Wednesday, October 19, 2011

in which I begin to reread Middlemarch and find an essential problem with Dorothea Brooke!

Just in time, I've begun to remember how I do love Victorian novels. I love the stuffy preposterousness of the socially acceptable conversations that hide the most passionate intentions. I love the descriptions of little English towns where everyone knows everyone. I love the feeling that there is so much going on beneath the surface of every character, even the minor ones. I love the carefully constructed narratives--I know, I know! How un-Modernist of me! But I can't help it. I'm weak. I love it.

I've got to plough through about 100 pages of Middlemarch in about 20 hours. I can do it. But I've encountered a slight hitch. The heroine, Dorothea Brooke, cannot be my heroine. I can't believe that I didn't remember this from the first time that I read the novel, several summers ago-- (tangent: my afternoon section wanted to know what I had to do for homework so I whipped out Middlemarch to awe them of my reading load; they were not only awed, but absolutely aghast when I mentioned that I had once read it for fun, during my own free time in the summer back when I was their age)--take a look:

Sir James interpreted the heightened color in the way most gratifying to himself, and thought he never saw Miss Brooke looking so handsome.

"I have brought a little petitioner," he said, "or rather, I have brought him to see if he will be approved before his petition is offered." He showed the white object under his arm, which was a tiny Maltese puppy, one of nature's most naive toys.

"It is painful to me to see these creatures that are bred merely as pets," said Dorothea, whose opinion was forming itself that very moment (as opinions will) under the heat of irritation.

"Oh, why?" said Sir James, as they walked forward.

"I believe all the petting that is given them does not make them happy. They are too helpless: their lives are too frail. A weasel or a mouse that gets its own living is more interesting. I like to think that the animals about us have souls something like our own, and either carry on their own little affairs or can be companions to us, like Monk here. Those creatures are parasitic."

"I am so glad I know that you do not like them," said good Sir James. "I should never keep them for myself, but ladies usually are fond of these Maltese dogs. Here, John, take this dog, will you?"

The objectionable puppy, whose nose and eyes were equally black and expressive, was thus got rid of, since Miss Brooke decided that it had better not have been born.

(from Chapter 3, Middlemarch, by George Eliot)

If you know me, and know consequently how much I love dogs, then you will understand that I was quite distraught at this passage! Henceforth, I have resolved not to like Dorothea. To find such a puppy--"whose nose and eyes were equally black and expressive"--so "objecctionable" and allow him to be cast aside so thoughtless! Oh! How heartless must she be! Capital offense. I am not even exaggerating.

In other news, it was quite windy today. I got dressed.

boots: gifted
tights: Sock Dreams
skirt: Anthropologie
belt: thrifted
trench: thrifted
scarf: via my mum
top: thrifted
necklace: thrifted
cardigan: JCrew
bag: via my mum--her high school graduation present back in the 70s!

Meanwhile, my students are giving speeches this week and I am generally impressed. They will all see the midterm averages that I gave them go up, I suspect. I'm waiting to see all the ladies break out the UGGs and sweatpants look. Ha.

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