How did George Eliot use social history as the background of Middlemarch?
Because of societal expectations for and expectations on women, Mary Anne Evans wrote under the pen name George Eliot. "Middlemarch" has all the elements of epic historical fiction: many characters and intertwined plot lines, all set against the background of England in the early 1830's. Evans/Eliot explores the ideas of social and political reform, the development of railroads, the rising middle class, the role of marriage in society (and the role of women in marriage) as well as the broader idea of an individual's role in society and what that meant as British society became more industrialized. The Reform Bill of 1832, England's answer to revolutions in America and France, and the spreading of the idea of an individual's role and right in government, is featured, as well as working conditions of the increasing number of people working in the new factories, and scientific and medical advances of the time. As with the best historical fiction, Evans/Eliot created a narrative that allows the reader to become engaged with fictitious characters that he/she (the reader) comes to care about, and learn a great deal of history in the process.