By George Eliot

“Middlemarch” by George Eliot is a masterpiece of Victorian literature, known for its intricate plot, detailed characterizations, and exploration of social and political themes. The novel employs literary devices such as foreshadowing, symbolism, and multiple narrative perspectives to create a complex and thought-provoking work of fiction.

Themes 📚

  1. Marriage and Social Status: The novel explores the role of marriage in Victorian society and its impact on social status and personal fulfillment.
  2. Ambition and Self-Realization: The characters in “Middlemarch” grapple with their own ambitions and desires for personal fulfillment, often facing obstacles and setbacks in their pursuit of success.
  3. Religion and Morality: George Eliot delves into the complexities of religion and morality, questioning traditional beliefs and exploring the gray areas of ethical decision-making.
  4. Gender and Power: The novel challenges traditional gender roles and power dynamics, examining how societal expectations and cultural norms impact the lives of women and men.
  5. Politics and Reform: “Middlemarch” also delves into the political landscape of Victorian England, exploring issues such as electoral reform, class struggles, and the tension between tradition and progress.

Use of Literary Devices ✍🏽

  1. Narrative Omniscience: George Eliot employs a narrative technique that allows her to comment on and provide insights into the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of multiple characters.
  2. Irony: The novel is rich with irony, from the ironic contrast between characters’ intentions and outcomes to the irony of societal expectations and norms.
  3. Symbolism: Eliot uses symbolism throughout the novel, such as the town of Middlemarch itself as a symbol of provincialism and conservatism.
  4. Foreshadowing: The author employs foreshadowing to build tension and create a sense of anticipation for future events.
  5. Allusion: “Middlemarch” contains many literary and historical allusions, from Shakespeare to Greek mythology, which enrich the text and add depth to the characters and themes.
  6. Epistolary Form: Portions of the novel are written in the form of letters and journal entries, adding an intimate and personal touch to the narrative.
  7. Satire: George Eliot employs satire to mock societal norms and highlight the absurdity of certain beliefs and practices.
  8. Motif: The motif of change and evolution runs throughout the novel, reflecting the idea that personal growth and societal progress are ongoing processes.
  9. Imagery: The author employs vivid imagery to bring the characters and settings to life, making the story more engaging and immersive.
  10. Multiple Narrators: The novel features multiple narrators with different perspectives and voices, giving the reader a more complete understanding of the story and its characters.

Examples of Literary Devices 📋

  1. Foreshadowing
Dorothea’s dissatisfactionEarly hints of Dorothea’s dissatisfaction with her life foreshadow her eventual realization of her true desires.
Lydgate’s ambitionLydgate’s ambition and his desire for professional success foreshadow the challenges he will face in Middlemarch.
Fred Vincy’s debtsFred Vincy’s mounting debts foreshadow his future financial struggles and their impact on his relationships.
  1. Imagery
Descriptions of MiddlemarchEliot’s detailed descriptions of Middlemarch and its inhabitants create a vivid image of the town and its social atmosphere.
The cathedralThe image of the cathedral symbolizes the importance of religion in the community.
Landscapes and interiorsThe novel’s descriptions of landscapes and interiors provide a strong sense of place and atmosphere.
  1. Irony
Dorothea’s marriageDorothea’s marriage to Casaubon, which she believes will lead to intellectual fulfillment, ironically results in her unhappiness.
Lydgate’s professional strugglesLydgate’s attempts to revolutionize medical practices in Middlemarch ironically lead to his professional downfall.
Will Ladislaw’s inheritanceWill’s refusal to accept his inheritance because of his principles ironically makes him more attractive to Dorothea.
  1. Symbolism
The key to all mythologiesCasaubon’s unfinished work symbolizes the impossibility of complete knowledge and understanding.
The microscopeThe microscope symbolizes Lydgate’s scientific curiosity and his desire to make a difference in the medical field.
The mirrorThe mirror is a recurring symbol of self-reflection and the examination of one’s own motives and desires.
  1. Allusion
Saint TheresaThe novel’s opening allusion to Saint Theresa sets the stage for Dorothea’s desire to lead a meaningful life.
Classical referencesVarious classical references throughout the novel emphasize the characters’ education and intellectual interests.
Biblical referencesBiblical references highlight the importance of religion and morality in the lives of the characters.
  1. Suspense
Dorothea’s marriageThe reader is left in suspense about the outcome of Dorothea’s marriage to Casaubon.
Lydgate’s careerThe suspense surrounding Lydgate’s career and potential success creates tension throughout the novel.
Relationships and marriagesThe novel’s various romantic entanglements and potential marriages create suspense and anticipation.
  1. Setting
MiddlemarchThe town of Middlemarch serves as the primary setting, providing a microcosm of English society.
The countrysideThe surrounding countryside and estates provide a contrast to the town and a backdrop for various events.
Various homesThe homes of the novel’s characters offer insight into their personalities and social statuses.

FAQs 💭

What is narrative omniscience?

Narrative omniscience is a literary technique in which the author has access to the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of multiple characters in the story. George Eliot uses this technique to provide insights into her characters and to comment on their actions and motivations.

What are some examples of irony in “Middlemarch”?

Irony is a prominent literary device in “Middlemarch.” For example, Dorothea’s marriage to Casaubon is ironic because she hopes to achieve intellectual fulfillment through the marriage, but instead finds herself trapped in a loveless and unfulfilling relationship.

How does George Eliot use symbolism in “Middlemarch”?

George Eliot uses symbolism throughout the novel to add depth and meaning to the story. For example, the town of Middlemarch itself is a symbol of provincialism and conservatism, while the railroad symbolizes progress and modernization.

What is the significance of the epistolary form in “Middlemarch”?

The use of letters and journal entries in “Middlemarch” adds a personal and intimate touch to the story. It allows the reader to see the characters’ inner thoughts and feelings in a way that wouldn’t be possible with a traditional narrative structure.

What is the effect of the multiple narrators in “Middlemarch”?

The use of multiple narrators in “Middlemarch” allows the reader to see the story and its characters from multiple perspectives. This creates a more complex and nuanced understanding of the characters and their actions.

How does George Eliot use satire in “Middlemarch”?

George Eliot uses satire to highlight the absurdity of certain societal norms and beliefs. For example, she satirizes the idea that women should be primarily concerned with marriage and domestic duties, and the belief that intellect and emotion are mutually exclusive.

What is the motif of change in “Middlemarch”?

The motif of change and evolution is prominent throughout the novel, reflecting the idea that personal growth and societal progress are ongoing processes. The characters in the novel undergo various changes and transformations over the course of the story.

How does imagery contribute to the novel’s effectiveness?

The use of vivid and detailed imagery in “Middlemarch” brings the characters and settings to life, making the story more engaging and immersive. It also helps to create a sense of atmosphere and mood throughout the novel.