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Monday, April 22, 2013

What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?

Middlemarch, Book VIII - Sunset and Sunrise by George Eliot (Marian Evans)

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
- Dodo wants to help Lydgate clear his name of Bulstrode's business; Chettam and Mr. Farebrother urge caution.
- Town gossips; Mrs. Bulstrode finally finds out; stands by her man.
- Rosy and Lydgate Not Happy; Rosy misses Will; tries to throw a dinner party; when no one will come she finds out L's reputation has been sullied; tells L to quit Middlemarch; he disagrees.
- L spills all to Dodo; she's very encouraging and wants to help him move forward.
- Dodo goes to visit Rosy only to stumble upon her and Will in a compromising position! (full. disclosure. they're holding hands. GASP!)
- Will. is. horrified. Rosy's world is shaken when she finds out she is not "the only girl in the world" (à la Rihanna); Dodo loses her cool thinking that Will does Not in fact Love Her Best.
- Dodo goes back to call on Rosy because she is a rock star, helps Rosy to move past her indiscretion; Rosy clears Wills name and assures Dodo that Will does in fact Love Dodo Best.
- Will sets up a meeting with Dodo to further clear his name and reassure Dodo; lightning storm; a Kiss!
- Will and Dodo to marry, against all odds (and the Iron Will of Middlemarch, Casaubon waggling a finger from his tomb); I am OverJoyed! No one shares my happiness.
- Mrs. Bulstrode gives her land to the Garths after all and Fred is given the farm to tend so he can marry Mary.
- Nice little finale tells us that Mary and Fred are solid with three cute little boys, Lydgate and Rosy sort of smooth things over, then she marries again after he dies in his fifties, Dodo and Will have a lovely life in London, where at first they're ostracized from family and friends, but Celia badgers Sir James and then she and Dodo are happily reunited and can tend to their respective young little sons together. Hooray! the end.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

Dorothea: "I believe that people are almost always better than their neighbors think they are.

I must say I simply loved this book. It may have seemed a bit of a long journey with me, but it was honestly a masterpiece of "realist fiction", as the book jacket proclaims. Every bit of the drama rang so true and relevant to daily life in the present, which is a testament to Marian Evans' skill. If you haven't picked this one up, go out, grab it, and dive in.

Sections I liked quite a bit...

On Middlemarch women letting a woman know how they really feel:
"To be candid, in Middlemarch phraseology, meant to use an early opportunity of letting your friends know that you did not take a cheerful view of their capacity, their conduct, or their position; and a robust candour never waited to be asked for its opinion."

Study in contrasts between Mrs. B finding out about her husband and taking a breath before loyally standing by him and Rosy, who even when others stood up for Lydgate, felt less than thrilled post-scandal:
Mrs. Bulstrode: "She needed time to get used to her maimed consciousness, her poor lopped life, before she could walk steadily to the place allotted her."
Rosy: "But she was not joyous; her married life had fulfilled none of her hopes and had been quite spoiled for her imagination.

Rosy, on the disappointment of realizing she was not really in love with Will Ladislaw:
"Men and women make sad mistakes about their own symptoms, taking their vague, uneasy longings sometimes for genius, sometimes for religion, and oftener still for a mighty love."

Dorothea reaching out to Lydgate: 
Lydgate: I cannot conscientiously advise you to do it in dependence on any activity of mine. I may be obliged to leave the town."
Dorothea: Not because there is no one to believe in you? I know the unhappy mistakes about you. I knew them from the first moment to be mistakes." and later, "I would take any pains to clear you. I have very little to do." so adorable. I loved Dodo so much in this moment!

Lydgate, on seeing himself in a new light once Dodo stands up for him:
"The presence of a noble nature, generous in its wishes, ardent in its charity, changes the lights for us: we begin to see things again in their larger, quieter masses and to believe that we too can be seen and judged in the wholeness of our character."

Will, to Rosy, in a moment of rage after Dodo sees them together:
"I had no hope before - not much - of anything better to come. But I had one certainty - that she believed in me. Whatever people had said or done about me, she believed in me. That's gone!"

and later in the argument, when Rosy tells Will sarcastically he can run after Dodo to share his true preference for her: "Explain my preference! I never had a preference for her, any more than I have a preference for breathing. No other woman exists by the side of her." adorable Will. so steadfast. :)

Rosy's sad outlook and inability to look out for and care about Future Rosy's Problems:
"We are on a perilous margin when we begin to look passively at our future selves and see our own figures led with dull consent into insipid misdoing and shabby achievement."

