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by George Eliot

Middlemarch Literature and Writing Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

I at least have so much to do in unraveling certain human lots, and seeing how they were woven and interwoven, that all the light I can command must be concentrated on this particular web, and not dispersed over that tempting range of relevancies called the universe. (2.15.1)

This is an important passage for thinking about "Society and Class" because it describes the social "web" of interrelated characters in Middlemarch, but it's also important for thinking about the role of the narrator. Eliot uses the first person singular ("I") and steps into the story as though she were a character herself. She stops the progress of the plot to tell the readers what she's up to: she's showing how different lives are interrelated. Is this a distraction from the story? Why does she do this?

Quote #2

We belated historians must not linger after [Fielding's] example. (2.15.1)

Eliot describes herself as a "belated historian." Sure, she comes after Henry Fielding, who was an English novelist writing in the mid-eighteenth century, but why does she say "belated" instead of "later"? Doesn't "belated" imply that she's too late for something? What's she too late for? It's unclear. Another interesting thing about this passage is the way that Eliot relates herself to an earlier novelist. She's inserting herself into a genealogy of famous English novelists, but she's also claiming to be independent of it; she's not going to "linger after [Fielding's] example."

Quote #3

[…] character too is a process and an unfolding. (2.15.9)

This is another instance in which Eliot steps back and comments on the process of writing the novel. She's "unfolding" the story to us, a piece at a time, and each character is also changing and "unfolding" as the novel progresses.

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