George Eliot describes her novel Middlemarch as a study in provincial life. I consider this project, which adapts the marriage plotline between the characters Rosamond Vincy and Tertius Lydgate, to be a study in interpersonal life, authorship, and the covert violence of the domestic. As portrayed by Eliot, Rosamond and Lydgate’s relationship, though initially founded upon good intentions, is ultimately characterized by a self-destructive cycle of dissatisfaction to which both parties contribute, founded in the kind of idealized desire and sustained domestic suppression that is unfortunately so familiar to so many. Rosamond and Lydgate’s tragedy lies in the disparity between their intentions and their happiness; between the love they try to hold in their hearts for each other and the little heartbreaks they inflict upon each other every day.
We have an obligation to do right – or at least better – by others, and we can only do that through quiet, daily, intentional acts of selfless compassion. Loving others is a lifelong challenge that we can never stop trying to achieve, and it begins with imagining each other more complexly, as Eliot advocates in Middlemarch. Neither Rosamond nor Lydgate is truly a caricature – as they perceive each other and as they have been drawn – and neither is anyone else. We may not share matrimonial ties to everyone in the universe, but our fates are nonetheless intertwined, and we would do well to keep our eyes intentionally and compassionately trained on one another.
Middlemarch is a very long book. As an English literature major, I say that with a lot of love. Nevertheless, in even the longest adaptation some cuts must be made. In total, I cut about 700 pages from Eliot’s novel. What remains of Middlemarch is its words; with only minor modifications for flow and fit, the text in the comic below is Eliot’s.