I think I have loved Middlemarch the best out of the 8 novels I have read so far on the list! It is filled with a beautifully interwoven story that ties a varied cast of characters into a central theme about how life's circumstances at times prevent us from reaching our most desired hopes and dreams. Although, the theme sounds dreary and indeed parts of the book seem bleak, the novel ends on a happy note of belief that the paths we chose lead to good in their own right.
Coming on the heels of Madame Bovary I began to feel rather bleakly about marriage. Both Madame Bovary and Middlemarch make marriage out to be a hard journey which is toiled upon by two individuals which rarely ever leads to success. Having never married, and having always held it in high esteem as something to be weighed very carefully I began to feel a bit discouraged. Thankfully the last 6 pages of Middlemarch paint a much cheerier picture than the majority of the novel. Here are few quotes about what the book has to say about marriage.
"life could never have gone on at any period but for this liberal allowance of conclusion which has facilitated marriage"
This quote speaks mostly of the assumptions people make when they are dating (or courting in this case) one another. This presuppositions we make with regards to behaviours, thoughts and futures ensure that we make the leap into marriage, but not all of them are accurate.
"Marriage is a state of higher duties, I have never thought of it as mere personal ease"
Dorothea mentions this before marrying her first husband Casaubon a man old enough to be her father, but who she admires greatly for his deep thoughts.
This one I love the most because I think it is very often true:
"Women don't love men for their goodness".
"Rosamond's discontent in her marriage was due to the conditions of marriage itself, to its demands for self suppression and tolerrance"
This quote scares the crap out of me. I am stubborn, and I worry that I may not do well to have to submit my will to another. Even now as a single female I occasionally defy everyone in my life to pursue some passing fancy. Crazy road trips, random new adventures, or putting my foot down to make a completly insane purchase are habits that I may be loath to give up!
This books is also filled with dreamers who have failed (at least in their own estimation). The main character Dorothea seeks to do good works for others and make her life count for something. Lydgate seeks to pursue science in medicine while others stick only with traditional practices. Rosamond seeks to marry for prestige and leave Middlemarch. Bulstrode longs to forget his past and to viewed as an upright man. Casaubon attempts to write a book detailing the key to all mythologys.
Here are a few quotes about dreams.
"wrong reasoning sometimes lands poor mortals in right conclusions straying a long way off the true point, and preceeding by loops and zigzags , we now and then arrive just where we ought to be"
"For we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act totally on the strength of them"
I love this one, because I find it so true. Thinking as writer and with an artistic bent I have been guilty of pursuing things just because I have liked the story they create.
And another quote on a topic dear to my heart:
"But the moment of vocation had come...and the world was made new to him"
This quote speaks of Lydgate stumbling upon a medical book in a library and chosing to be a doctor by profession. This revolutionized his life and changed him for ever. The same was true of me when I realized I wanted to work with people and poverty in some way.
"Lydgate did not mean to be one of those failures"
Dorothea utters these two statements that focus on the main theme of the novel...
"I find it uncommonly difficult to make a right thing work: there are so many strings pulling at once"
"There is no sorrow I have thought more about than that- to love what is great and try to reach it and yet to fail"
Here are a few random observations I have made after reading a few books from a similar period.
The field of medicine has made huge leaps and bounds. I have never been more thankful for the Canadian system where health care is viewed as a right for everyone. Both Madame Bovary and Middlemarch follow the journeys of doctors who struggle to make a living because their patients can't pay them. I have always loved the Canadian system because it means that everyday citizens can recieve medical help; I had never thought it might also be a help to the doctors by gauranteeing their salary.
I am absolutely flabbergasted by the british system of a salary inherited from your family line. I have never in my life imagined in income that I didn't have to create from my work. It made so much difference in relationships back then and prevented people from marrying below their rank. This was especially true of Dorothea and Will Ladislaw.
I would not have wanted to be a woman during this era. How utterly dull life would be! They seem to spend their time doing nothing except for staring out windows and doing needle point. People like Dorothea who want to set their hands to something beyond themselves are seen as unusual and are generally frowned upon.Thank God we recognize that women can pursue a purpose of their own...otherwise I would be bored to tears.
I will leave you with one last quote which I just loved:
"Men and women make sad mistakes about their own symptoms, taking their vague uneasy longings sometimes for genius, sometimes for religion, and oftener still for mighty love"
The next novel will be The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. As with all translated novels it has been extremely hard to secure and so I will have to take a break while I wait for it to become available through the library. Sadly, this was one novel that I could not find through Project Gutenberg so I am unable even to start it digitally. In the mean time I will read a novel with my last name in it "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo".
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