Shifting Time and Changing Opinions

Though Middlemarch is mostly told in chronological order, throughout the novel and in this section in particular, the narrator often backtracks (sometimes just a few moments, other times weeks or months) in order to provide fuller account of the story. It’s not just the shifting perception that allows the reader to gain a 360-degree view of Middlemarch but also the backtracking and circling of time. One instance of this that I found particularly interesting took place in Chapter 45 (XLV) when the narrator provides the reader with a more complete history of Lydgate’s time in Middlemarch as a medical practitioner. Put in the context of time, many of the events that take place in this chapter occurred before Lydgate treated Fred Vincy. Previously, Lydgate’s medical practice has been seen through the lens of his interactions with Middlemarchers who generally like him and respect his work. Here, however, we see Lydgate practicing medicine on those who question his work. Though Lydgate eventually wins many of his critics over, the way in which he goes about treating other doctor’s patients in a way that embarrasses his colleagues, and his need to have complete control over the hospital, seems to cast a different light on his character by making him appear to be more egoistic (when as a doctor he should have more sympathy for the well-being of his patients) than before.

When Ladislaw visits Lowick to attend service, Chapter 47 (XLVII) ends with Will watching Dorothea and Causobon leave the church; immediately after, Chapter 48(XLVIII) begins with perception of the same moment being shifted to Dorothea’s point of view. While time here is presented perfectly chronologically, the shift in how each character views the same moment ultimately provides the reader with a more complete understanding of the circumstances, namely how Dorothea and Will interpret the situation differently. Many of these shifts in time and perspective have the ability to change the way that the reader views a character or relationship, which calls to question the idea of whether the characters are dynamic, or if the reader’s opinion of them changes because they are made more complete.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *