Thursday, March 23, 2006

Just a Quick Thought

I've just started Book 3 (so, I guess I'm right on schedule here) and something has occurred to me. We have Dorothea, who is so young and dreads her naivete and ignorance. She marries dried up (how many times has he been described this way?) old Casaubon with the idea that he is just the man to help her become the woman she should be. But, really, he's the man who would keep her from ever being worldly and/or wise.

However, we meet up with Will Ladislaw again, and find out he's a much better guy than our first impression of him. In Rome, at least when we meet up with them in Rome, Dorothea is miserable. Her honeymoon is figuratively over, before it is even literally over. When I was convinced that Casaubon would only be happy when he succeeded in making her youthful bloom wither on the vine, Ladislaw reappears. He instigates an appreciation and the beginnings of an understanding of art and beauty. I found myself really beginning to like Dorothea and the idea of the woman that she could become. I sure hope he turns up at Lowick very soon.

I could be totally wrong, but, doesn't Ladislaw seem like the catalyst to make Dorothea blossom?


Blogger Martha said...

It's funny-- I'm not quite into the third book, but from the first encounter between Ladislaw and Dorothea I thought, here's a potential love interest. Because they were instantly dismissive of each other, though it was a first impression-- didn't go as far as dislike. Where did that convention come from?!? It apparently goes back a long way (you can see it in Shakespeare too). Two folks that instantly hate each other are bound to fall in love. I haven't seen that happen too often in real life. I guess it adds enough drama to get through the plot of the book? Like otherwise it might be: They fell in love! They got married! They lived together happily til they died! The End.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Isabella said...

I completely agree.

I don't entirely understand Casaubon. He doesn't want Dorothea receiving Ladislaw in his absence. Is that jealousy? Casaubon, jealous? I didn't think he'd be capable of any emotion. Or just his sense of what's proper? Or a simple dislike for Ladislaw?

Then there's the attitude that "Dorothea was not only his wife: she was a personification of that shallow world which surrounds the appreciated or desponding author." Is this his way of punishing her?

11:34 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

Isa -- I think you're seeing manifestations of Casaubon's insecurity, which Eliot refers to several times (too lazy to look up quotes this minute...). We aren't given too many details, but it seems like the larger world's opinion of Casaubon (if we can trust Will's word) is that he has put off publishing for so long that the scholarly world has passed him by. He wants to believe his work is new and relevant, but one can't help thinking "If you're so smart, how come you don't publish?" When Dorothea asks him if he's going to publish soon, it's a slap in the face -- he wants her to worship his scholarship uncritically, but it turns out she has a brain in her head and can form her own opinions. How galling!

He thinks Ladislaw has poisoned her against him, and he's right to some small degree -- Ladislaw has given her the information she needs to see more clearly. That's part of Casaubon's jealousy -- Dorothea's mind is not wholly his to inform.

But there's also the fact that Casaubon is possessive. Not of his money -- he gives that away readily -- but of his knowledge. He hoards it. He doesn't write his "great work" because he's always gathering more and more to him. I think he's possessive of Dorothea in the same way. He may not be intending to use her for much himself, but she's his, and no one else gets to share in her loyalty or enthusiasm.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

I think it was more of a misunderstanding than a mutual dislike, the first time Dorothea and Ladislaw met, and mostly on his side. He couldn't believe that Dorothea's professed ignorance about art was anything more than a "covert judgement" on his sketch, which he convinced himeself that she must have found "detestable." A few paragraphs later in converstaion with her Uncle and Casaubon, Dorothea even comes to Ladislaw's defence, suggesting that he has "conscientious scruples," and the author reminds us that Dorothea was interested in finding a favourable explanation.

Towards the end of the chapter, Dorothea says, still referring to Ladislaw, that, "people...may seem idle and weak because they are growing. We should be very patient with each other, I think"

As to the notion of Casaubon's jealousy, I know, it's hard to fathom. I see him more as a spider who has this delicious morsel caught in his web and doesn't quite know what to do with her, but doesn't want to share her either, with the wrong person (for fear of losing her?).

6:02 PM  
Blogger Ella said...

Am I the only one who finds Will petulent and whiney? Eliot says at one point that he worships Dorothea from afar, hoping for queenly recognition - and that one of the things that makes her so attractive to him is her unavailability.

I'm tring to picture Rufus Sewall lurking around Rome in a bad mood, but it's still not working for me.

10:36 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Rachel, you were posting, while I was composing, but I liked what you said about Casaubon being possessive about both his "great work" and also Dorothea, and not wanting to share either one with the rest of the world. In Dorothea, though, he finds a possession which is proving a little harder to control and I think he is a little baffled by that.

12:43 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

Ella -- he can be petulant and whiney indeed. Like everyone in this book, he is not unambiguously good. There are times I really want to smack Will -- there are other times he's completely adorable. He's self-absorbed, at any rate, and the degree to which that's irritating depends largely on his mood.

Sewell's portrayal definitely skews toward the romantic, since we don't get to hear all Will's self-absorbed thoughts. So it's not so much "bad mood" as "brooding", in a dark, beautiful, Byronic sense.

10:17 AM  

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