Middlemarch: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. “. . .these later born [St.] Theresas were helped by no coherent social faith and order which could perform the function of knowledge  for the ardently willing soul. Their ardor alternated between a vague ideal and the common yearning of womanhood . . .” (Prologue) “We are all of us born in moral stupidity, taking the world as an udder to feed our supreme selves.” (Chapter 21, p. 156)
  2. “. . . by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don’t quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power against all evil—widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower.” (Chapter 39, p. 287)
  3. “Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin by which we see the blot? I know no speck so troublesome as self.” (Chapter 42, p. 307)
  4. “. . . it is in these acts called trivialities that the seeds of joy are for ever wasted, until men and women look round with haggard faces at the devastation their own waste has made, and say, the earth bears no harvest of sweetness—calling their denial knowledge.” (Chapter 42, p. 312)
  5. “It always remains true that if we had been greater, circumstance would have been less strong against us.” (Chapter 58, p. 428)
  6. “But my dear Mrs. Casaubon,” said Mr. Farebrother, smiling gently at her ardour, “character is not cut in marble—it is not something solid and unalterable. It is something living and changing, and may become diseased as our bodies do.”“On the road there was a man with a bundle on his back and a woman carrying her baby; in the field she could see figures moving—perhaps the shepherd with his dog. Far off in the bending sky was the pearly light; and she felt the largeness of the world and the manifold wakings of men to labour and endurance. She was a part of that involuntary, palpitating life, and could neither look out on it from her luxurious shelter as a mere spectator, nor hide her eyes in selfish complaining.” (Chapter 80, 578)
  7. “Marriage, which has been the bourne of so many narratives, is still a great beginning, as it was to Adam and Eve, who kept their honeymoon in Eden, but had their first little one among the thorns and thistles of the wilderness. It is still the beginning of the home epic—the gradual conquest or irremediable loss of that complete union which makes the advancing years a climax, and age the harvest of sweet memories in common.” (Finale, 608)
  8. “For there is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it . . . Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive; for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as thy might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” (Finale, 612-13)
  9. This describes the main character, Dorothea Brooke, as a modern St. Theresa with no outlet for her spiritual yearning in the England of the 1830’s.A comment on Dorothea’s mistake in marrying Casaubon, thinking he is what she imagines him to be.Dorothea speaks her belief to Will Ladislaw.Casaubon is unable to enjoy his young wife, Dorothea, and sees her only as his enemy, when she is trying so hard to love him.This describes the pain between Casaubon and Dorothea caused by misunderstandings.Lydgate is growing more desperate in his marriage–in debt, and unable to communicate with Rosamond about it.“Then it may be rescued and healed,” said Dorothea.(Chapter 72, p. 538)

  10. Farebrother and Dorothea speak of Lydgate’s decline and trouble.Dorothea has an epiphany, looking out her window, that changes her attitude to Will and Rosamond. She returns to help Rosamond.The narrator speaks of marriage in general and then tells the wrap-up of three main marriages in the novel: Mary and Fred; Lydgate and Rosamond; Dorothea and Will.Dorothea’s influence is disproportional to her outward circumstance; she is an invisible  St. Theresa, unrecognized but important to the world.

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