The appearance of Casaubon also hints his character and his contrast to Dorothy as he is described as old and ugly. As Dorothea and her sister talk about him, Celia states that he is ugly and sallow (16). On the contrary, Dorothea is described as young and lively (7). Casaubon and Dorothea are described by almost opposite metaphors and it seems like Eliot wants to foreshadow the frustrating marriage that they will have and that they are completely two opposite characters. While Dorothea longs for love and affection, Casaubon regards to his marriage as a responsibility and as an act which should be fulfilled in social terms.
He believes that he fulfills his duties by providing Dorothea with a wealthy life and fine clothes, while Dorothy seeks love and emotions in her marriage. While Dorothy self-sacrifices herself for him, Casaubon is so Patriarchal that he thinks it s her duty as a wife to act in this manner. R. Wright states: Casaubon, of course, has no doubts about the role of women. ‘the great charm of your sex’, he tells Dorothea after she has accepted his proposal, ‘is its capability of an ardent self-sacrificing affection, and herein we see its fitness to round and complete the existence of our own.
He expects her to be ‘all that an exquisite young lady can be’ with the added advantage of being able to copy Greek characters (76). As stated, Casaubon is extremely patriarchal, parallel to the society which he lives in, and believes that women are meant to be obedient to their husbands in every form. Based on the Victorian society of male roles, he also believes that a woman is totally dependent on her husband and that the success and wisdom of a woman’s husband is also her wisdom in a way.
He believes that women make their way through the social ladder through their husbands and that a woman alone has no chance to climb the ladder of social status on her own. Thus, it becomes possible to say that he also considers Dorothea to be a lucky woman to have married him. However things turn out to be just the opposite and Casaubon soon discovers his wife2s real personality who is far from being an ignorant and woman of the typical Victorian society. Her rebellious attitude makes Casaubon fell himself threatened, especially during his illness, and he starts to suffer due to his unhappy marriage.
Lydgate is another male major character in the novel who also suffers due to an unhappy marriage full of self illusions. Lydgate, the doctor of the Vincy family, is an idealist and he has long years to come to get married in the first chapters of the novel. He is also a part of the Victorian Patriarchal society and wants a stereotypical woman who stands for an ornament rather than a partner in his life. Despite his desire for an ordinary woman and his marriage to Rosamond who at first fulfills his desire, towards the end of the novel he finds out that he would prefer a woman who could in fact be a partner to him.
This links him to Dorothea, who at first he despised for being so rebellious and different from the rest of the women in his society. Despite being a part of the patriarchal society which bases its values on mostly materialist things, he seeks freedom and dislikes the aristocracy. Being an orphan he symbolizes the modern man of the age who doesn’t make a living out of his family inheritance or his social status, but portrays the Picture of a character who climbs up the social ladder by himself. It is also possible to say that Lydgate represents developing science of the age, which has witnessed the industrial revolution, since he is a doctor.
At the beginning of the novel he thinks he only flirts with Rosamond and thinks that this wouldn’t force him for marriage. However as the novel continues, the reader comes across the incident of him having to marry Rosamond due to social pressure. As a result of his flirting to her, he is expected to be a “gentleman” and to marry the woman who he has given hope for commitment. Lydgate is another character who disillusions himself, thinking that he is the romantic hero of Rosamond and marries her due to his belief, while in fact he wants to continue to his medical studies in a free manner and also wants to remain a single man.
As their marriage continues, Lydgate discovers that he had made a fatal mistake in marrying Rosamond and that she isn’t the woman he had hoped her to be. R Wright states in his book: It does not take long for Lydgate to awaken from his dream land and discover that Rosamond is not an accomplished mermaid using her comb and looking-glass and singing her song for the relaxation of his adored wisdom alone. And when he discovers that she is less submissive than he had hoped, his coercion becomes more overt (80).
The theme of disillusionment once again comes to the surface when Lydgate’s frustrated marriage and his relation to his wife Rosamond is taken at hand from a closer perspective. He too, alike Dorothy and Casaubon, fools himself in to believing that Rosamond is the wife he has always hoped and longed for and that the mild and meek appearance of the woman would last for a life time. Rosamond, the wife of Lydgate, is one other major female character which appears in the novel. She represents the stereotypical Victorian woman who is educated to marry a rich man.
She is sent to a finishing school and appears as a woman whose major goal is to marry a wealthy man. Throughout the novel it appears that Money is valued more than anything in the society and that women make their choices of husbands accordingly. Since a husband determines the social status of a woman, Rosamond too becomes interested in Lydgate, who is linked to an Aristocratic social circle and who would most probably provide her with a wealthy life. As Money is regarded as success and freedom within the society of Middlemarch, Rosamond tries to reach such a success through marrying a man.
The feminist Picture which Eliot draws by putting forth such a clear perspective by portraying Rosamond, the writer once more reveals the fact that the only way to reach success for a woman is to marry a successful and wealthy husband. As this is the case for Rosamond, she tries to manipulate Lydgate to marry her. Knowing that it is the only way she can make her way through the aristocratic circles, she treats Lydgate as an object which need to be manipulated, rather than treating him as a man.
Thus, it becomes possible to say that Rosamond appears n the novel as a character to be disliked, since she is the outcome of the classical Victorian education for women. Chase states in her book that: We are never to forget; after all that Rosamond’s social bearings are not a gift of nature, that it is rather her art to appear natural. Rosamond may be as lovely as a flower but she is a flower of Mrs. Lemon’s school, the chief school in the country, where the teaching included all that was demanded in the accompanied female (62).
Thus it also becomes possible to say the appearance of Rosamond and her character is directly related to the education for women in the period and being a representative of the stereotypical woman of the Victorian age, Rosamond goes through a sense of dissatisfaction in her novel as the true face of marriage hits her in the face. The desired Notion of a woman which means to suppress her feelings and to completely obey her husband overwhelms Rosamond and thus she develops a romantic approach towards Will. The novel states:
No Notion could have been falser than this, for Rosamond’s discontent in her marriage was due to the conditions of marriage itself, to its demand for self-suppression and tolerance, and not to the nature of her husband; but the easy conception of an unreal Better had a sentimental charm which diverted her ennui. She constructed a little romance which was to vary the flatness of her life (619). Speaking from a feminist perspective about the novel, at this stage it becomes possible to say that feminist figures are present all over the novel.
Due to Eliot’s deep insight in to the characters in the novel, the gender roles of the time become plain to see. While women are considered to be inferior to men, they are also considered as only wives in the patriarchal world. Women lack a proper education to become able to support themselves without a husband. As it is the case for Farebrother, his mother is a widow and his aunt and sister are unmarried. So Farebrother is responsible of looking after his unmarried female relatives.
Since the education provided for women is very limited and since women are only trained to become perfect wives at the time, many women, who don’t have a male relative to look after herself, bare hard financial situations. A similar case is also present for Rosamond as she becomes totally dependent on her husband as Featherstone dies and she doesn’t receive any inheritance upon the appearance of an illegitimate son. Rosamond, having studies at a finishing school, never received any education to enable her with the skill to become able to look after herself.