MIDDLEMARCH: FEMINISTIC FEATURES.
Middlemarch is a novel by a strong willed woman who is as strong - willed as her protagonist, created by her.
The novelist George Eliot?s connection to feminism dates back to the time in 1840?s ?50?s-60?s, when the position of women was being taken note of by the government and emphasized. George signed a petition in favor of the Married Woman?s Property Bill and was an active voice favoring education for women. She supported freedom of choice for woman, especially where marriage was concerned. Though she supported the movement and voiced her support quite vociferously through all her female characters, she did not actively partake in it.
Eliot, through Dorothea, in Middlemarch, has reflected negatively on women who are ordinary and while away their time worthlessly in domesticity and follow its beaten path. Dorothea has been shown to be a woman of substance, more on the lines of Austin?s Elizabeth Bennet, in Pride & Prejudice. Her lack of interest in mundane things like dressing, makeup, jewellery all point to her character, which is less feminine and more idealistic. She longs to break away from these monotonous norms into what she calls a ?fuller life, equipped with knowledge? (which was then considered masculine domain) though later she too was forced to follow the beaten track and become one of the many and not THE ONE, she does exhibit a sense of revolt because of it.
Dorothea is reflected as the women who are way ahead of her times in ideals, more modern and independent than others around her. Despite this, she becomes vulnerable and falls prey to the code of conduct and existing norms set out for women, by the sages of society, at large. Especially as a widow, in a society that does not advocate a remarriage for a widow, particularly one that was against the dead husband?s will. But, Dorothea follows her own heart and marries Will Ladislaw, the man whom she believes she loves. And it is to Eliot?s credit that Dorothea does not take her freedom or independence for granted. Eliot maintains a balance between ?duty? and ?freedom?. An over indulgence of duty would have gone against the feministic features of the character of Dorothea. And if freedom was given and over expression, it would have disturbed the norms set out by society. Hence, the freedom of a woman is given its due respect within the boundaries of the institution of marriage.