In Middlemarch, discuss the relationship of Casaubon and Dorothea in terms of feminism.

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It is very interesting to trace the development of Dorothea as a character, especially in relation to her ideas of marriage and romance as illustrated in her relationship to Casaubon. Note the way that when she first becomes enamoured of him, it is the idea of becoming subservient to him and rejoicing in her position as an intellectual inferior that is part of the relationship. However, as she is married and is forced to accept the reality of her loveless relationship with Casaubon, she is forced to face a very cruel and grim reality. Note the way that she talks to Rosamond about marriage in Chapter 81, when she suspects her of having an affair with Ladislaw:

I mean, marriage drinks up all of our power of giving or getting any blessedness in that sort of love. I know it may be very dear—but it murders our marriage—and then the marriage stays with us like a murder—and everything else is gone.

For Dorothea, marriage has nothing to do with love, and she sees love as "murdering" her marriage rather than being an inextricable part of it. It is not something that we marry for, Dorothea believes.

Let us move from this position to think about the way that Eliot, in her guise as omniscient narrator, presents a conclusion on the action of the novel:

But we insignificant people with our daily words and acts are preparing the lives of many Dorotheas, some of which may present a far sadder sacrifice than that of the Dorothea whose story we know.

Eliot zooms in on the life of Dorothea and what can be learnt from the role of a woman in marriage, seeing how accepting the norms and values of marriage in Victorian society actually leads to an acceptance of the massive sufferings faced by so many women in their marriages. This ending therefore represents a very feminist focus on the position of women in a patriarchal society where they had very few rights indeed.

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