Middlemarch

Originally published in eight parts in 1871-72, Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life is set four decades earlier in the period leading up to the Reform Bill. The novel began as two separate stories, which George Eliot decided to combine: that of the young and idealistic Dorothea Brooke, who marries a much older, arid scholar; and that of the surgeon Tertius Lydgate, who has recently moved to the town of Middlemarch, hoping to serve the community and introduce medical innovations. Both Dorothea and Lydgate become disillusioned, their plans for improvement frustrated by their choices in marriage and by the ‘hampering threadlike pressure of small social conditions’. Around these two characters Eliot assembles a large cast and a number of subplots, using the metaphor of a spider’s web to convey the links between the many characters and the novel’s themes of progress, ambition and community.

Manuscript of Middlemarch by George Eliot

Manuscript of George Eliot's Middlemarch [folio: 5r]

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Creator:
George Eliot
Published:
1872
Full title:
Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life
Forms:
Prose
Genre:
Victorian literature
Literary period:
Victorian

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Middlemarch: reform and change

Article by:
John Mullan
Themes:
Power and politics, The novel 1832–1880

Middlemarch is set in the period leading up to the 1832 Reform Act. Professor John Mullan explores how George Eliot uses the novel to examine different kinds of reform and progress: political, scientific and social.

George Eliot's women

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Theme:
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Why do so few of George Eliot’s female characters fulfil their potential? Professor Kathryn Hughes considers Eliot’s attitudes towards women’s rights, education and place in society, and how she expresses these in her novels.

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