Archive for May, 2011

George Eliot’s Middlemarch

May 17, 2011

Middlemarch is one of those classic books often referred to by literary scholars and that I’m embarrassed to have never read. As a New Year’s resolution, I decided to rectify my ignorance, and now, 5 1/2 months (and several intervening books) later, I can honestly say that I love this novel. The plot line is far too complicated to outline here, but it is essentially the story of an English village in the early/mid-19th century. There are dozens of characters, and a combination of marital relations, struggling careers, and contemporary politics compete for the reader’s attention. I was surprised to find the book oddly hilarious in addition to being a serious work of fiction.

The main character, Dorothea, particularly captured my imagination because I found a lot of parallels between her story and trials and tribulations that women face today. Certainly many of the more structurally sexist elements of Dorothea’s world are absent from our own. But Dorothea’s inner life, and how she thought through decisions struck me as oddly relevant to modern times. Virginia Woolf described Middlemarch as “…one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.” I concur, and would highly recommend Middlemarch.