In George Eliot’s Middlemarch there are many moments of these “later born Theresa’s” (Eliot, Quality Paperback Book Club Edition, p. 7) that she mentions in different people of this provincial early 19th century town in middle England. These are not the famous martyrs of old stories and epic poetry, but the subtle characters that help to further along the society in its moral development – and our moral development. “Your pier-glass or extensive surface of polished steel made to be rubbed by a housemaid, will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions; but place now against it a lighted candle as a centre of illumination, and lo!” (p. 255) Eliot sets up a confusing array of men and women that may appear one thing on the outside, but when illuminated, their appearance is very much like the pier-glass, a “ fine series of concentric circle” (p. 255). Through the illuminated pier-glass we can see that some people are doing something grand, but it only looks like “scratches…going everywhere impartially” (p. 255) to those who don’t look deeper. Three characters are apparent to me as Eliot’s ‘Theresa’s, the obvious – Dorothea, the lesser noticed – Farebrother, and the seemingly overlooked – Caleb Garth. When we put these characters’ pier-glass’ up to the candle and take a closer look we can see clearer the Saint Theresa’s of Middlemarch and even the lives that altered our lives that rest in unmarked tombs.Read More
"Manners make the man; that is, they make his fortune (Household Words 296)."
Self-sacrifice, in Victorian England, was a virtue of the utmost importance. This was a time when modesty and manners reigned supreme, but also a time of a child boom, so what was virtuous for a man to do in this era? One thing for sure is to sacrifice for the betterment of all. This idea was ingrained into the realms of economics, politics, nation building, sexuality, and of course - morality. In Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy uses the popular ideas of a virtuous man and turns them on their head for the sake of showing what ends society's 'virtue' and 'morality' ultimately lead to. Hardy, unlike Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus, makes love and passion worthy ideals to sacrifice for.Read More