George Eliot's "Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life". The Representation of the Time in the Novel
|George Eliot's short biography||3|
|Commentary on the novel ''Middlemarch''|
|1.||The aim of the novel|
|2.||The organisation of the novel|
|3.||Publication history of the novel|
|1.||Historical, political and social background of the time|
|2.||The setting of the novel ''Middlemarch''|
|1.||Progress vs. traditions in Victorian society and its representation in the novel ''Middlemarch''||13|
|2.||Political life in Middlemarch's society||14|
|3.||The importance of social position in Middlemarch's society||16|
|4.||The role of women in Victorian society and its representation in the novel||18|
|George Eliot's style of writing||24|
George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans (1819 – 1880), a great English novelist of Victorian time, whose insightful psychological novels paved way to modern character portrayals in literature. George Eliot wrote seriously about moral and social problems. Her interest in the interior life of human beings, moral problems and strains, anticipated the narrative methods of modern literature.
George Eliot’s style of writing deals with much realism. She was part of the realist school that dominated Victorian literature. George Eliot is among the foremost writers of her time. In spite of her gender, her looks, and her eccentric beliefs, she earned a prominent place within the Victorian literary canon.
There is no doubt that George Eliot is the greatest novelist of 19th century as chronicler of life in the English provinces. She wrote with sympathy, wisdom, and realism about small towns and English country people. Much of Eliot's fiction reflects the middle-class rural background of her childhood and youth.
With the novel ''Middlemarch'' George Eliot took her indisputable place in the rank of European novelists.
Fifty years before George Eliot’s birth, the industrial revolution had got underway. Yet within George Eliot's lifetime the process was still going on, involving massive changes in the economy, society, and the power structure. England was the scene of the dramatic change from a predominantly agriculture to a powerful industrial society. Eliot's intention with the novel ''Middlemarch'' was to analyse these political, social, and economic threads through a series of personal accounts.
The novel ''Middlemarch'' takes place in the years around 1830. Middlemarch is supposed to be a microcosm for semi-rural England in the early 19th century. In the novel Eliot manages to weave in the Catholic emancipation, the death of George IV, the dissolution of Parliament in 1831, the outbreak of cholera in 1832, and the passage of the Reform Bill later that year. Eliot manages to weave these things into the concerns of the characters and the narrative. They are not the focus of the novel, but are balanced with the novel's literary concerns.
George Eliot focuses on myriad characters and depicts them against this dynamic and changing social scene. Her characters and stories told within the novel are meant to show how people are affected by historical change while it happens, and how progress happens in people's lives. George Eliot wrote,'' this history is chiefly concerned with the private lot of a few men and women, but there is no private life which has not been determined by a wider public life'' (4, p. XV)
Mary Ann Evans ( 1819 – 1880) was born in Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire. When she was a few months old, the family moved to Griff where Eliot spent 21 years of his life among people that he later depicted in her novels. She was educated at home, in several schools, and developed a strong evangelical piety at Mrs. Wallington's School at Neneaton. However, later Eliot rejected her dogmatic faith.
Mary Ann enjoyed books and learning from a young age. She was introspective and quiet, much like her character Dorothea from Middlemarch, and was a bit of an anomaly among young women of the time. Mary Anne had to leave school at the age of 19, when her mother died in early 1839. However, her father still continued to indulge her love of learning, purchasing books for her and helping her learn German and Italian. In 1841 she moved with her father to Coventry, where she lived with him until his death in 1849. In fact, Coventry is felt to have been the original town on which ''Middlemarch'' is based.
Fifty years before Mary Ann’s birth, the industrial revolution had got underway. Yet the process was still going on, involving massive changes in the economy, society, and the power structure. As part of this, a process of intellectual ferment was in progress. In Coventry, Mary Ann Evan’s met two couples, the Brays and the Hennells, who were parts of this ferment. While the Brays were free thinkers and vaguely socialist in their ideas, the Hennells were Unitarians a religious sect which was more rationalistic and modern. They, along with noted women writers, Elizabeth Gaskell and Harriet Martineau and others, formed part of a vanguard of intellectuals, who tried to create a religion based not on faith but on reason and ethics.
The Brays and the Hennells introduced May Ann to many new religious and political idea. As a result, she began to renounce her faith in Christianity, which caused distance between Mary Ann and her father. Mary Ann’s father was a very competent estate manager and respected by his employer. He also got work at other local estates in the district. He was very conservative in his political and religious views. Though his daughter grew up thinking very differently from him, she continued to respect his sincerity and loved him deeply. Many feel the character of Caleb Garth is an idealised version of her father.
After her father's death, Eliot travelled around Europe. She settled in London and took up work as sub-editor of Westminster Review. Under Eliot's control the Westminster Review enjoyed success. She became the centre of a literary circle, one of whose members was George Henry Lewes, who would be her companion until his death in 1878. Lewes's wife was mentally unbalanced and she had already had two children by another man. In 1854 Eliot went to Germany with Lewes. Their unconventional union caused some difficulties because Lewes was still married and he was unable to obtain divorce.