Organised by the amazing Juhi @ Nooks & Crannies.
It is finished.
I feel like a proclamating tv evangelist (sans all the asking for additional funds to build glass churches…)
But this feels like a PROCLOMATING moment.
For those of you that have followed me (willingly or unwillingly) through this long and arduous journey, you will be relieved to learn that it was late last night that I finally. Finally. FINALLY. finished Middlemarch.
- 904 pages
- 86 chapters
- 8 books
- 102 glasses of wine
But it is done.
And now I haz sad.
I will explain, but if you are at all leery about having gargantuan 150yr old book spoiled – avert ye eyes…now.
I am squishing Book VII (Two Temptations) & VIII (Sunset & Sunrise) into the same post, not only because I read them consecutively and without pause (which I realise is saying the same thing twice, making aforementioned phrase redundant — but the effort required to do this, makes it bear repeating), but because the THINGS that happened are so intrinsically intwined between the two books, it feels wrong to isolate them from each other.
- Lydgate goes bankrupt
- Rosamond is a bitch
- Lydgate asked for funds everywhere and is refused
- Rosamond is a bitch
- Lydgate falls into a despair and finally broaches the subject with Bulstrade.
- Is refused.
- Falls further into despair
- Rosamond is a bitch.
- Bulstrode accidentally on purpose euthanises Raffles.
- Gives Lydgate a loan.
- Lygate accepts but has suspicions about Raffles death.
PEOPLE find out. ACCUSATIONS are thrown. Bulstrade is HOUNDED. Lydgate is IMPLICATED
And pretty much when all is at a point of despair: Dorothea turns up.
YES. Like a knightess in glowing and angelic armour, Dorothea returns to the muddle of Middlemarch, bringing sanity, perspective and ruthlessly efficient munificent organisation.
Most of it is made up of Lydgate & Rosamond, Bulstrode & Raffles. Little bits from other characters are thrown in as well, in a revolving-around-the-main-characters sort of way.
Interestingly, whilst their storylines (and characters) are dramatically different, both Lydgate & Bulstrode feel like Eliot-examples of two ways in which people can either be redeemed or renounced according to their previous history and character.
Lydgate, caught up in the accusations of Bulstrode’s decidedly dodgy behaviour and past, is redeemed by his own moral fibre. Dorothea KNOWS that if people understand that she believes in him, and based on prior actions, he will be forgiven and taken back into the fold.
Bulstrode on the other hand, (like a horrible cross between Scrooge McDuck and Mr Burns), could provide no such evidence. His hands were not clean, nor his past unblemished. He was (to quote another about another miser):
‘a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone…a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.’
And Bulstrode’s comeuppance IS one of the most perfect examples of being hoisted on his own petard. Poetic Justice, it seems is not even exempt from Middlemarch.
I won’t subject y’all to an in-depth in analysis of the whole thing; (frankly, if you’ve come this far with me, you deserve some sort of rich, chocolatey treat anyway!) but some interesting things I pondered once I had finished this doorstop of a book:
– The subtitle ‘a study of provincial life’ is intriguing. It makes the whole thing sound awfully scientific, and for most of the book, there is this sense of a scientific detachment around the characters and events. But every so often, Eliot seems to break out of that mode, unable to stay impartial. It mostly seems to happen around Dorothea and Casaubon. And although I never warmed to Casaubon (the epitome of ‘a shiver, waiting to run up a spine’ if I ever saw one) I COMPLETELY understand about Dorothea.
Her sense of justice, her righteous indignation, her faith in her friends and indomitable optimism in people, her moral obligations and Middlemarch itself; are beautiful to behold. And even more so, in light of the fact that it was her horrid marriage and subsequent life that promoted all of this character-building.
Dorothea IS the hero of the story. I don’t care that literary texts emphatically decided that Middlemarch is a story without a hero.
Dorothea is the hero. And my spirit animal.
(well it’s either her…or Spongebob riding a seahorse…)
– Rosamond on the other hand. GRRRR. I spend the last two books repressing my urge to backhand her every time she did something reprehensible.
She was just so infuriatingly stupid and wilfully uncaring of anyone but her gilded self. She wrecked EVERYTHING Lydgate tried to do and then blamed HIM for the outcome. There was absolutely NOTHING redeemable in her character at all.
To contrast her against Dorothea is a sad and scary thing. So I won’t. It would end up looking like the equivalent of:
An 18th century version of the Madonna and the Whore…
– Middlemarch is about so much. Marriage, sympathy, forgiveness, compassion, equality, science, society and class, hope deferred, dreams and spirituality.
It asks whether it is important to maintain independence or to allow yourself to be absorbed by your spouse’s pursuits? Is marriage a prison? How do you reconcile lofty ambitions with everyday reality? There is so much AMBITION, but very little follow through.
All in all it was a rewarding if extremely long book.
Would I read it again? Ehh maybe not. But is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Sometimes books are only meant to be read once.
You said it Daria
Valancy: realising she is or will only ever be like ⅛ as cool as Daria.
Header Image: Middlemarch poster from PosterText: created using Books 1 & 2 (seriously how cool is that???)