As we continue to read the many narratives of Middlemarch, a common theme of “expectations” continues to come up. We touched on this last class, specifically in relation to Mr. Lydgate’s assimilation (and expectation to assimilate) to Middlemarch society. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that one of Eliot’s intentions in this mass novel is to define and redefine expectations we have for everything and everyone around us. This notion came to me when I was reading McWeeny’s chapter; they mention that, “to think of narration as working to loosen a character’s hold on its interest may feel strange, in part because Middlemarch’s narration is distinctive preciselt in being carefully attuned to the ethical and perceptual effort involved in being attentive to other people” (63). However, I would have to disagree. I believe that, in adding these slightly abrupt and intuitive marks from the narrator, Eliot is only enhancing that motif of expectations.
In a novel that discusses the minutia of each character’s expectations, and the relief or irritation that stems from the reality of them, it only makes sense that we are able to also see the narrator. In this sense, we are able to view the narrator as a character with genuine thoughts, feelings, and emotions about the story that they are sharing. A moment that was most intriguing and amusing to me as I read was on page 289, at the end of Chapter 31 (I have a different edition, my apologies): “The right word is always a power, and communicates its definiteness to our action”. The definite usage of words like “the”, “always”, and “our” helps underline the narrator’s understanding being on our same plane of existence. Meaning that, they sort of get how we may be reacting or thinking of the narrative and the greater meanings of the narrative. I think this is one of Eliot’s most fascinating and, quite frankly, exciting skills that she employs.
Therefore, when something tragic or funny or exciting occurs in the novel, I sort of look forward to the narrator’s side comments. I expect them in a way that makes the overall experience much more invigorating. We are able to feel how timely this piece is.