Monday, March 20, 2006

Piksea puts in her two cents on Miss Brooke (the book and the character)

I've been staying away from the site until now to avoid being swayed by everyone else's thoughts about this book. As soon as I hit the publish button, I will begin a thoughtful study of what all of my fellow Middlemarch readers are thinking. I love how much more you can get from having so many perspectives. First I get my thoughts in order and then I see new ways of looking at the story and consider new aspects. I'm sure what some of the other women are saying will clear some of my questions up, or maybe bring up new ones for me to consider.

I'm not sure how the reader is supposed to feel about Miss Brooke. Dorothea Brooke starts out being described as not as beautiful as her sister and that people actually begin a relationship with her prejudiced against her for this, as though she is somehow physically disagreeable. However, as soon as people talked to her they fell for her personality and discovered that they found her to be their ideal of beauty, personality and cleverness. This would all be fine, except that when we are introduced to Dodo she just doesn't live up to the hype. She was so self-righteous and disagreeable, often just for the sake of being disagreeable. Although we're told how clever she is, she seems to be more of a clueless know-it-all. I know I wasn't crazy about her, because when I went through the notes I took as I was reading, I actually found an entry in my notebook that said, "She hates puppies. Who hates puppies, for goodness sake?" Hardly a damning character flaw, or is it?

Please excuse my pop culture reference point here, but when we start to meet the men and they are falling over themselves for Dorothea, I got a very Meredith Grey impression. You know how on Grey's Anatomy the main character started out pretty messed up emotionally and not really very nice? And, how every man instantly fell in love with her? I didn't get it on the TV show and I'm not getting it here. This changed greatly for both of these characters as their stories progressed, which was a point in their creators' favor, for me at least (feet of clay, and all that).

Now I keep pondering whether Dorothea will be a romantic self-fulfilling prophecy, dooming herself to a life of pious sacrifice, which she certainly seems to want so desperately. Or if she'll wind up miserable in that loveless marriage. Maybe I'm the silly romantic but, if my fiancé told me to bring a friend to keep me company on my honeymoon, I think there would be some warning bells going off. If this should wind up being the union that would be both Dorothea and Casaubon's ideal for happiness, then yippee! for them. Instead, I think Dorothea has found a way to be a martyr without any of the good causes that those martyred saints had going for them.

However, the focus of Book One changes for the last few chapters and I found that sort of telling. First, as we get closer to the wedding it would seem that the only strong feelings about this marriage are expressed by the people who are against it. The couple themselves have very tepid feelings toward the actual union and each other. Sure, Casaubon didn't need to marry and hadn't expected to want to, which should be meaningful. And, Dorothea is in love with the idea of being schooled by this, by all accounts, very dry learned man. By the last two chapters of the book entitled, Miss Brooke, there is no mention at all of the titular character at all. That doesn't seem to bode well, does it?


Anonymous rachel said...

A comment on the puppies:

I think that part, specifically, was intended as a metaphorical commentary on the role of women. Dorothea rejects the puppy in part because she doesn't want to accept a gift from Sir James (or believes it's for Celia), but her comments about that kind of dog -- bred as a kind of accessory or ornament -- could be applied equally well to women of her time.

She doesn't dislike big strong "useful" dogs like Monk. She objects to dogs that are nothing but pets. We see several women in this book who are also nothing but pets (and men who want them to be nothing more). Dorothea aspires to be more, even if (as per Sam's post) she's not marrying someone who will help that happen. That's my take on that scene, anyway.

6:58 PM  
Blogger piksea said...

I think I was in such a snit over Dorothea that I chalked it up as just one more thing to hold against her. When I read through my notes, I was surprised that I felt the need to jot down such a strange and superficial thing.

I didn't look further than this was another difference between her and Celia, since Eliot seems hellbent on showing us that the two girls are like night and day.

9:12 PM  
Anonymous Danielle said...

I wondered, too, about that puppy comment. I see your point, though, Rachel. When you put it like that it makes sense. Do you think Casaubon sees Dorothea like a "pet"? I am not entirely sure what his intentions are, or if he understands what he is getting himself into (and vice versa with Dorothea).

4:28 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Dorothea as Meredith Grey... hmmm. And on her way to becoming a desperate housewife--an interesting parallel. I wonder if there will be McDreamy in her future?

Unlike Meredith, though, she and Casaubon were more a meeting of two minds that found each other agreeable. Of course we fall in love with the Dorotheas and Merediths, not just because of their beauty, but because of their earnestness and openness.

11:56 AM  
Blogger piksea said...

I wasn't thinking any further ahead than Meredith Grey, Sam, but you may have something there. I think that Ladislaw is her McDreamy. That could just be because I'm really starting to like him.

12:36 PM  

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