amelia Sedley, Trollope's Lily Dale) are mercifully absent.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  12. #12
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    3,620
    Quote Originally Posted by ruggerlad View Post
    I don't understand this - the references to the Great Reform Act are only background to the panoramic study of an English provincial town and characters
    I'm not referring to the Reform Act but the novel's didactic nature. At times, Eliot seems to be teaching a lesson rather than writing a novel. Of course, all novels have an element of political opinion but Eliot's opinion sometimes overshadows the novel.

    I love Dickens, but I'd never say he was organised. His first great success, Pickwick Papers doesn't even have a plot. His most organised plot, Tale of Two Cities has the least interesting characters. I'd have thought the interlocking stories in Middlemarch (Dorothea, Lydgate, Fred and Mary, Bulstrode) are very satisfactorily interlocked to give a sense of a whole society, with the individuals all presented with sympathy, even Causabon and Bulstrode at some point.

    Viginia Woolf said of it ""the magnificent book that, with all its imperfections, is one of the few English novels written for grown-up people." By which I suspect she meant among other things, it has a mature attitude to sexual relations, although hardly spelt out. All those irritiating, drippy, saintly, sexless angels in the house which male Victorian novelist liked (Dickens' Amy, Thackery's Amelia Sedley, Trollope's Lily Dale) are mercifully absent.
    As for sexual relations, I had absolutely no sense of that, explicit or implicit. As for Thackerey, Amelia is clearly a contrast to Becky, so you can't accuse him of writing "saints". Dorothea is the most saintly of all Victorian characters (minus a few Dickens ones). I don't think it's a particularly male trait of the Victorians to write sexless women- what about Hardy? His women are some of the most spirited in 19th century literature, and the most believable.
    Last edited by kelby_lake; 11-10-2012 at 02:46 PM.

  13. #13
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    Posts
    1,269
    You may be right. I haven't read Middlemarch for some years, but I can't remember any particular political opinions. Dickens' views on individual political issues were much more obvious. What views did you have in mind?

    I may have misunderstood Woolf's comment about "written for grown-up people" as a reference to sexuality. Explicit sex just isn't mentioned by any Victorian author.

    However I've just read this year David Copperfield and Adam Bede. In both of them there is a working class girl who'd like to be a lady (Little Emily and Hetty Sorrel) who is then easily seduced by a gentleman. Dickens tells us nothing of the process (let alone the sex). We are shown Hetty's progress in detail and subtlety. George Eliot wins hands down there in maturity.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  14. #14
    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    1,607
    Quote Originally Posted by kelby_lake View Post
    However Middlemarch is not the sum of its parts. Some of the characters are two-dimensional, particularly the love interest, wayward artist Will Ladislaw and the ending, though perhaps "realistic" is disappointing.
    Oh dear! I came to Middlemarch from reading most of Ibsen, Henry James and Dostoevsky - all deeply psychological.

    As a study of the psychology of commonplace human interaction, George Eliot is magnificent (and I love The Mill on the Floss, ending and all). In particular I enjoy the ambivalent psychological portraits of Lydgate, Casaubon, Celia Brooke, Sir James Chettam, Rosamond and Fred Vincy, Will Ladislaw, and Mr. Walter Vincy and Mrs. Lucy Vincy. By contrast, Caleb Garth, his wife and daughter present a fascinating panorama of tolerance and magnanimity in dealings with the breathtakingly narcissistic Fred Vincy. The interdependence among the characters is impressive. As for the plot switching around: that's life.

    In recent times I've struggled to find much human depth in Thomas Hardy, and I avoid Dickens.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

  15. #15
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    Posts
    1,269
    That's fine explanation of why Middlemarch is the important novel it is. (I have to say I am appreciating Dickens far more now, but I'll save my comments for a Dickens thread. Basically he's dealing with myths and archetypes.)

    Two comments on the Fred/Mary/Caleb subplot:

    A I think they show up the tacky side of the presentation of "virtuous" characters, particulary beautiful young women, that I find in Dickens and other male Victorian novelists. The Garths aren't too good to be true. And I suspect the tacky aspect of Dickens' portrayal lovely innocent young women is because I suspect a slimy element of sexual titillation there.

    B I'd not noticed Fred being narcissistic - my impression was he was a right charmer - but then narcissists often are. So is Fred is sister's brother in a deeper sense?

    PS I avoid D H Lawrence.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. woman's question in Middlemarch, George Eliot
    By dia01 in forum Middlemarch
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 10-05-2012, 01:37 PM
  2. Good News for Modern Man
    By MarkBastable in forum Short Story Sharing
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 02-20-2010, 11:26 PM
  3. George Eliot - Middlemarch
    By kittykat125 in forum Middlemarch
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 06-03-2009, 12:08 PM
  4. George Eliot
    By Wilfred in forum General Literature
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 08-27-2003, 10:59 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •