Feminist Criticism

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Feminist Criticism:
George Eliot’s Middlemarch focuses on relationships within the town of Middlemarch. As restated by David Kurnick, Virgina Woolf proclaimed that Middlemarch is “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people” (583). The complexity of this novel provides an insight into the treatment of female identity during the mid to late 1800s, the time period in which Eliot wrote the novel. The issues presented within this novel include: “social and scientific reform, the law-governed aspects of human behavior, and especially, the ‘Woman Question,’ that catch-all phrase for the interconnected debates about women’s rights, duties, and capacities” (Allison 716). George Eliot’s most prominent female character, Dorothea Brooke, seeks to find fulfillment, professionally and socially, yet never fully achieves this goal. George Eliot is shining a light on the roles women played in relationships by showing a variety of relationships, both failing and thriving. George Eliot, just as Virginia Woolf also explained, had to battle for publishing rights by writing under a pen name and struggling to receive compensation to continue to write.
Feminist critics point out that female writers achieved success due to their ability to conform to a world of patriarchal literature. George Eliot did so by conforming to society through the use of her pen name, Marian Evans. Booker argues that “women…lack the typical masculine castration anxiety and can therefore be comfortable with generosity and anonymity” (92). Both George Eliot and Dorothea Brooke seek to live a life of passion, yet “neither…can see a way to realize this desire directly” (Edwards 627). The issue of female identity comes into question as Dorothea searches for a solut...

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...e see Dorothea Brooke, as well as other female characters, attempt to move beyond societal norms, yet George Eliot challenges these norms with Middlemarch.

Works Cited
Allison, Mark. "Utopian Socialism, Women's Emancipation, and the Origins of Middlemarch." ELH 78.3 (2011): 715-739. Project MUSE. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.
Booker, M. Keith. “A Practical Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism.” White Plains: Longman Publishers USA, 1996. Print.
Edwards, Lee R. “Women, Energy, and Middlemarch.” Middlemarch. Ed. Bert G. Hornback. 2nd ed. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 2001. Print. 623-630.
Kurnick, David. “An Erotics of Detachment: Middlemarch and Novel-Reading as Critical Practice.” ELH 74.3 (2007): 583-608. Project Muse. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.
Jones, Tameca. “Dorothea, the Dodo bird in Middlemarch.” Victorian Web. Baylor University, 2004. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.
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