The book was long and had many characters, and I am verbose and rambling, so the review (spoiler review by the way) will be in 3 parts...live with it! :)
I cannot remember exactly when I started this, I think sometime in January. I read it in phases. I was dragging my mind, not very motivated. Eventually, I think became very interested after forcing myself along and my reading sped up. By the time I was finished I could honestly say that I enjoyed it immensely. The plot was wonderfully interesting with all the many plotlines and their interesting intersections…or lack thereof. Much of the story was brimming with British humor. Candid descriptions of human unconscious and conscious maneuvers and motivations abounded.
Unpleasant aspects first.
The major issue with this novel was the light view of the sanctity of marriage. Apparently to love a married person from afar was not dishonorable (even though every other old standard of strict honor was held).
I don’t like when people inquire into authorial intent (we can only know authorial intent if we read personal journals and letters and sometimes I don’t want to know it, it rather spoils forming my own opinions), but I do think we need to allow for authorial bias. I know that Eliot did not have a great set of morals herself as she formed an immoral alliance outside of marriage, and I cannot help but think that this influenced her apparent idea that extramarital romantic love as long as it was “pure” (by its very nature it cannot be in such circumstances) was acceptable.
Will quickly fell in love with his cousin’s wife, and this love is treated as good because she was angelic and “had no corresponding feeling” and because he had “no designs”. Rosamund’s love for Will is portrayed in a more neutral light (but it obviously is still wrong) and even Dorothea doesn’t see this with all her described virtues; she should’ve been horrified as well as jealous and pained when she thought Will loved Rosamund. I feel that since Rosamund is so despicable that perhaps this portrayal is less dangerous at least for the Biblically educated reader.
While we are on the subject of that diva...frail creature my eye. If she was capable of being so willfully a shameful, selfish, adulterous, manipulative witch, she was capable of applying her mind to being good; she obviously had some brains. She also seems terribly lazy, but I am not sure what her household duties were…all she seemed to do was busywork, complaining, primping, riding without her husband’s permission, complaining, and fawning on her husband’s rich relations. To sit and spend all Lydgate’s earned money and then dishonor and disrespect him and withdraw her love when he was in trouble because of HER! Poor Rosamund indeed. !!!!!!
Oh, and it was TOTALLY out of character for her explain her own and Will’s situations to Dorothea as she did. Not that it would redeem her in my eyes if it seemed realistic…
Lydgate. This section of the story bothered me the most. I always like the well-bred-to-the-point-of-arrogance characters to some extent because of their breeding, so I approved of Lydgate although I did not like his harsh judgment and treatment of Mr. Farebrother.
Even though I knew Rosamund would turn out horrid, I kept believing/hoping that Lydgate would be successful in the medical field and never thought he would succumb as he did to her selfish, manipulative will. I found it hard to believe that he still loved her after her disobedience and deception, and I kept hoping that he would pull himself together and be a man.
He was rather stuck on himself, but I don’t think he deserved to live his life under Rosamund’s sorry will and accomplish nothing and die young. That ending was too cruel…especially as it was written in a light tone and as if it was supposed to be humorous—insult to fatal injury! Lydgate was of a higher order—or should have been. I supposed though that this was something of a “pride before the fall” set up.
I felt sorry for Mr. Bulstrode. I did not like that his repentance had to be false. I also hated the hypocrisy and cruelty of the gossipers. I hated that Bulstrode killed the man—why did she have to add that horrific, criminal twist? I supposed too many reforms (Fred) would’ve been too great—but murder? REALLY?
I even at some points (not near his end) felt sorry for Causabon because no one liked him, and he was so miserable and his work was worthless and foolish (a redeeming insight of Dorothea’s). However, he could’ve taken himself less seriously and have loosened up so as not to be himself ridiculous and rude. What he asked of Dorothea was selfish, wicked, and cruel (he knew her sense of honour would last beyond his death). I couldn’t pity him then—I rejoiced at his death quite as much as I was originally planning.
Yes, all you get this time is the unpleasant parts. Read part two here and part three here.
Labels: Classics Club, Literature Reviews