Why Always Dorothea?

The beginning of chapter 29 starts with the sentences, “One morning some weeks after her arrival at Lowick, Dorothea – but why always Dorothea? Was her point of view the only possible one with regard to this marriage” (261). Upon reading the first line, I was shocked by the possibility that Eliot was talking to the reader directly. Was Eliot unhappy with the novel’s partial focus on Dorothea? Was she tiring of her as a character, or perhaps just illustrating a frustration with her choices? It was, after all, her own marriage, so why shouldn’t Dorothea be given the right to express her feelings about the union? My mind was spinning around, trying to understand this shift of authorial involvement in the tale. Of course, after reading the next sentence, I understood that it was, in fact, Casaubon who was the ill-tempered speaker, but knowing Eliot as such a strong writer, she would not create such a moment without meaning.

The act of using Casaubon as a sort of conduit through which to speak to the reader about Dorothea makes me question more about both Dorothea and Casaubon as characters. I personally am much more fond of Dorothea than Casaubon, but the question of “why always Dorothea” places her into a harsher light in my eyes. She was foolish to marry Casaubon and, unsurprisingly to many, hasn’t had the most successful of marriages, so I don’t see her as the most pitiable of characters. The constant trouble she appears to be going through can get frustrating, but a reader must still acknowledge that her situation was worsened by a lack of real guidance from those who should have tried harder to sway her from making the decision which led her down this path of many difficulties.

In terms of Casaubon, the fact that Eliot is using him as the mouthpiece for her own agenda is pretty funny when you think about how highly he regards his own opinions and thoughts. Now take that and add on the fact that the words he is speaking are coming from a woman. Knowing his unfortunate beliefs regarding the overall intelligence and complexity of women, it’s great to see his character being taken over by one, thus undermining his ideas about gender equality.


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