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Middlemarch

George Eliot

Book Overview: 

The book examines the role of education in the lives of the characters and how such education and study has affected the characters. Rosamond Vincy’s finishing school education is a foil to Dorothea Brooke’s religiously-motivated quest for knowledge. Rosamond initially admires Lydgate for his exotic education, and his intellect. A similar dynamic is present in Dorothea and Casaubon’s relationship, with Dorothea revering her new husband’s intellect and eloquence. In both cases, however, the young wives’ expectations of their husbands intellects are not reflected in reality.

Despite extreme erudition, Mr. Casaubon is afraid to publish because he believes that he must write a work that is utterly above criticism. In contrast, Lydgate at times arrogantly flaunts his knowledge, making enemies with his fellow physicians. He regards the residents of Middlemarch with a certain amount of contempt stemming from his belief that the townspeople are backwards and uninteresting. However, his education has not included tact and politicking, skills necessary in a small town but are seen by Lydgate as below him, the brilliant doctor.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .a preconceived romance—incidents which gather value from the foreseen development and climax. In Rosamond's romance it was not necessary to imagine much about the inward life of the hero, or of his serious business in the world: of course, he had a profession and was clever, as well as sufficiently handsome; but the piquant fact about Lydgate was his good birth, which distinguished him from all Middlemarch admirers, and presented marriage as a prospect of rising in rank and getting a little nearer to that celestial condition on earth in which she would have nothing to do with vulgar people, and perhaps at last associate with relatives quite equal to the county people who looked down on the Middlemarchers. It was part of Rosamond's cleverness to discern very subtly the faintest aroma of rank, and once when she had seen the Miss Brookes accompanying their uncle at the county assizes, and seated among the aristocracy, she had envied them, notwithstanding their plain. . . Read More