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BOOK I: MISS BROOKE
The chapter opens with a detailed description of Dorothea Brooke, a beautiful girl not yet twenty years old. She and her younger sister, Celia, live with their bachelor uncle, Mr. Brooke, at Tipton Grange, near the town of Middlemarch. The family is part of the land owning Gentry in the region. The girls are considered heiressís having a comfortable income inherited from their parents. Having been orphaned at an early age, they have been educated at home in an English family and later with a Swiss one at Lausanne.
The girls have been back at Tipton for just a year. Although, their upbringing by their uncle is regarded as eccentric by the neighbors, their status and income make the sisters highly eligible as prospective brides. Dorothea is the beauty. She dresses very simply, which is approved of locally, "but she was enamored of intensity and greatness" and religious by nature. Living in an age "when women were expected to have weak opinions" her strain of puritan energy has made eligible suitors wary. Her sister Celia is said to have more commonsense. Dorothea has set up an infant school in the village she is also busy drawing up plans for improved cottages for farm workers.
Celia is in awe of her elder sister, and also slightly resentful of her. She nervously suggests that they should open a box of their motherís jewels and divide them up. The box had been given to them six months earlier by their uncle. When Dorothea dismisses her suggestion, Celia presses for it "as surely there are women in heaven now who wore jewels." Her will prevails and the case is opened.
Dorothea promptly hands over most of the pieces to Celia. When the younger girl insists Dorothea could at least keep a pearl and gem cross, she snubs her with "A cross is the last thing I would wear as a trinket," yet she insists that Celia should wear the jewels. Celia is hurt and annoyed at this assumption of superiority. Just then the sunlight gleams over the colorful gems. The glowing beauty of some valuable emeralds fascinates Dorothea. "They look like fragments of heaven," she says. The authorís comment is "She was trying to justify her delight in the colors by merging them in her religious joy." Dorothea decides to keep the emeralds. Celia is struck by her inconsistency. She asks if her sister will wear them in public and gets a sharp reply. But this scene ends with Dorothea caressing her sister in silent apology for her rudeness.
This very first chapter reveals the sistersí personalities in dramatic style. The novelist brings out Dorotheaís unselfish and unworldly nature. She also reveals a sensuously youthful strain in her, and a feeling of superiority. The tension between these varied aspects of Dorotheaís personality is the basis of her future actions. The would-be-Theresa has clearly a more ordinary and fleshly side to her.
Celia is shown as a contrast to her. She is conventional and has the "normal" young womanís interest in jewels and clothes Dorothea attempts to suppress these in herself, to be generous and unselfish and to train her mind to reach for higher things. Her weakness of a feeling of superiority to those around her is clear. Yet overall, there is deep affection between the sisters.
The stylistic feature of describing her protagonists with deep sympathy. Yet giving the reader critical insights into them through the views of other characters are displayed here.