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Book 3: Waiting for Death

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message 1: by Kathy (new)

Kathy (klzeepsbcglobalnet) | 43 comments Mod
A cheerful title, no?

By now we’ve settled into the town of Middlemarch, and hopefully you’ve settled into your reading—the slower pace (as Susan mentioned), how you’re going deal with unfamiliar allusions (if at all), what to expect from Eliot. So I don’t have much more advice for the reading of this book, except that if you haven’t sketched out a family tree yet for the Vincys, Garths, Bulstrodes, Featherstone, etc. you might want to do it now.

By way of background, here’s an interesting tidbit for this week. In her book My Life in Middlemarch, Rebecca Mead writes about her research visit to the city of Coventry, to which George Eliot moved with her widowed father in 1841 and which inspired the town of Middlemarch “inasmuch as any place.” You may know that the city center was virtually destroyed by German bombs in 1940. But some of the places George Eliot would have known survived, including her home Bird Grove, which Mead found around 2014 “dilapidated” with “a weed-infested car park” and serving as the Coventry Bangladesh Centre “which provides employment advice and training to local residents.” Also surviving is her “largely…medieval era” church, Holy Trinity, which she rejected after declaring herself “more or less” what would later be called agnostic but continued to attend as a concession to her father. The church includes “a fifteenth-century doom painting high on a wall over the nave, depicting the Last Judgment.” Mead writes that “with its wide panorama, its multiple characters, its interrelated plots, its intricate detail, Middlemarch is Eliot’s doom painting without God.” It might be interesting to come back to that comment later and see whether we agree.

A couple of new questions in the meantime:
This chapter is full of juicy gossip, distrust and bad behavior. Where do your sympathies lie?
And what death are we waiting for?

message 2: by Rochelle (new)

Rochelle | 6 comments Old Featherstone for sure. Her writing is exquisite. How have I never read this book?

message 3: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Tougas | 9 comments I’m also guessing it’s Mr. Featherstone’s death. It will be interesting to see if Fred gets the inheritance he’s hoping for. I bet he’s going to be disappointed.

message 4: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Tougas | 9 comments I sympathize with Mary Garth, at least right now. She seemed to be taking the high road during her final moments with Mr. Featherstone, but I wonder if she ended up yielding to the temptations that he was offering her. His siblings and nephew were treating her so rudely during their visits to Stone Court, I can't say that I'd blame her if she did.

message 5: by Carla (new)

Carla | 5 comments That sly Eliot and her engaging yet meandering story - I thought the death might be Fred's or Casaubon's (too many illnesses in one section; each of those deaths would have brought 'relief' to someone).

My sympathies...

1) I have a soft spot for ne'er-do-wells. Fred Vincy seems to be trapped by his 'addiction to pleasure', not-well-thought-out decisions, and the expectations of the people of Middlemarch (that an inheritance is coming his way so they - and Mrs. Garth - excuse him his weaknesses). Fred has to own up to his shame with Mrs. Garth and Mary which knocks him down a peg yet I wonder if Mary will somehow save him with what Featherstone leaves lying about when he dies.

2) Poor Dorothea - after Italy, she is keenly aware that her husband will never meet her marital expectations ("active wifely devotion which was to strengthen her husband's life and exalt her own" won't happen) and now she has to fear expressing frustration because it could "strain his nervous power". That said, Casaubon is worried about Ladislaw's eagerness and that makes me feel badly for Casaubon because, on so many levels, he doesn't have it in him to make things right with Dorothea.

3) While Lydgate succumbs to Rosamond's charms, his initial resistance and focus on his work means that things may not unfold well for Rosamond and her vision of marriage. (loved the gossip around this relationship)

Favorite quote in Book III: "Your pier-glass or extensive surface of polished steel made to be rubbed by a housemaid, will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions...and the candle is the egoism of any person now absent - of Miss Vincy, for example." Eliot writes about concepts that seem quite modern. (2nd favorite quote: "Society never made the preposterous demand that a man should think as much about his own qualifications for making a charming girl happy as he thinks of hers for making himself happy.")

I am hooked.

message 6: by Kathy (new)

Kathy (klzeepsbcglobalnet) | 43 comments Mod
Great quotations! I agree that she writes about "quite modern" concepts. I'm constantly marking them. For example, in this book she writes that "when a youthful nobleman steals jewellery we call the act kleptomania, speak of it with a philosophical smile, and never think of his being sent to the house of correction as if he were a ragged boy who had stolen turnips"--a problem we continue to talk about today with our own prison system. Not sure whether this is Eliot ahead of her time or, more likely, evidence that things never change, especially when it comes to how humans treat one another.

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