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>Ten Years Ago And Today: Middlemarch And Me

> How can one novel change so much in 10 years? Of course it’s not Middlemarch — it’s me. I just finished Book One and here are some of my impressions:

  • 10 years ago, I read Middlemarch during a break from my graduate studies. I read quickly and avidly, feeling so grateful that I wasn’t reading language-learning theory. As a result, I think I missed a lot of George Eliot’s wit.
  • 10 years ago, I dismissed Mrs. Cadwallader as a damned busybody. She still is, but her comments are so sharp and funny, I look forward to her appearances in the novel.
  • Dorothea seems heartbreakingly young this time. When the novel opens, she and Celia have been orphaned for a mere 6 years. I wonder if missing her parents has anything to do with her religious fervor and her determined attraction to Mr. Casaubon.
  • 10 years ago, Mr. Casaubon chilled my blood every time he showed up in the novel. Today, I actually have some sympathy for the man as he approaches his wedding day and is somewhat surprised to find that the prospect of matrimony isn’t really making him feel happy. Also, he’s being pretty patient with Will Ladislaw.
  • 10 years ago, Will Ladislaw had my sympathies because he was trying to find himself. Being cute and good-natured didn’t hurt his case, either. Now I’m irritated with him because he’s letting Mr. Casaubon support him while he fiddles around and doesn’t seem in a hurry to settle on a profession. Furthermore, he comes off as a little contemptuous of his cousin.
  • Sir James is a classy guy. Although Dorothea rejected him, he didn’t withdraw his help with her plans for the cottages. He continued to treat her the same, and he was rewarded for his fine behavior by getting to experience how satisfying a friendship can be between two people of the opposite gender who have no agenda or entanglements to complicate things. I don’t remember being struck so by his quality 10 years ago.
  • Lydgate is a smart guy and will be a fine doctor for Middlemarch, but his standards for ideal womanhood seem laughably shallow. I’m rolling my eyes. If memory serves, he will definitely get what he asks for in Rosamond Vincy.

I’ll be glad when vacation gets here and I can take long, uninterrupted dips into this novel to further see how it’s changed for me. I also wish I could quickly flash-forward and find out if the novel will change again when I read it in 2019!


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