Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A and Z March through the Middle: Middlemarch Part 4

This year, Aarti and I have decided to wade deeply into a classic book of literature that we hadn’t been exposed to before. We thought it would be fun to break up our reading into sections and post a little bit of our conversation and reflections on what we’ve read. This is really different for me because I’ve never really shared a classic with anyone before, but I knew that if I had Aarti along for the ride, it would be much less intimidating and more of a full experience. So we have embarked on our read of Middlemarch by George Eliot with some eagerness, despite the fact that neither of us really knew what the book was about. I encourage you to click over to Aarti’s site today and see the fourth part of of our conversation. Please enjoy our thoughts on Part 4, shared here.

Zibilee: I was so irritated with Mr. Vincy’s lame attempts to call off his daughter’s marriage! He was acting so childish and, though I think Rosamund is going to be a handful, I don’t think he should have reacted in that way. I think Mr. Vincy was also counting on Fred’s getting an inheritance from Featherstone, and when he didn’t he started becoming peevish. I didn’t want to root for Rosamund and Lydgate but Eliot is wonderful at turning the tables in her story and making you root for the characters whom you least like. I felt that way with Mr. Featherstone’s dying wish and then again for Rosamund and Lydgate. I think making Lydgate insure his life was a smart thing to do, given that the family was not going to be financially endowed by Featherstone, but it came off as a petty action—especially because it was coupled with a statement that Lydgate and Rosamund would get no money from him.

Aarti: I thought this was really odd on Mr. Vincy’s part, too. I don’t think I really understand any member of the Vincy family. They all seem really spoiled and self-absorbed. For example, if Mr. Vincy is so disappointed in his children, doesn’t that imply that maybe he wasn’t as great a father as he should have been? I don’t mean to put all the blame for an individual’s personality on his parents, but I get the feeling that Mr. Vincy is trying the strict parenting thing too late in the game, and maybe shouldn’t have been so generous and indulgent in the past.

I think I’ve mentioned before in our conversations that it’s very difficult for me to feel sorry for someone that is so sloppy with money. I just don’t sympathize with people who cannot understand how to budget, or that spend their money recklessly, especially when they don’t have much of it. I think that’s what will happen with Rosamund. She doesn’t seem like the sort of person who is willing to sacrifice her own comforts or happiness for anyone, and I just don’t understand how Lydgate thinks she will be a good wife. I also think Lydgate is a bit of a prig who keeps setting up people’s backs, so I am not sure how successful he’ll be, either....

Zibilee: I’m also unsure of how Lydgate proposes to keep Rosamund happy when he’s starting off the marriage in debt. I know that she has expensive tastes and he’s trying to cater to them, but I think it very unwise to spend all his money on fripperies for the new house they will share when he’s basically spending all that he has just setting up house. I think his intentions are good, but he seems to be caught up in the moment and not thinking at all about the future. Rosamund is going to be difficult if she can't have the life she has become accustomed to, and that is going to cause some serious friction

The whole plot development with Casauboun’s feeling jealous of Ladislaw and refusing to leave him any money after Dorothea suggests it made me so angry. He’s such a jealous, hateful little man, and he’s being very selfish. He’s too blind to see that Dorthea has a kind heart and is attributing all kinds of hateful emotions to her. It’s frustrating to read that he’s being so stubborn and that he asks Ladislaw to leave. This section really made me dislike Casaubon even more, if that’s possible. He blames all his mistrust on Ladislaw, who has done nothing but try to pursue his own interests and show family concern. Dorothea's marriage to him was indeed a huge mistake and I think it's sad that he’s so blind and jealous. Dorthea is seeing his true colors come out by this point.

Aarti: Yes, I feel so horrible for Dorothea. Can you imagine that slow, sick feeling in her stomach as she comes to realize that her husband is not nearly the man that she thought he was when she married him? It would be so horrifying. My heart goes out to her. Causabon is really just a very sad person. He has no empathy for anyone, and it has left him a very lonely and isolated person. It’s depressing that even though he managed to marry such a kind and generous soul, he still cannot seem to trust anyone.

Zibilee: I’m also interested in what will happen to Brooke now that the public is against him. It seems that he’s not a very good man when it comes to the land and people who count on him. The scene with Brooke and the tenant farmer Dagley really stunned me. Brooke is certainly not well liked by his people and that will come back to him in his political ambitions.

Aarti: Yes, I am interested to see how that goes, too! Book 5 should be a real turning point :-)

At this point, I think there are a lot of reversals and intrigue just starting to reveal themselves. As I have switched to an audio edition, I'm eager to move on to Part 5, where I feel a lot of very interesting things are going to happen. Eliot has me firmly in her clutches at this point and it looks like it’s going to be a very bumpy road for those characters whom I love to hate, and also for the ones that I admire greatly. Onwards we go into Part 5! Thanks for sticking with Aarti and me this far!

Read Earlier Installments:


Suko said...

Wonderful, interesting discussion! Both of you express your thoughts so clearly. Thanks for sharing your conversation about this classic.

Audra said...

I love reading these discussions -- I want to pick this up now (it has long been on my TBR!). So envious of the wonderful friendship with you two -- I love me some book geeks! :)

Cath said...

I love these discussions, too. You have almost convinced me to give Middlemarch another try (I found it pretty impenetrable the first two times I tried and left off after that). ALMOST. :)

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