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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Rosamond Lydgate

Although the book has no actual villains, the portrayal of Rosamond brings her close to that. She is the town beauty. She is also the daughter of a manufacturer who has educated her "to be a lady." These two factors have a great formative effect in the shallow, selfish, polished product that is Rosamond. In a repressive society, where women’s education and job opportunities are restricted, her beauty becomes her sole measure of worth, on account of which she expects to "marry Will" and climb to a higher class bracket. Her soft and feminine appearance hides an iron will and immense pettiness when thwarted, she uses manipulation, even deceit, to get her way. As when she secretly writes to Lydgate’s baronet uncle begging for a loan. Every such action brings more bitterness and misery into her marriage. But it also underlines Lydgate's own blind folly and egotism in failing to judge her shrewdly, in seeing only what he wanted to see.


Rosamond’s greatest faults is her insincerity, as in her escapist flirtation with Ladislaw; and her inability to feel affection or give support to Lydgate in his personal crisis. His suffering and the fact that he is innocent are irrelevant to her. Only her own disgrace and discomfort in Middlemarch society matter.

Rosamond with her "plaits of infantine fairness," her exquisite, expensive dress and perfect formal manners are always shown acting a role, which takes in the observer. At heart, she is cold and self-absorbed. In this, she provides a contrast, not only to Dorothea and Mary Garth, but also to her mother Mrs. Vincy, Harriet Bulstrode and Susan Garth. All these women, in spite of their weaknesses, are shown capable of deep feeling and generosity towards those around them. Even her brother Fred, handicapped by a pampered childhood, redeems himself through his warmth and love for Mary.

This portrayal of Rosamond could be considered a departure from the feminist tendency in George Eliot. But, in fact, it shows up the bad effects of a restricted education and outlook, and petty goals on a woman’s nature. Rosamond takes herself as she is evaluated by the conservative society around her. Being beautiful, she accepts that the world owes her a comfortable prosperous life free of problems. This is a bleak but masterly portrait in the novel.

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