“I found that no genius in another could please me. My unfortunate paradoxes had entirely dried up that source of comfort.
One morning some weeks after her arrival at Lowick, Dorothea– by why always Dorothea? Was her point of view the only possible one with regard to this marriage?” pg 261
This famous turn in the novel is confusing in tone as McWeeny points out at the start of their second chapter. The narrator is obviously exasperated, interrupting themselves to exclaim, “by why always Dorothea?” However, as McWeeny asks, who are they irritated at? Dorothea? The reader? The multiplicity of characters that they must keep track of? For it is a rather confusing complaint for them to make– “Was her point of view the only possible one with regard to this marriage?” No, she is not the only one with dominion over the complexities of this marriage, but it is her marriage. It seems odd for the narrator to become annoyed at this exact minute. If we were going to look for authorities on the marriage of Dorothea and Edward, it would be Dorothea and Edward.
While the narrator uses this moment to pivot from Dorothea to Edward, it still seems like a very forceful insertion of themselves for a rather minor movement. Additionally, while Dorothea may not be the reader’s favorite character, she is more likeable than Edward, I would argue. It is as if the narrator, however, has grown bored, or even perhaps fed up, with Dorothea. The second question, “Was her point of view the only possible one with regard to this marriage?” feels directed specifically toward Dorothea. However, given the Prelude, we would not expect Eliot to target a female character with such pointed animosity; rather, we would expect a more neutral, if not favorable, approach to a potential Theresa. Unless we posit that the narrator is a different speaker than that of the Prelude. Or perhaps we can find more information from the epigraph.
“I found that no genius in another could please me,” is a very pessimistic statement. If we take it to reflect the narrator’s point of view, and potentially that of some readers at this point, we perhaps understand the interjection. Middlemarch is a multitude of narratives, but expressed by a singular narrator. In order to conceptualize an even slightly unbiased narrator, we have to assume that they are almost entirely removed from the story that they are telling. Middlemarch’s narrator is able to stick with this story because they have limited stake, they are not a part of the narrative that they are telling. That being said, they remain unmoved by the genius of the other characters. The “unfortunate paradoxes” of the other characters in Middlemarch are just that– trivial minutions that evoke passing emotion, but are paperdoll-like in their substance. One simply gets tired of always talking about Dorothea if one does not find her very interesting to begin with.