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2014 Group Reads - Archives > Middlemarch - Book 2

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message 1: by Silver (new)

Silver BOOK II


message 2: by Emma (last edited May 11, 2014 03:03AM) (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments One thing I find a bit disconcerting is George Eliot's authorial voice - for example, the whole first paragraph of chapter 15 is a reflection on story-telling: "I have so much to do in unravelling certain human lots..." etc.

We're not allowed to forget for long that this is a fiction. Certainly the characters follow the train set in line by their personalities and choices, so that, for instance, Dorothea's increasing unhappiness in her marriage seems inevitable; but Eliot's authorial comments - "I am sorry to add that she was sobbing bitterly" - do make me a little too aware that she is pulling the strings. I don't know how other people feel about this?

message 3: by Hedi (new)

Hedi | 937 comments Emma wrote: "One thing I find a bit disconcerting is George Eliot's authorial voice - for example, the whole first paragraph of chapter 15 is a reflection on story-telling: "I have so much to do in unravelling ..."

To me some of her comments esp. at the beginning of the chapters seem a little philosophical. However, I have just come back from a trip and am already at the end of book 4. So I have to go through some of my thoughts related to these chapters before I can post anything valuable. Hopefully, I will be able to do that by tomorrow.

message 4: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4445 comments Mod
I think Elliot is using the authoritative tone to make points she feels very strongly are important. It hasn't bothered me at all. I guess it's important to remember she's addressing issues that typically weren't addressed in this time period.

message 5: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4445 comments Mod
Book 2 seemed to be mostly about the Middlemarch men, and Book 1 seemed to be mostly about the women. Yes, there are exceptions to that in both sections, but the bulk of the sections seem to flow in that way.

We see how the men who are considered powerful in Middlemarch are influencing the entire community with not only their decisions, but with their belief systems (i.e. the voting for Tyke as chaplain). Many of these men seem to like to play head games with less powerful people. For example, Featherstone's treatment of Fred. He appears to promise to pay off the debt and then gives him a smaller sum. And Bulstrade's pulling of strings to get Lydgate to vote for Tyke. These powerful men dislike any belief system that goes against their own, and don't like change. They also seem to enjoy using their power to force these beliefs on those around them.

We also learn a little bit about the medical field. Lydgate wants to move the medical field forward through research and quality care. The people of Middlemarch are a bit suspicious of this as they feel the way to healing is not only medical but to cure the spiritual ills of the patient. Curing the spiritual ills to them means bringing the patient into the views of the powerful.

Fred Vincy appears to view Mary Garth with great sensitivity. He seems to be smitten by her, and she lets him know in uncertain terms that she will not be involved with a man who does not work in some capacity.

Lydgate seems to be a fast learner, not only of things from books and medical science, but he quickly ascertains the hidden agendas of the major players and how decisions will affect his possible success in Middlemarch.

One thing that stood out for me was the description of what a beautiful woman is - basically refined manners and a good appearance (Chapter 16). Rosamond Vincy is viewing Lydgate's attention as courting, while Lydgate views it as politeness. I think this shows just the restrictiveness of women's worlds.

Elliot's choice in naming Rev. Farebrother is interesting. He has a good heart and good naturally handles his family and even the election of chaplain. He seems to harbor no resentment even though he was previously doing this job for free. He also sees very clearly what Bulstrode's group is.

Middlemarch seems to equate cleverness with evil and the lack of religion (Chapter 18).

As Emma mentioned, Dorothea's marriage decision is already proving to be a poor one. She's bored and lonely while still on her honeymoon. She doesn't appear to be having a good time until Ladislaw shows up.

Another theme that jumps out at me is there are three characters that feel the need to make a difference in their world: Dorothea (the cottages), Chettam (the experimental farm set up), and Lydgate (improving medicine.

message 6: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4445 comments Mod
What did you think about Lydgate saying, "Don't you think men overrate the necessity for humoring everybody's nonsense, till they get despised by the very fools their humor" (Chapter 17)?

message 7: by Hedi (new)

Hedi | 937 comments OLD and YOUNG is an interesting title for this book as it describes the influences of the one on the other. We learn about different people and see how certain people influence the lives of others.
On the one hand, we have Fred being affected by Mr. Featherstone and Mr. Bulstrode, then we have Lydgate who is also influenced mainly by Mr. Bulstrode.
Elliot observes the people and their way of dealing/ manipulating each other.
I really like her way of putting thoughts and emotions into words.

Furthermore, we learn about Lydgate's passionate past.
And then there is this triangle of the old Mr. Casaubon, young Dorothea and the young Will. When they are accidentally meeting in Rome with Dorothea being rather neglected it feels as if a romance is in sight.

I do like Mr. Farebrother. As you, Deborah, mentioned his names seems to be his theme in life. He seems really very kind and openhearted, esp. with regards to his friendship with Lydgate warning him about Mr. Bulstrode's influence and accepting this fact even if it opposes his career (talking about the election of the chaplain of the Infirmary)

What do you think of Lydgate? He does not seems to get enthusiastically very easily, but finds his calling in medicine which was in need of reform and people to excel in it. I think Lydgate can be a little arrogant, but he really seems to live for his field. I wonder though whether he will be able to succeed in his pursuits being in a town like Middlemarch. It seems so far away from the scientific world.
However, maybe this is similar to Roger Hamley in Wives and Daughters and his success might actually come despite the rather unscientific, rather old-fashioned surroundings.

message 8: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4445 comments Mod
I'm not sure what I think about Lydgate yet. I think he is very determined to make a difference in his field. I think he has good intentions as voting for a Tyke really seemed to bother him, at least initially.

message 9: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 747 comments I think it's not just the older generation of Featherstone, Bulstrode, Casaubon, but older ways of thinking. The politics and medicine and even social conventions to a degree. Which may play havoc with certain characters both because of the power of the older/richer characters and because they might get squashed in the mechanics of change.

message 10: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4445 comments Mod
Good point Renee.

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