The following is an example of a short essay I wrote discussing the idea of how the prelude from George Eliot's novel, Middlemarch, sets up how she will portray women in the rest of the novel and how women were seen during that time period.
In today’s society, women have the luxury of assuming they can become anything they want to become. If she wants to be a scientist, she can. If she wants to be a novelist, she can. If she wants to be a mother and wife, she can. She is told from a young age that she can do anything and while there are still certain societal pressures life is much less restrictive than it was for women during the Victorian Era. The Prelude to Middlemarch is how George Eliot shows her novel will not just be another story of a woman of high society finding her future husband. The Prelude depicts how women have so much more to offer than society is allowing them to provide during the Victorian Era. She uses scientific language in a way to illustrate how in a world that is learning new and exciting things through science there still appears to be a prejudice against allowing women to flourish outside of the roles society deems are suited for a woman. Women are curious and intelligent and yet are often only taught the subjects deemed useful in their future as wives and mothers. While being a wife and mother is admirable, a woman can be so much more. Many young Victorian girls, especially those of a higher social class, did attend boarding schools but unfortunately, the education provided there was lacking. In Life of Frances Power Cobbes as Told by Herself Frances Cobbes remarks on how “everything was taught us in the reverse ratio of its true importance. At the bottom of the scale were Morals and Religion, and at the top were Music and Dancing” (Damrosch 1524). The focus of education was to give girls talents that would make them more appealing to future suitors rather than helping them gain an understanding of how to use rational and critical thinking skills. This process shows society’s belief that women should only be educated enough to fulfill the needs of their future husbands and anything more than that was unnecessary or too difficult for women to understand. However, George Eliot’s Prelude to Middlemarch shows how inherently wrong that way of thinking was as Eliot not only uses scientific words such as “varying experiments of Time” and “the limits of variation” to make her point but also uses them in such an eloquently crafted manner as to be tangible proof that women are capable of understanding more than they are taught. Eliot’s use of scientific language helps pull attention to this seemingly radical idea that women are able to be more than wives and mothers. Science was expanding and becoming more prominent in society during the Victorian Era. Before this era science “was scarcely imagined as an independent profession,” now the ideas and theories that were coming forward began to shake the foundation society had been built upon for so many centuries (Damrosch 1291). By invoking the language of science in her Prelude, Eliot is hoping to shake the foundation of society again. However, instead of causing people to question religion, Eliot’s use of scientific language is meant to question whether or not what is expected of a woman is really all she can accomplish. Eliot uses words such as “mysterious mixtures” and “domestic realities” to juxtapose the gap forming between the knowledge society as a whole was gaining from science and its insistence on keeping societal traditions when it came to how women were treated and educated (Eliot 3). Instead of sending girls to boarding school to expand their knowledge they were instead being groomed to enter into roles society had chosen for them. While women were capable of doing more than what boarding school taught back during the Victorian Age women who tried to expand themselves beyond what society dictated as acceptable were often looked down upon. Eliot notes this in the Prelude when she states “that the one was disproved as extravagance, and the other condemned as lapse” showing how women often were stuck because no matter what they did someone found a way to criticize it (Eliot 3). This idea is shown in many others works from the time period as well. One particular example is the poem “The Lady of Shalott.” The line that draws attention to this idea was line 37 where it states that “she weaves by night and day” showing how it is this activity alone that she permitted to do up in her tower. She ultimately is confined to a completely idolatrous life because of her curse and yet in “Victorian Ladies and Gentlemen” it states how a woman’s “unproductive leisure was a visible signal of rank” (Damrosch 1520). These two ideas seem to be at odds with each other when according to their society having so much spare time that one can only weave would be seen as a positive but yet it is a curse placed upon the Lady of Shalott. This contradiction pokes a hole in the idea that women should desire a leisurely life because the Lady of Shalott “is half sick of shadows” showing her disinterest in the leisurely life allotted her (line 71). The Lady of Shalott is essentially “condemned as lapse” for weaving all day and night and yet when she breaks away from the pattern the curse dictates on her life she dies from the “disproved … extravagance” of leaving her tower (Eliot 3). Likewise, women during the Victorian Era were scorned if they varied from their expected roles yet women were often looked down upon for only fulfilling those roles. Even when a woman meets the requirements society places upon her there is still a sense of lacking. In “Silly Novels by Lady Novelist” Eliot discusses how many female protagonists are “the ideal woman in feelings, faculties, and flounces” yet this ideal women is seen as a silly character who comes out of all of her trials with “a complexion more blooming and locks more redundant than ever” (Eliot 2).This kind of female protagonist seems to have all her problems fixed easily because she is so beloved by everyone she need not struggle to find a solution herself. The struggle that eventually leads to her getting her “happy ending” is often resolved without much struggle on her part. This lack of genuine struggle to overcome obstacles shows how the ideal life for a Victorian woman is one that appears to take little effort. Indeed women were not meant to excel or stand out in many ways. This sentiment is echoed in “Silly Novels by Lady Novelist when Eliot states that “no sooner does a woman show that she has genius or effective talent, than she receives the tribute of being moderately praised and severely criticized” and this sentiment effectively leaves very few women with a desire to excel beyond what is expected of them (Eliot 17). Eliot does not believe there are no women who desire to excel instead in the Prelude she explains how those who want more “were helped by no coherent social faith” allowing essentially no place in society that they could really thrive (Eliot 3). Instead, women had to either conform or be socially ostracized. It would be nice to think that those who wished for more had the courage to stand up and deal with the social ramification, but this is not the case. Many women back then did conform because there was no other option available to them. George Eliot’s Prelude is a stepping stone to allowing more women to step outside what is expected of them by society and reaching to expand their knowledge for more than just gaining a husband or raising children. Instead, they might seek to gain knowledge because they love learning or they want to better themselves. Essentially the Prelude is a warning to anyone reading Middlemarch. It tells the reader that this will not be a nice, fun novel where everything happens as it is predicted to. While situations might mirror moments readers have come to anticipate in other novels by other authors the effect will not be the same. There will be a purpose behind every characteristic displayed, every situation encountered, and every relationship formed. George Eliot is using the Prelude to inform us that this novel she wrote will not follow what is expected, at the time, from a book by a lady novelist, just as women can be more than what society teaches them they can be.
