Date of Award
English Language and Literature - Professional Writing Concentration
Daniel W. Ross
One of the oldest states of existence known to humanity, marriage is a traditional state of being, uniting one man and one woman to love, honor, cherish, and protect each other for the rest of their lives. In Victorian England, however, many men and women questioned traditional expectations concerning marriage. Society's norms in Britain dictated that marriage was the ultimate goal in the nineteenth century, and, according to Barbara Weiss, "there has perhaps never been an age (or a literature) as relentlessly pro marriage as the Victorian period" (67). However, many issues concerning marriage disturbed some freer-thinking Victorians, including novelist George Eliot. In her 1872 novel, Middlemarch, Eliot examines the lives of several characters in both courtship and marriage relationships. Through these characters, Eliot shows how many people are blinded by their own fantasies about an idealized marriage, and these fantasies render them sorely unprepared for the realities of the marriage union. Eliot gives the reader various perspectives on marriage through her characters, allowing us to see that although marriage was a contented state for many middle-class men and women, a large number of people were consumed by fantasies concerning marriage and later found the unrealistic expectations, inequities, and disillusionment in marriage to be intolerable.
Barnes, Liza Welch, "Formulating Fantasies: Marriage in Victorian England and George Eliot's Middlemarch" (2003). Theses and Dissertations. 131.