Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Middlemarch - first half

I'm about half-way through Middlemarch, by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). Something I love about Eliot is how funny she is, and sarcastic - and I find myself laughing out loud all the time.
"Oh, my dear, you are so hard on your brothers! It is the only fault I have to find with you. You are the sweetest temper in the world, but you are so tetchy with your brothers."
- "Not tetchy, mamma: you never hear me speak in an unladylike way."
- "Well, but you want to deny them things."
- "Brothers are so unpleasant."
Middlemarch is a small town, and the book follows the stories of several families within the town, as well as some political issues regarding, if I'm not mistaken, landlords and renters. The political aspect is the only part that's not really holding my attention. My favorite story line is of Dorothea, who finds herself in an unhappy marriage to Mr. Casaubon. What I find most interesting about Dorothea (Dodo - how perfect!) is that she constantly doubts her own intelligence - no doubt due to being raised by her fond but misogynistic Uncle, who consistently reinforces the idea that women are frail and less inclined toward serious thought.
"But there is a lightness about the feminine mind - a touch and go - music, the fine arts, that kind of thing - they should study those up to a certain point, women should; but in a light way, you know. A woman should be able to sit down and play you or sing you a good old English tune."
I hate to say those sentiments are not unfamiliar to me or the small community in which I was raised. A few posts ago I joked about writing an homage to Middlemarch, and more lately I've been thinking seriously about doing it. I think after I finish, I'll read Howard's End and try to figure out how Zadie Smith did it for On Beauty. Middlemartinsville? I think something's there... Anyway, I have such high hopes for Dorothea, and want to see her explore the possibilities of her mind (if you've read it, don't give it away!)

Another theme I'm enjoying is the acknowledgement of change. Two young men argue about whether painting or literature is the higher art:
"Language gives a fuller image, which is all the better for being vague. After all, the true seeing is within; and painting stares at you with an insistent imperfection. I feel that especially about representations of women. As if a woman were a mere coloured superficies! You must wait for movement and tone. There is a difference in their very breathing; they change from moment to moment."
Eliot seeks to prove the impossibility of capturing anything - just a breathe changes everything.

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