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Middlemarch concentrates on the realities of such relationships. It deals with the disillusionments that a hasty marriage might lead to, and the compromises that relationships might need to keep them going. The book has three interwoven romantic tales. The first one starts with Dorothea Brooke. She is an idealistic young woman who is attracted to the much older Edward Casaubon. She marries Casaubon much against her uncle's and her sister's wishes.
Dorothea chooses Casaubon because she believes that scholarly gentleman would help educate her and then allow her to help him in his dream of writing a book on mythologies. Casaubon, on the other hand, wants a wife who will not have a mind of her own, who will just look after all his needs and be subservient to him.
Meanwhile, Lydgate, a young doctor, comes to Middlemarch. He is filled with new ideas about medical practice and is motivated by a desire to help the needy. He attracts the attention of the beautiful and self-centered Rosamond Vincy the mayor's daughter. She marries him but their different ideals soon turns the relationship into a disaster.
Fred Vincy, Rosamond's brother, is a likeable but irresponsible young man who gambles away his fortune and gets into debt. He is in love with Mary Garth, but his gambling has landed her father in trouble, as he had co-signed for Fred's debts. Fred Vincy is also unhappy about his family's pressuring him to enter the clergy.
Meanwhile, Casaubon becomes jealous of his cousin Ladislaw who comes for a visit as he observes the easy friendship between Ladislaw and Dorothea. Casaubon makes a will with a clause that says Dorothea will lose her inheritance if she marries Ladislaw. When Casaubon dies, Dorothea learns of this clause and is upset at its implication.
All these tangled affairs become intertwined and some of them eventually sort themselves out. Middlemarch stands out because it deals with the harsh realities of romance and marriage, of the disappointments that might set in when one's delusions about their life partner are destroyed. The book deals with the themes of marriage, of the need for compatibility between husband and wife for marriage to work, of the need for compromise and understanding in relationships.
About George Eliot
George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Anne Evans.
She is also the author of Armgart, The Mill On The Floss, Silas Marner, Felix Holt, A Minor Prophet, The Radical, The Legend of Jubal, and From A London Drawing Room.
Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot) was born in Warwickshire, England in 1819. As she was not thought attractive enough for marriage, her father paid for her education till she completed school. Her first published novel was Adam Bede, which came out in 1859. Her works were a bit ahead of the time for women writers, and due recognition came to her only in the twentieth century when she was hailed by writers like Virginia Woolf. She died in 1880 at the age of 61.