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Marriage in George Eliot’s Novel ‘Middlemarch’ Essay

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Updated: Sep 12th, 2021


The novel is an important genre of literature that not only contains a direct connection with life, but also interprets different aspects of it in a precise, but comprehensive way. It does not reveal the superficial aspects of life; instead, it concentrates on all the aspects the novelists have experienced while keenly observing his social and physical environment. Though the novel is the product of the 18th century, yet it won applause and development in the nineteenth century, especially during the Victorian age. The victorian novel has been stated as one of the most sublime pieces of fiction in the long history of English Literature. It not only gave the novel new dimensions and wide-opened innovative avenues for it, but also it produced the art of depicting the salient features of contemporary society in an extremely lofty and elegant way. The era maintains imperative significance for the sonorous arrival of women writers, who made great contributions in the promotion and growth of the fiction of their time. “The Victorian era is known for the galaxy of female novelists, who not only determined new dimensions in this literary genre but also formed the novel into its present shape.” (Singh, 2001:475) The name of Mary Ann Evans alias George Eliot is the most prominent among these female novelists of Victorian times, whose works including Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Adam Bede, Romola, Middlemarch, and others not only reflect social set up her of their time but also present human psychology like the in-depth analysis of personalities of the characters.


Like other popular literature of her time, the main theme behind George Eliot’s novels is always love, matrimony, conflicts, and excitement to attain wealth and power out of the marital knot. Her “Mill on the Floss” vehemently reveals an indescribable conflict in Maggie’s innocent mind; one the one side there was the matter of the Tulliver family’s ego and prestige, and on the other side it was the call of Philips’s unabated and unconditional love for her, but she sacrificed both her love and life on her brother Tom out of her sheer devotion for the cause of the family. Her novels are not only sociological but also depict a vivid picture of the thoughts and wish prevailing in the human mind. The same is the case with the stories of her other novels. Published in 1871 and 1872 in eight parts, her masterpiece under the title “Middlemarch” reveals human psychology by portraying the matrimonial issues in a fictional town of Middlemarch. The sway of seeking power and pecuniary gains can be observed throughout the novel. The inclusion of an epigram at the beginning of every chapter describes her command over prose-writing on the one hand and human nature on the other.

Middlemarch is a study of provincial life, where two stories run parallel to one another: in both cases, complications are arising from the marriage. In one case, Dorothea Brooke finds her lofty ideas frustrated in her marriage with Reverend Edward Casaubon, while in the other case Rosamund Vincy cannot find happiness with Dr. Lydgate, a man who struggles to meet his family’s demands while being true to his professional ambitions. The novel is noteworthy for its deeply studied characters who suffer through their blindness and folly, and the powerful and inexorable realism of the complex picture of life in a small town of Middlemarch. Dorothy Brooke is the central figure of the novel and is a highly ambitious and idealistic young lady. She longs for improving the very lot of the town and looks for some imperative methods to give her ambitions a practical form. There are some ideas of gaining the power to work for the betterment of her environment. Hence, she seeks her ideal in a learned and intellectual person and marries a middle-aged clergyman, Reverend Edward Casaubon, with a thought of learning philosophy and theology to apply to fulfill her dreams. For this, she spurns the gorgeous and apposite offer of young baronet Sir James Chettam whom she thinks an average mind. She thinks marriage something above a source of fulfilling the carnal desires; rather, there must be some great objective while entering into the civil contract of marriage. But very soon after her marriage, Dorothea comes to know that she was in an illusion regarding the knowledge of the clergymen, the majority of whom maintain superficial knowledge and merely pretend to be the learned fellows. Nobody can assess the doom of Dorothea’s dreams at the beginning of the novel.

Importance of Marriage

The most noteworthy aspect of the novel is the lust for gaining pelf, power, and position through marrying a wealthy person. The characters are in wait for the death of their near and far relatives to obtain their money and lead a happy and prosperous life consequently. Fred Vincy is becoming a clergyman, just to attain a high social status for himself and his family. “Money is the root of many evils, but much good, in the novel. Lydgate gets desperate for want of it, Fred despairs when he has little, Dorothea becomes generous when she has too much, and the Garths save carefully since their money is limited. Money has a profound effect on character within the novel, and though many people are judged by how much money they have, many of the best people in the novel, like Will Ladislaw and Mr. Farebrother, have very little”.


The author has tried to signify that the appearances are deceptive which may eclipse the importance of marriage if it takes place in a wrong and unplanned way. She aims at revealing the very facts regarding human nature with special reference to the prevailing social norms and values during her era. The novel reveals that society is an amalgamation of various institutions, among which family maintains matchless significance and implications throughout man’s life. The establishment of familial life is generally the outcome of marriage. Eliot encourages and admires the institution of marriage in all her works and states it as the most glorious of all human relationships. “She takes marriage as a sacrament, not of the Church, but the sublime fellowship of humanity. It is a pure, holy, a binding tie, a sacred obligation, as it appears in her books and novels.” (Cooke, 1884: 79) Though the theme of the novel is the illusions of young ladies.


  1. T. Singh History of English Literature New Book Palace Urdu bazaar Lahore. 2001
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IvyPanda. 2021. "Marriage in George Eliot's Novel 'Middlemarch'." September 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/marriage-in-george-eliots-novel-middlemarch/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Marriage in George Eliot's Novel 'Middlemarch''. 12 September.

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