Friday, November 5

Middlemarch: Unhappy in Rome

After all my (absurd, given the age of novel) complaints about spoilers in Middlemarch, I hope it’s not too annoying for me to let you know that at a certain point in this novel, one of the characters has a chapter devoted to the growing unhappiness of her marriage. Honestly, this is no kind of spoiler because the fact that her marriage was going to be unhappy was known to everyone but her as soon as her romance began – her sister knew, the neighborhood gossips knew, the far superior alternate romantic option in the neighborhood knew, and the reader knew.

Unfortunately for her, she disregarded the opinion of the townspeople. And even more unfortunately, this chapter of marriage unhappiness takes place on her honeymoon, in Rome. By the way, we are back in the time when a honeymoon’s name was more justified; they are clearly on their love-cation for a month, if not more.

Here are the best parts of describing the feeling of realizing that you are linked in marriage forever to a terrible, and terribly unsuited, person:
Dorothea had now been five weeks in Rome, and in the kindly morning when autumn and winter seemed to go hand in hand like a happy aged couple one of whom would presently survive in chiller loneliness, she had driven about at first with Mr. Casaubon, but of late chiefly with Tantripp and their experienced courier.
....
[Dorothea is crying, and for her to describe why would be] like trying to give a history of the lights and shadows, for the new real future which was replacing the imaginary drew its material from the endless minutiae by which her view of Mr. Casaubon and her wifely relation, now that she was married to him, was gradually changing with the secret motion of a watch-hand from what it had been in her maiden dream.
....
How was it that in the weeks since her marriage, Dorothea had not distinctly observed but felt with a stifling depression, that the large vistas and wide fresh air which she had dreamed of finding in her husband's mind were replaced by anterooms and winding passages which seemed to lead nowhither? .... Having once embarked on your marital voyage, it is impossible not to be aware that you make no way and that the sea is not within sight -- that, in fact, you are exploring an enclosed basin.

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