This moment was so adorable. Miss Nobel is Mr. Farebrother's elderly aunt:
 "'I have lost my tortoise-shell lozenge box. I fear the kitten has rolled it away,' said the tiny old lady.
  'Is it a great treasure, Aunt?' said Mr. Farebrother, putting up his glasses and looking at the carpet.
 'Mr. Ladislaw gave it me,' said Miss Noble. 'A German box - very pretty; but if it falls it always spins away as far as it can.'
  'Oh, if it is Ladislaw's present,' said Mr. Farebrother in a deep tone of comprehension, getting up and hunting. The box was found at last under a chiffonier, and Miss Noble grasped it with delight, saying, "It was under a fender the last time." so cute!

Dodo, when she thinks she has lost Will forever:
"In that hour she repeated what the merciful eyes of solitude have looked on for ages in the spiritual struggles of man; she besought hardness and coldness and aching weariness to bring her relief from the mysterious incorporeal might of her anguish; she lay on the bare floor and let the night grow cold around her, while her grand woman's frame was shaken by sobs as if she had been a despairing child." poor Dodo! I wanted to give her a big hug!

Will, wondering whether he and Dodo will reunite:
"Until that wretched yesterday, except the moment of vexation long ago in the very same room and in the very same presence, all their vision, all their thought of each other, had been as in a world apart, where the sunshine fell on tall white lilies, where no evil lurked, and no other soul entered. But now - would Dorothea meet him in that world again?"

Hagh. When Dodo realizes Will Does love her and is trying to occupy herself, she can't think of any errands, so she settles on brushing up on Asian geography:
"Today was to be spent quite differently. What was there to be done in the village? O dear! Nothing. Everybody was well and had flannel; nobody's pig had died."
 "Was there not the geography of Asia Minor, in which her slackness had often been rebuked by Mr. Casaubon?" Ahagh. everyone has flannel - check. pigs alive? - check. geography? Get to Studying, girl!

Miss Noble interrupts Dodo's geography lesson with a message from Will:
 The little old lady, whose bonnet hardly reached Dorothea's shoulder, was warmly welcomed, but while her hand was being pressed she made many of her beaver-like noises, as if she had something difficult to say.
  'Do sit down,' said Dorothea, rolling a chair forward. 'Am I wanted for anything? I shall be so glad if I can do anything.'
  'I will not stay, said Miss Noble, putting her hand into her small basket and holding some article inside it nervously; 'I have left a friend in the churchyard.'  She lapsed into her inarticulate sounds and unconsciously drew forth the article which she was fingering. It was the tortoise-shell lozenge-box, and Dorothea felt the colour mounting to her cheeks. heheheheheehheeh. 

Will and Dodo:
"They stood silent, not looking at each other, but looking at the evergreens which were being tossed and were showing the pale underside of their leaves against the blackening sky. Will never enjoyed hte prospect of a storm so much; it delivered him from the necessity of going away...While he was speaking there came a vivid flash of lightning which lit each of them up for the other, and the light seemed to be the terror of a hopeless love.

Celia, to Dodo, on marrying Will and moving to London: 
"How can you always live in a street? And you would not do what nobody thought you could do. James always said you ought to be a queen; but this is not at all being like a queen. And you said you would never be married again."  haghaghahgahg. this is not at ALL being like a queen. ya hear?

Celia tells it like it is to James so that she can start hanging with Dodo again:
"Dorothea has a little boy. And you will not let me go and see her. And I am sure she wants to see me. And she will not know what to do with the baby - she will do wrong things with it. And they thought she would die. It is very dreadful! Suppose it had been me and little Arthur, and Dodo had been hindered from coming to see me! I wish you would be less unkind, James!
  'Good heavens, Celia! What do you wish? I will do anything you like. I will take you to town tomorrow if you wish it.' And Celia did wish it."

On the Dorotheas of this world and their unsung acts of aid:
The effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive, for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on un-historic acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.

Aand, my favorite line:
Celia: "And of course men know best about everything, except what women know better."

It seems fitting to end Middlemarch in EndApril. So there! Onwards to A Union of Jesters with Diana!

1 comment:

  1. Yes, this was a lovely book, as we got so involved in the lives of the Middlemarchers. I'm glad I could read along with you, and I totally agree with all your delicious comments. Maman