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Monday, 22 June 2015

Where is my sympathy?

Chapter 66. Lydgate is in trouble. He has difficulties at work, his hospital doesn't get much support, people go against him only because they're against Bulstrode, he's ahead of his time in handling of patients and therefore misunderstood, he's in debt, his wife is insensitive and insensible, his house isn't yet sold due to his imbecile wife's meddling, his uncle Godwin not only refuses to help him but also insults him, he's too proud to ask anyone for help. The idealistic, talented doctor is now disappointed, disillusioned, depressed, desperate. 
George Eliot sympathises with him. Readers ache for him. I too feel his pain and wish him all the best, but mixed with my sympathy is another feeling- very vague, very slight, but it is there, a voice that says "That's what you get for belittling women, Tertius", a feeling that he deserves it and has only himself to blame. That's not to say that Rosamond is a strong-minded, determined, independent heroine who gets credit for teaching a sexist a lesson. Nobody can say that. Rosamond is an awful person, who prioritises her own interests above anyone else's and thinks others have the duty of conforming to her wishes and making life easy for her, who has no sense of purpose and no principle and only cares about maintaining her extravagant lifestyle, who lacks the capability of self-reflection and always finds herself irreproachable whilst everyone else disagreeable. All the scenes describing their arguments over money and solutions, as well as all the passages detailing her thoughts and self-justification, are masterfully done. This is an awful woman, and one must feel sorry for Lydgate for being stuck with such a wife. And yet the other feeling still hangs there, that Lydgate imagines women being weak, feeble, inferior, docile, submissive... and now he's mastered, he's under a woman's thumb. One can't help falling in love, but it's his fault to marry Rosamond. It's his fault to have wrong ideas about women. It's his fault to yield and let her dominate him. 
Where is my sympathy? 

6 comments:

  1. Di,

    Both Dorothea and Lydgate make mistakes when choosing a spouse. It's my personal opinion (not shared by anyone else that I know) that someone else makes a mistake in choosing a spouse.

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    1. I rule out the Celia- James Chettam marriage.
      Let's see. Are you referring to Dorothea- Will? Or maybe Mary- Fred? Mary should marry Mr Farebrother instead?

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    2. Di,

      Why rule that one out?

      I have questions about Fred. It's been a while since I read MIddlemarch so I don't remember that much about Mr. Farebrother. Aren't two women relatives living with him? .

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    3. Uhh, I just didn't think much about Celia- James Chettam marriage. I also read some blogs and reviews, and nobody made a comment on it. What do you think?
      Farebrother lives with his mother, aunt and elder sister. A good, honourable man who has acute self-awareness and self-respect. I wrote about him in my post on the moral lessons of Middlemarch.

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  2. Di,

    I think the Celia--James match is a good one. They do seem suited for each other and both appear to be decent people without the baggage some of the other characters are dragging around.

    Farebrother also strikes me a a decent man--his gambling which causes Eliot so much difficulty isn't a problem for me, but that's a cultural distinction. His gambling doesn't seem to cause him a problem, but of course, back then it was considered much more serious a moral failing than it would be today.

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    1. Well yeah, regarding Farebrother, I was trying to think like and with George Eliot rather than against her. It's not just the gambling though, it's his attitude towards money in general.

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