Expectation vs Reality in Middlemarch

Having finished Book V, flipping back through I reread this of the narration over Rome: “I suppose it was that in courtship everything is regarded as provisional and preliminary, and the smallest sample of virtue or accomplishment is taken to guarantee delightful stores which the broad leisure of marriage will reveal. But the doorsill of marriage once crossed, expectation is concentrated on the present. Having once embarked on your marital voyage, it is impossible not to be aware that you make no way and that the sea is not within sight — that, in fact, you are exploring an enclosed basin” (184). This description illustrates the threshold crossed in marriage from the freedom to look forward to the necessity for that ’expectation’ to be ‘concentrated on the present’. In marriage this threshold is vivid, when seen from the point of view of the narrator, because one’s idea for spending the remainder of their life with another, comes full-force into the reality of how the other determined the value of the commitment, as expressed through every action of the spouse. Outside the marriage, outside the present of demarcated possible futures, then, one imagines a limitlessness to which their marriage can hardly compare.

Much of the differences explored through parallel encounters between husband and wife stem from societal expectations, which grow and are sustained by the method of gossip in Middlemarch which turns each persons own interests into cogs on the machine against open-mindedness paired with seriousness which could (theoretically and likely to be tested by end) open such relations to a shared understanding which would open the voyage of the present to the open vistas of the sea, through another. But everything does not manifest from inherited conceptions, for each relation the novel explores is quite different in substance; rather their parallel natures consist of multitudes of differences. On page 346, Ladislaw would warn Dorothea not to mention their conversation to Causubon, had he not the conception that “To ask her to be less simple and direct would be like breathing on the crystal that you want to see the light through.” While Dorothea would suggest Will “lose no time in consulting Mr. Causubon’s wishes, but for her to urge this might seem an undue dictation.” The two idealizations become impulses of restraint: through their own understanding of protocols and of the wishes of the other (not wholly wrong), they allow misunderstanding to fester which turns to actions which cause a schism between, which can only be crossed the imperfect navigation of discourse between two expectations, evolved from the first and the last and all other interactions not properly represented without a timely sort of authenticity and equally as timely receptivity. It is not always so easy to make the best out of the best intentions, nor to go back in time, entangled in events so often written to be understood as linear.

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