Describe the character of Dorothea as a conventional victorian heroine in George Elliot's Middlemarch?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The character of Dorothea Brooks in George Elliot's Middlemarch, certainly embodies the conventional Victorian heroine. As a product of her generation, she is limited by society to exercise the many hopes and desires that live in her heart. She understands that her capacity, as a woman is to tolerate the lifestyle changes that come with marriage, whether they are welcome or not. She sees it as her duty to comply with what is socially-expected of her. She does it stoically, which is why she would be the epitome of a conventional Victorian heroine.

For a long while she had been oppressed by the indefiniteness which hung in her mind, like a thick summer haze, over all her desire to make her life greatly effective. What could she do, what ought she to do? – she, hardly more than a budding woman, but yet with an active conscience and a great mental need, not to be satisfied by a girlish instruction comparable to the nibblings and judgments of a discursive mouse. 

Yet, rather than turning to misery, she still finds a way to tend to the needs of others. As a morally-bound woman, she sacrifices her female desires and marries soundly, rather than for passion. This denotes a very Victorian expectation; to put aside a woman's own wants and needs, and focus on her role as nurturer. In Mr. Farerbrother's own words about Dorothea:

This young creature has a heart large enough for the Virgin Mary.

Finally, as a socially-aware woman, Dorothea is inclined always to do what is right for everybody else. These qualities make her soul mirror in the beauty of her face. Yet, we must wonder whether Dorothea is actually happy within her many instances of altruism. That is one of the biggest complexities of her character. 

Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. ... that things are not so ill ... [as] might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

Therefore the character of Dorothea Brooks represents the conventional Victorian heroine because she obeys and follows every social stipulation laid for women, making her the epitome of an upright and morally sound Victorian woman. Also, she epitomizes the sacrifice of women for the sake of those around her, making her the ultimate nurturer and "savior of the world." Hence, all these qualities reunite in her, a woman already beautiful, to make her a character of almost mythical Victorian proportions.

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