Middlemarch: by George Eliot - Summary and Analysis

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      Middlemarch is George Eliot's masterpiece. In it, George Eliot constructs one of the great novels of the century. She has returned from the past which she depicts in Romola to the contemporary period of English life. The novel is set in a Warwick shire town of the Reform period. The title means "middle of the marches" i.e., typically provincial. Here George Eliot condemns a society that denies ample scope to intellect and culture. The intellectual Dorothea Brooke interests Sir James Chettam, but she marries the pompous scholar, Edward Casaubon. Sir James marries her vivacious sister Celia. Casaubon's second cousin, Will Ladislaw, loving Dorothea causes Casaubon in his will to deny his property to Dorothea if she marries Will. Attending the dying Casaubon is Dr. Tertius Lydgate, a would-be medical researcher, who is drawn into the orbit of Middlemarch's influential banker, Nicholas Bulstrade. Rosamond Vincy is attracted to Lydgate and captures him. The drunken Raffles, blackmailing Bulstrode because of the banker's shady past, dies under Lydgate's treatment and causes accusations of malpractice. Dorothea supports Lydgate who moves to London and at his wife's insistence becomes a fashionable society physician. Will and Dorothea marry. Rosamond's weak brother is assured of a better future by marriage to the excellent Mary Garth.

Middlemarch is George Eliot's masterpiece.

Critical Analysis
      George Eliot fills the canvas with a host of memorable minor characters. Her technical ability is proved by her flawless dovetailing of the Dorothea and Lydgate plots originally planned as separate stories. Eliot makes an intellectual criticism of the age. The environment permits proper self-realization and creativity to the solid, non-intellectual Mary Gakth, but Dorothea with her searching constructive spirit is fated to frustration. In the modern age, the novel has been acclaimed as the greatest English novel, largely because it is the first novel in the English language concerned with intellectual life. The novel is remarkable for the structural unity achieved by the use of contrast, parallelism, and by what E. M. Forster says rhythm. The multifarious spectacles of life have been given the unity of design. The novel is great as much for its intellectual criticism as for its technical skill. Its different episodes are connected by contrasts and parallelism and its variety of characters completes the picture of the provincial life. It is epical in breadth, but dramatic in construction. Its intellectual criticism of life given the book its depth and dimension.

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