Reading is sometimes thought of as a form of escapism, and it’s a common turn of phrase to speak of getting lost in a book. But a book can also be where one finds oneself; and when a reader is grasped and held by a book, reading does not feel like an escape from life so much as it feels like an urgent, crucial dimension of life itself.
“There are books that seem to comprehend us just as much as we understand them, or even more. There are books that grow with the reader as the reader grows, like a graft to a tree.
The world of book tumblr is so often looseleaf tea and coffeeshops, but I have to admit that my favorite place to read by far (at least in the winter) is the cozy Pub in the basement of a stone building of my alma mater, the University of Chicago, with one of my favorite beers (this one is called Punk Rock for Rich Kids). Almost halfway through Middlemarch! (350 pages in!)
“It is a misfortune, in some senses: I feed too much on the inward sources; I live too much with the dead. My mind is something like the ghost of an ancient, wandering about the world and trying mentally to construct it as it used to be, in spite of ruin and confusing changes. But I find it necessary to use the utmost caution about my eyesight.”
George Eliot, from Middlemarch (Penguin Classics, 2003)
We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, “Oh, nothing!” Pride helps; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our hurts— not to hurt others.
So, like, if we’re already on the topic of Middlemarch (and this is sort of tangent to the forthcoming Middlemarch webseries which, again, I am !!!!!!!!!!! about), I’ve got some stuff to say because I should be sleeping because my flight is in a few hours and I’m exhausted, but screw that.
I’m going to be talking about the ending, so… I dunno, spoilers for Middlemarch or whatever?
Right. So. Casaubon. Is a douchebag. Not a terrible human being, but that sort of guy who is so self-involved that even when he finally sees what’s in front of him, he tries to do his best to ruin it.
Let’s be clear. Casaubon literally is like “Dorothea, fine, whatever, you can remarry after I die. AS LONG AS IT ISN’T MY SUPER HOT COUSIN WHO HAS A CRUSH ON YOU AND YOU HAVE SORT OF CONFUSED FEELINGS ABOUT BUT WOULD NEVER EVEN THINK ABOUT BECAUSE YOU’RE KIND OF NAIVE.” And it’s not because of anything Dorothea does, it’s because he doesn’t really like Ladislaw (*swoon*).
Casaubon basically sets out to make sure that Ladislaw never gets the girl of his dreams, even from beyond the grave. Talk about dick moves.
The thing is, I never really buy the fact that Dorothea doesn’t realize her feelings for Ladislaw. That scene in the library (*SWOOOOON* “It was never known which lips were the first to move towards the other lips” I mean COME ON PEOPLE UGHHHH) isn’t just because of any recent realizations. “Dorothea’s heart was full of something that she wanted to say, and yet the words were too difficult.” Obviously she’s making a major life decision here, but there’s also a factor in which Dorothea is acknowledging something in herself. Dorothea likes Will from the start, she’s amused by him and charmed by him (WHO WOULDN’T BE AMIRITE), while Casaubon always resents him. Dorothea somehow manages to convey a potential for reciprocation that manages to make even Casaubon take the idea of a marriage seriously.
And it’s partially an age thing, or more specifically a self esteem thing. Casaubon is bitter about Ladislaw being mistaken for his nephew (”ugh, no, what, we’re cousins, no, I’m not that old, check out my sexy young wife, meh whatever, have Ladislaw hang out with her on our honeymoon, wait what do you mean he’s into her?!”), he’s bitter about Ladislaw’s casual manner, he’s bitter about the way Ladislaw seems to fall in with Dorothea so easily. Not that Casaubon ever really wanted to be in this relationship, but he nonetheless goes out of his way to try to prevent Dorothea from marrying the young, handsome, friendly, not-a-douchebag Ladislaw.
All of Dorothea’s drama, ultimately, hinges on the fact that Casaubon is a dick. He shouldn’t have married her in the first place, he should have backed away from the relationship and said, “I’m not the right match for you, I’m not who you think I am, I’m not going to give what it is you seek” but instead he decided to do literally everything wrong. He married Dorothea, he treated her like crap, he then guilt-tripped her with the stupid restriction, and ultimately stripped her of any wealth out of sheer insecure weakness. (How will this be modernized? I am so very excited!!!!!!!)
Anyways, Dorothea-Ladislaw forever and “They sat in that way without looking at each other, until the rain abated and began to fall in stillness. Each had been full of thoughts which neither of them could begin to utter.”
That library scene will forever be the greatest piece of literature ever written.
Mia is a freshman in Pierson College at Yale. She is a member of Red Hot Poker, Heritage Theatre Ensemble, and various random clubs that she has accidentally signed up for. For the most part she enjoys eating and watching everything available on Netflix. She is super excited to work with Rebecca and everyone involved in Middlemarch. :)