George Eliot's Middlemarch Essay

George Eliot's Middlemarch Essay

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In George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Will Ladislaw is introduced as Mr. Casaubon’s young cousin. He is seen in the gardens at Lowick Manor and described as “a gentleman with a sketch book […] and light brown curls” (49). Mr. Casaubon describes him as a young man who with a mercurial temperament, general inclination to resist responsibility and an affinity towards grand artistic endeavors. Later in the book, town gossip Mrs. Cadwallader refers to him as “a dangerous little sprig […] with his opera song and his ready tongue. A sort of Byronic, amorous conspirator” (237). In ‘Middlemarch,’ Eliot weaves a character with a Romantic character into the social web of a provincial Victorian village. Eliot’s depiction of Ladislaw’s coming-of-age journey can be interpreted as a description of the fate of the Romantic artist figure in a new Victorian society.
When Will Ladislaw is first introduced to the reader, he appears to be a foil for his cousin and benefactor Mr. Casaubon. Mr. Casaubon is “noted in the county as a man of profound learning, understood for many years to be engaged on a great work concerning religious history” (7). Dorothea notes that “his manners [were] dignified; the set of his iron-grey hair and his deep eye sockets made him resemble the portrait of Locke” (11). In stark contrast, Will Ladislaw is first described as a youthful artist with “long black curls.” Eliot juxtaposes these descriptions to dramatize the difference between these characters. Since Will Ladislaw is introduced to Dorothea within the context of Lowick Manor, and therefore Mr. Casaubon, he appears to be a foil for Mr. Casaubon himself. Mr. Casaubon complains about Will’s “general inaccuracy and indisposition to thoroughness of all kinds” (52). These conver...


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... an ardent public man, working well in those times when reforms were begun with a young hopefulness of immediate good […], and getting at last returned to Parliament by a constituency who payed his expenses.” (513) Will Ladislaw dedicates himself to reform-oriented political writing, combining his need for artistic expression and social welfare with his need to provide for a family. By the end of the book, Eliot hasn’t destroyed the Romantic in Middlemarch, but merely made him more respectable. To the end, Ladislaw still lays on the ground instead of on the couch, and Eliot celebrates his candid emotionality instead of ridiculing it.


Works Cited

Greenblatt, Stephen, Deidre Lynch, and Jack Stillinger. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. Print.
Eliot, George, and Bert Hornback G. Middlemarch. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000. Print.

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