On Marriage, Money, and Mortification

*I had this entire post written up, ready to go, I hit ‘published’, and apparently WordPress decided that I didn’t need to actually publish the post, and it was all erased. needless to say – irritated.*

So by now my reading of Middlemarch has brought me through page 700, a bit past the start of Book Eight, “Two Temptations”. And damn – people in Middlemarch need to quit marrying out of duty/family/baby’s from the cradle. It seems like the only people in the book who are actually in any kind of healthy relationship are Mary and Fred, and that’s probably just because they aren’t actually in any kind of relationship, but rather are merely in the phase of promising and dreaming of a relationship. Seeing how that phase worked out for everyone else in the novel, I don’t necessarily think that’s a promising sign for these two.

I want to start by addressing the parts of the book that I have no intention of addressing: namely, anything having to do with the Reform, Mr. Brooke’s running for Parliament, and anything having to do with general politics or agriculture of any kind. While I can appreciate why Eliot included these bits in her novel – not only do they serve to create a fuller picture of the Provencal life she paints, but I imagine this was an issue on the minds of many writers at the time – let’s get it straight. These parts be BORING. So boring. Like, eyes glazing and skipping over the pages boring. Which I’m trying REALLY hard to prevent, because I want to give this book the attention it deserves on it’s first read through, but it’s hard when these huge paragraphs (or God forbid whole chapters) pop up. So lets get on to talking about what I think is the heart of the novel: the relationships between the primary sextet (which means, to me, Fred, Mary, Dorothea, Will, Rosamond, and Lydgate).

Oh, Fred and Mary. I think I like these two best of all. They seem to be the most…rational, at least. I love the way that Fred seems to really grow up throughout the course of the novel, and that everything he does really does seem to be for Mary and their possible future together. I think that Mary is an admirable character, namely in the fact that she’s so much less of a sycophant than so many of the other girls in the novel! I’m sure that it helps that she has her own source of income and the fact that her family isn’t bat-shit crazy, but I think it’s refreshing to see regardless. I have a good feeling that these two will eventually end up together, but I hope it’s not until after Mary gives in to Fred a little bit and Fred has learned even more to take responsibility for himself and his future.

Speaking of futures, this brings us rather nicely to a discussion of Dorothea and Will, definitely the saddest and most tragically wonderful couple in the story. I feel like if you were going to point at one relationship and say ‘See, totes Victorian’, it would be Dodo and Will (does anyone automatically think Dodo bird whenever Celia uses this particular endearment? If you didn’t, sorry – bet you will now!) I mean, there couldn’t be more things standing in the way of these two being together – Casaubon’s stupidpants will, Dorothea’s skewed sense of loyalty, Will’s pride, the opinions of the townsfolk towards Will, which is totally of the

Condescending Wonka

variety. It makes me sad for the two of them, honestly, but it also makes me even more sure that they’ll totally end up together and happy and somehow Dorothea won’t lose all her new money in the bargain. Also, did anyone else pick up on a bit of the Anne/Mr. Wentworth vibe when Will does all his talking about making himself better and securing a better position all for Dodo’s sake? I can only hope that their ending is that romantic!

And, lastly, I want to talk about Rosamond and Lydgate. OH MY DEAR SWEET SWEATPANTS, ROSAMOND. I thought we were cool – I was kind of digging on the sweet and innocent dreamer routine you had going. And then you started talking more and you quickly went from this:

to this:

First World Problems

I mean, seriously. This girl might just be the whiniest character I’ve ever run across in literature. And there’s poor Lydgate, in a marriage he wasn’t planning on, trying his hardest to get by even after the people of Middlemarch are just, like *eyerollatthenewdoctor*, and Rosamond just keeps running him in to debt and taking silly pregnant horseback rides and carrying secret desires to galavant with Will and then, when Lydgate has the nerve to ask her to tone down the spending, she goes behind his back to his family like a total Smarmerton! WAY NOT COOL. But then. Oh, but then. There is this:

“‘I have only wanted to prevent you from hurrying us into wretchedness without any necessity,’ said Rosamond, the tears coming again from a softened feeling now that her husband had softened. ‘It is so very hard to be disgraced here among all the people we know, and to live in such a miserable way. I wish I had died with the baby.” (p.718)

I MEAN COME ON?!?!?!?! Who above the age of six responds like that?!

Anyway. Needless to say, I’ve about had with Rosamond, that silly twit of a girl, and I’m not sure I can take much more of her in the 300-some pages I’ve got left! In personal news, things with the wedding are rolling right along, although I just got bummer news today that the local farmstead in my town (where we were hoping to have the reception) is booked for our date, so now I’m just trying to scramble a bit and find another place! I’m feeling way under the weather today, and what with a late night last night (including some rather silly, unexplainable issues with WordPress) I think just about the only thing I can handle today are the last few chapters of The Magician’s Nephew, the first chronicle in the Narnia series, which is the small book that’s been keeping me company all week. What about you? What book’s been holding your hand and getting you by this week?


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