Reading “My Life in Middlemarch”

It’s like a book review runs amok, extending from the convention of a mere essay of several pages to an entire book of 293 pages. I bought this book due to its title and the brief description in amazon website. I never really like “Middlemarch”, and I am very interested to see how and why other people like it and how it is possible that somebody can like it so much that all the life events and life philosophy can be related to and mirrored in it.

The beginning is wonderful, though I would like it better if there are more descriptions of her loving parents who would encourage her to read books even if they themselves don’t. They marked her book with a fountain pen and dusted the dust jacket. They gave her cosmetics, which she saved by not washing her face. Such vivid details. My parents would do exactly the opposite. Books seem to be as common as any household item and nobody tries to do anything to distinguish books. Cosmetics are vanities one can live without–an idea I spend the rest of my life defying. So my family is totally different from the author’s family. No wonder she likes books that don’t usually attract me–D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf.

Just like what I have guessed all along that George Eliot herself is a much more interesting figure than Dorothea in “Middlemarch”. The author Rebecca Mead obviously agrees with me, since she describes George Eliot with fervor and gusto, if not a little bit of envy. George Eliot has two servants to help her with household chores and two relatives living with her to run her household. Oh, my goodness. I guess that’s the price of her success. She could afford such luxury. No wonder she can write such a novel for adults, as Virginia Woolf put it. Not only could she afford such luxury, she could also afford to write only for herself on something she thought important with a total disregard for the book’s entertainment value. She didn’t try to be funny, didn’t make the plot more dramatic, didn’t make the love affairs or marriages more appealing than they really were. She just said what she wanted to say. If the readers didn’t feel they were entertained, she didn’t care. And readers who really appreciate her and connect with her will love her just for exactly the same traits that annoy other readers.

With all my admiration for George Eliot, I still find Dorothea’s marriage to Casaubon a plot failure. A vivacious girl like Dorothea is not likely to marry an old sick man like Casaubon no matter what. More likely, she is to marry a young scholar with a handsome exterior and a dry pedantic Casaubon interior. It will be more difficult to discover the true nature of such a person. The look, the youth, the appearance of being knowledgeable, the family tie, the mutual regard will make such a discovery difficult, if not impossible.

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