Eliot manages to draw the Picture of the Victorian women in a realist manner through her characters in the novel. The scene when Mr. Brooke and Casaubon speak about Dorothea, the comment of Mr. Brook makes on women, makes it plain to see how women were perceived those times. Mr. Brook states, “Well, but now, Casaubon, such deep studies, classics, mathematics, that kind of thing, are too taxing for a woman- too taxing you know (53)”. Upon Casaubon stating that Dorothea is learning Greek, Mr. Brooks continues saying: Ah well, without understanding, you know-that may not be so bad.
But there is a lightness about the feminine mind-a touch and go- music, the fine arts, that kind of thing- they should study those up to a certain point, women should; but in a light way, you know (53). As stated above, the perception of women was as light and limited beings, since the patriarchal society believed that even the intelligence of women was limited those times and that women should be interested in arts, to a limited level and that they shouldn’t be involved in a deeper education which was considered to be a task for men.
All through the novel, Eliot seems to question gender roles and which Notion stands for the better when men and women are concerned. She seems to seek a proper identity for both the male and female characters throughout the novel. John Peck states in his book titled, Middlemarch- George Eliot that, “One way to look ahead to the activity of Middlemarch which brings into question again the idea of what is natural in function and in attitude for women (171)”.
By drawing the picture of Dorothy, who stands for a different character within the Victorian society and by the character of Rosamond who stands for a stereotypical character, Eliot manages to put forth two types of women. It is, however, important to notice that both these women end in similar places when their marriages are concerned despite they take different paths. Both the marriages of these characters end in frustration and they both seem to be having made a big mistake when they first thought of their ideal mates and made their choices accordingly.
At this stage it might be possible to say t hat Eliot tries to point out that humans, both male and female require both reason and emotion in their lives to reach happiness. Kathleen Blake, in her book titled, Approaches to teaching Eliot’s Middlemarch, she states that: The very conception of Dorothea- a woman with an ardent mind- explodes the old dualistic chestnut about emotion and intelligence. So does the portrait of Lydgate. Is worst failures occur when he tries to separate analysis from emotion, mind and body, as he does in dichotomizing life into public and private, masculine and feminine spheres.
His greatest moments occur when his thoughts and feelings, judgment and sympathy are united (69). At this stage it becomes possible to say that Eliot regards balance as a matter of great importance n human life and in relations. Pointing out that the unbalanced way of life is also related to the Victorian education for women at the time and the imposed nation about gender roles on them, Eliot concludes her novel by marrying Dorothea to will.
Speaking in feminist terms, it can be possible to a y that Eliot chooses such as ending not only to point out the emotional needs of a woman which Dorothy finally fulfills in the end through marrying will, but she also wants to point out another resistance by Dorothy. Despite the character tries to stop herself from breaking the law of loyalty to her husband even after his death, she finally gives up even the inheritance and chooses to marry will. Her action can surely be considered as a resistance to the whole Victorian society which she lives in, as she breaks the law of her deceased husband.
Jeanie Thomas, in her book titled Reading Middlemarch: Reclaiming the Middle Distance, states that, “Dorothea, unlike Mary, breaks with family and tradition when she marries Will Ladislaw. The choice to marry, however conventional, is the protest that it is within her power to make against the existing structure of things (62)”. As the resistance of Dorothy continues all through the novel, Eliot manages to draw the Picture of a different kind of woman within the age of the Victorian society.
Speaking in general terms, the novel Middlemarch can be considered as a criticism of the Victorian society from a feminist perspective and that it clearly and realistically puts forth the state of gender roles within the time. Eliot manages to draw the Picture of both perspectives when approaching to both men and women and concludes herself in indirectly saying that balance is one of the most crucial things in human life. In this sense Middlemarch can be considered as one of the most efficient sources to gain information about the Victorian society and about the state of women at the time.