by George Eliot
Middlemarch Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
In short, woman was a problem which, since Mr. Brooke's mind felt blank before it, could be hardly less complicated than the revolutions of an irregular solid. (1.4.59)
Mr. Brooke can't figure women out. But then, he's kind of a doofus. The narrator's tone is just dripping with irony here – just because "Mr. Brooke's mind felt blank" when considering Dorothea's motives doesn't mean that all women are as "complicated" as "the revolutions of an irregular solid." You don't need to know calculus to figure out Dorothea; you just need sympathy.
A woman dictates before marriage in order that she may have an appetite for submission afterwards. (1.9.1)
Here's yet another ironic remark about the position of women in nineteenth-century British society. It was traditional for women to have the last word on all the arrangements that were made before the marriage (the date of the wedding, the guest list, the honeymoon, the color of the wallpaper in the new home, et cetera), but here Eliot makes the cutting assertion that that tradition is meant to give women "an appetite for submission afterwards." After all, it was also assumed that women would always submit to their husband's judgment after they were married. Does Eliot think this is a good system? No, probably not.
She did not look at things from the proper feminine angle. The society of such women was about as relaxing as going from your work to teach the second form, instead of reclining in a paradise with sweet laughs for bird-notes, and blue eyes for a heaven. (1.11.1)
Lydgate is reflecting on the differences between Dorothea Brooke (whom he's just met) and Rosamond Vincy (with whom he's falling in love). Dorothea isn't "feminine" enough – she actually thinks about things for herself instead of deferring to the opinions of whatever man is closest to her. Lydgate can't imagine being married to a woman like Dorothea – going home from work to a woman who would have intelligent things to say to him doesn't sound all that relaxing. Life with Rosamond, on the other hand, he imagines as a kind of "paradise."