Wednesday, March 15, 2006

More on pacing

I almost wrote this as a comment to Monica's post ("Pacing..." below), but decided that, being a prig in the Fred Vincy sense of the word, I needed a little more space than that.

From Margaret Drabble's introduction to my edition:

The section of the plot that concerns Dorothea Brooke was not part of her original plan: Lydgate was to be her central character, in a "Study of Provincial Life" peopled by Vincys, Featherstones, Garths, and other people in the middle walks of life. The work went slowly: she interrupted the flow to study, with characteristic attention to detail, medical encyclopedias and lives of doctors... and toward the end of 1870 broke off completely to start a completely different project -- a story called "Miss Brooke"...


Which is the beginning of our story now.

I had forgotten how big the block of Dorothea was at the beginning of this, and found myself becoming (absurdly) impatient to get to the rest of them. But I think that's only because I've read it before. Lydgate, Fred, Mary, even Rosamond, were all friends of mine from previously, and I missed them.

However, I think it's an effective beginning in that it places us squarely in Dorothea's very limited world. From her vision, as well as ours, Casaubon and Sir James really are her only two choices -- given that range, I might have chosen Casaubon too. When the world finally opens up to the reader (and even later to Dorothea, for her uncle, not usually overprotective, doesn't think his party of townsfolk is a suitable place for his nieces), then we're forcibly struck by the fact that Dorothea has been making her choices in extreme ignorance.

It's this wider world -- the provincial and yet somehow enormous population of Middlemarch -- that I love best about this book, but I had not appreciated before how the pacing allows Eliot to underscore Dorothea's isolation first. Gender isolates her, as well as class. I'm sure we'll all have a lot more to say about that as the book progresses.

3 Comments:

Blogger Ella said...

I agree, Eliot's isolation of Dorothea is a really interesting element, structurally. (Honestly, though? She marries Casaubon and we never see her again? I'll miss her.) I don't know of any other book that does that with a character in the very beginning.

However, Rachel, I must disagree with you on one point: if I were limited to a choice of the two men, I would run screaming away from the one who is described as a "mummy" and a "death's head" and, worse, has no redeeming qualities in his personality. Not that Sir James is such a great prize (I love how she describes his hair as 'gleaming' - makes me think of hairspray and pomade) but Casaubon, yick.

11:15 AM  
Blogger piksea said...

Rachel, thanks for that information. It adds a lot of depth to the story. I do find it odd though, that Dorothea should be our first impression of Middlemarch.

1:02 PM  
Blogger piksea said...

Rachel, thanks for that information. It adds a lot of depth to the story. I do find it odd though, that Dorothea should be our first impression of Middlemarch.

1:02 PM  

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