Middlemarch

From Academic Kids

See also Middlemarch, New Zealand.

Middlemarch is a novel by George Eliot, first published in 1871. It is set in the 1830s in Middlemarch, a fictional provincial town in England, based upon Coventry. It is regarded by many as her greatest work.

A BBC dramatisation of the novel, shown in 1994, had a cast including Michael Hordern, Robert Hardy, Rufus Sewell and Patrick Malahide.

Middlemarch is a composite study of the provincial town, portraying on the lives of characters from all levels of society, and showing how they affect each other. The theme of connection is stressed by the gradual revelation to the reader that all the major characters are related by blood or marriage.

The two central stories both have the theme of poor judgment of character leading to an unhappy marriage, and of high principles being disappointed.

Dorothea Brooke is a beautiful and serious-minded young woman who admires learning and intelligence. She rejects a titled young man in favour of the Reverend Edward Casaubon, an intellectual middle-aged clergyman who, she imagines, will respect her and value her opinions. This proves not to be the case. After their marriage, Casaubon disdains her efforts to assist him in his research. Meanwhile, she has made the acquaintance of his poor relation, Will Ladislaw. It is Will who makes her recognise Casaubon's shortcomings, both as a husband and as a scholar.

When Casaubon dies suddenly, Dorothea inherits his large fortune and tries to use it for the good of others, despite her indignation on finding, in the terms of his will, that she is specifically forbidden to marry Will Ladislaw. In the end, she gives up the inheritance in order to find true happiness with Will.

Dorothea's charitable works bring her into contact with Doctor Tertius Lydgate, whose plans to build and run a hospital in anticipation of epidemic typhus reaching Middlemarch. Lydgate falls in love with the pretty but impractical Rosamond Vincy; their financial improvidence leads to the dashing of his ambitions.

These unhappy romances are contrasted with the story of Rosamond's brother, Fred, an unreliable and spendthrift youth, and the level-headed Mary Garth.

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