In which we discuss Middlemarch chapters 10-17.
Ughh. I know. Almost two full days after I was supposed to. The only excuse I can give is that it was a Life Changes weekend, in which I was offered a much need job requiring rapid and somewhat disorienting logistical reconfiguration. So, this is not only going to be a late one, but a short one– I am not only braindead, I only got up to the end of chapter 17. Feel free to take it away in the comments over the rest of the week.
Here is your recipe. Unfortunately, as I have not tried it out I have no helpful emendations for you, but it looks nomtacular. Just remember to keep your butter cold! I don’t care how many times you have to re-chill, just keep it cold. Also, dicing it into tiny pieces, chilling in freezer for twenty minutes, then combining with flour etc. helps a lot. As does eschewing a food processor in favor of a handheld pastry blender, or two forks and a knife. And don’t worry about how much ice water they say you can use. Use as much as you need to make your dough come together. Just dribble it slowly and keep it cold.
Ok, to the books.
1. These chapters put Dorothea in the background and Lydgate, Rosamond, Mary and Fred very much at the forefront. Thoughts on this? What do we think of Lydgate? He’s sympathetic and in many ways admirable, but doesn’t do much to garner our immediate affection, I think. This also seems to be the effect he has on Middlemarch..
2. Mary Garth. We like her, no? To be fair, I love everyone, but she definitely is winsomely…real. I love that scene where she is caught between Rosamond and Rosamond’s reflection. It’s an arresting image–and then Rosamond’s response: “Oh silvery laugh beauty doesn’t matter!” Women are defined by their physical appearance in this novel: what they look like indicates some sort of moral quality. So Dorothea has this austere and soulful look, and Rosamond’s femininity is fragile and ornamental and heavily, heavily cultivated–and Mary Garth is ordinary and plain, and seems to be the only one who can really step outside these the small circle marked by these poles of femininity. Does her plainness somehow enable that? I like how angry she is, which makes me think she is some kind of authorial self-interjection.
“Every nerve and muscle in Rosamond was adjusted to the consciousness that she was being looked at. She was by nature an actress of parts that entered into her physique: she even acted her own character, and so well, that she did not know it to be precisely her own.”
3. What do we think of Fred?
4.So many character introduced: Bulstrode, Featherstone, Farbrother. Bracketing their English-awesome-ridiculous. They expand the novel’s boundaries–it becomes clear that the title no accident, that this really is a novel about a town and its growing pains as much as it is about the interior travails of a few residents. Interesting scrutiny on the way the church interacts with money. It also reminded me of the way marriage and family arrangements seem to exist to consolidate property and negotiate its transfer–not even remotely the other way around. You see it with Mrs. Cadwallader’s talk of the responsibility to marry well. I think something similar is going on with Bulstrode’s evangelicalism.
5. Speaking of which, was is it with that scene of Lydgate and Farebrother’s, the one with all the scientfically classified insects? Something about it is gnawing at me–it seems significant, but I don’t know why. Of course, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
6. Interesting that Rosamond’s cultivation of herself as the “perfect lady” includes no venal interest in money. As a sort of commodity fetish herself, she can by definition have herself no knowledge or interest in the exchange of money. So does it work both ways? Marriage facilitating the transfer and accumulation of property, and women becoming commodities to facilitate marriage? What then with Rosamond’s obsession with birth? What is the place of aristocracy in this manufacturing town?
“There was nothing financial, still less sordid, in her previsions: she cared about what were considered refinements, and not about the money that was to pay for them.”
7. I’m just really excited to see Middlemarch the town grow–and to see what happens to Mary and Fred. This seems like the only relationship with any real possibility or human warmth thus far.
Ok, there’s lots more to say, so don’t be shy. I’ll probably add more thoughts in the comments as the week goes on. I’ll leave you with this quote.
“One can begin so many things with a new person!–even begin to be a better man.”