Letters: ‘My Life in Middlemarch’

Dear George

To the Editor:

Revisit Rebecca Mead’s “My Life in Middlemarch” (Jan. 26): The driving theme of “Middlemarch” is Dorothea Brooke’s mistaken belief that she is married to a genius. A similar theme is Lydgate’s marriage to a beautiful and wealthy woman.

Joyce Carol Oates, a winner, could be forgiven for not knowing every situation, but millions of readers have found George Eliot’s story the story of their lives and/or lives of their wives. For Oates to argue with Mead for using “Middlemarch” as a touchstone, I mean the narrow, unsatisfying and clichéd version.


The author is the author of “Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape.”

To the Editor:

Thanks to someone who said something last! I tried three times in a long life to get past page 50, and each time, on page 51, I said “Enough!” and close the book.

Despite the advice from some writers I admire: “You must read ‘Middlemarch.’ ”


The author is the author of 10 novels. He teaches literary journalism at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation.

To the Editor:

Joyce Carol Oates’ assessment of the limits of “Middlemarch” if she did not make a mistake in the passage she quoted from the story. The idea that “a really happy marriage is one where your husband is a kind father, and can teach you Hebrew, if you want” does not reflect “bourgeois Victorian marital expectations,” e.g. as Oates says. On the contrary, this episode satirizes and mocks Dorothea’s naive and misguided thought process in her choice of her ideal husband – a choice, in turn, that offends and harms the feelings of everyone in her family. and the social circle. Indeed, the common horror in this marriage of a young woman “forces” a “dry pedant,” with the failure of the marriage, shows that Eliot has not “completely forgotten the physical, physiological and with the sexuality of women” as Oates puts it, even if Eliot does not present these things in the way Oates would have liked.


The author is an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the English department at the University of Michigan.

To the Editor:

I’m also a big fan of “Middlemarch”; I read it often and often give it as a gift to young people. It is more than a story of the nature of a woman in her life: Indeed, because of the strong contrast between the independent, celibate life that Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) lived and with the life of Dorothea Brooke, it seems that the author’s intentions were foolish. encouraging the protagonist’s choices. Many scholars have shown that Eliot loved Edward Casaubon and identified with him. (“But why always Dorothea?” asks the narrator.)

There are many love stories in the book: the stories of Caleb and Susan Garth; Fred Vincy and Mary Garth; Celia and Sir James Chettam; Rosamond and Tertius Lydgate. For me, the most important lesson of the book is about corruption, and the insidious way it works, especially on Dr. Lydgate. To show how easily his mind can be destroyed is the main reason I recommend this book to young men and women. Nor should we forget that Eliot’s setting at the time of the First Reform Act is important to the book he wrote at the time of the Second.


To the Editor:

Joyce Carol Oates’s criticism of Rebecca Mead’s lifetime refers to “Middlemarch” as “self-limiting if not solipsistic”. His list of other writers Mead took to heart – Kafka, Dickens, Woolf, et al. — located on the side of the forehead. Mead’s point is not to put Eliot’s novel ahead of other great novelists of the 19th and 20th centuries, but to explain why “Middlemarch” is so important to him. .


To the Editor:

Joyce Carol Oates is without question a remarkable and thoughtful writer – a traveler of trends, stories, headlines – and a worthy critic to consider. But I think he sells Rebecca Mead and George Eliot short. Attributing some pedestrianism to Eliot and his novels, and to Mead for his unwavering loyalty, Oates misses the heart of Eliot’s Dorothea and Rebecca Mead: “unacceptable, selfish, selfish.”

Although Oates’ experience may be different, not everyone wants the right to be “angry,” “angry” or “surprised” – in the story life is.


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