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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
This is a preface, which reveals the central theme of the novel, with special reference to Book I: Miss Brooke. The author dwells on the break down of youthful idealism and ambition when faced with a real world lacking in any "coherent social faith."
She begins with a story from the childhood of St. Theresa of Avila who had reformed a religious order in three hundred years earlier. The child Theresa is said to have toddled out of her home, along with her little brother, to "seek martyrdom." They were found by their uncles and taken home. But this idealism, says George Eliot, did not get diluted later in Theresaís life. She grew up in search of "an epic life." She found it in reforming the order of nuns which she later joined.
The novelistís point is that many would-be Theresa have sunk into oblivion. Their ardor could find no worthy cause, and remained "a vague ideal." This is because of the absence of a coherent "social faith" in contemporary society. She says some people feel this is because of the "inconvenient indefiniteness "which the Creator has "fashioned the natures of women with. Yet, she asserts, there are many variations among women. "Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose ambitions are crushed among hindrances."
The point made here is related to the major theme in the novel. It is more specifically applicable to Dorothea Brooke, the chief protagonist in Book I. The novel unfolds the idealistic aspirations of Dorothea and what happens to them in the course of her life.
This preface also introduces us to the "omniscient author" style of George Eliot. Like other Victorian novelists, she openly directs the reader about how to view the characters, their actions and morality.