How are the vices pride and prejudice portrayed in the novel "Pride and Prejudice" by the characters, Elizabeth and Darcy?
In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, those two vices plague many characters but none more so than the two main leads, Darcy and Elizabeth. Both characters exhibit these traits in abundance, but Darcy seems to be steeped with more pride and Elizabeth with more prejudice. While Darcy has more moments of obvious pride both characters exhibit this characteristic on multiple occasions. One of Elizabeth’s moments of pride is when Darcy asks her to dance for the first time at Bingley’s house. She responds by stating, “I have therefore made up my mind to tell you that I do not want to dance a reel at all—and now despise me if you dare” making it perfectly clear that she personally rejects the idea of dancing with him (Austen 49). This passage indicates that Elizabeth’s pride tends to be more personally focused. She refuses him because he has offended her in the past and so her pride in herself will not allow her to bend to his will. Darcy’s pride seems to manifest in a different manner than Elizabeth’s. His pride tends to be more concerned with family and social status than with personal satisfaction. One moment his pride is most present is when he tells Elizabeth, “could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?” trying to justify his objections to their union and the manner in which he expressed his emotions (Austen 184). He is more concerned with how a connection with Elizabeth will affect the status of his family than he is with any injustices she has levied on him. Both characters exhibit their pride in response to different stimuli and the same is true about their prejudices. Just as with his pride, Darcy’s prejudices against Elizabeth have more to do with family responsibilities and actions rather than personal actions on her part. He mentions in a conversation to Bingley and his sisters that being a member of the Bennet family “must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world” because to him the Bennet family is beneath his status in society (Austen 34). Darcy’s motivations tend to be driven by the perceptions of those around him. He is incredibly conscious of status and upbringing and that is what is constantly holding him back in his relationship with Elizabeth. Elizabeth, in contrast, is again more motivated by prejudices based on personal actions rather than on familial actions. After telling Jane of the misfortunes Darcy supposedly inflicted on Wickham, she responds to Jane’s disbelief by saying: I can much more easily believe Mr. Bingley’s being imposed upon than that Mr. Wickham should invent such a history of himself as he gave to me last night: names, facts, everything mentioned without ceremony. If it is not so, let Mr. Darcy contradict it. Besides, there was truth in all his looks. (Austen 82) She is prejudice against Darcy’s character, not his social standing. She believes Wickham because he seems sincere, but her prejudice does not allow her to give Darcy a chance to defend himself until much later in the novel. She dislikes what she perceives to be his personality. It is not until she is forced to see the truth of her misjudgment that her opinion of him begins to change. Darcy and Elizabeth have to learn to let go of their pride and prejudices before they are able to truly be united in their love. Darcy needs to learn to accept her family despite the objections society sees in them, while Elizabeth has to learn how to see Darcy’s real character and not just the character others tell her about. For Elizabeth, she begins to make the transition when Darcy gives her the letter explaining the Wickham situation. The narrator states how Elizabeth “believed it impossible that any contrivance could so represent as to render Mr. Darcy’s conduct in it less than infamous, was capable of a turn which must make him entirely blameless throughout the whole” meaning now that she had the truth she had to acknowledge her perception of Darcy was completely wrong (Austen 196). Once she realizes her mistake she is able to begin to see Darcy’s true character which is what leads to her eventually falling in love with him. Darcy, on the other hand, has to let go of his prejudices against her family. As readers, we are able to see evidence of this when he finds Lydia and Wickham and he talks “with them both, Wickham repeatedly, Lydia once” showing his willingness to overlook societal objections if it means he gets to be united with Elizabeth (Austen 306). This is incredibly important because he is willing to talk to Wickham more than once to preserve Elizabeth’s family despite the anger Darcy must still feel regarding Wickham’s treatment of Georgiana. He puts those feelings aside because he is willing to defend Elizabeth’s family regardless of the difference of social standing. Both characters deal with immense pride and prejudice. However, they stem from different sources. Elizabeth is more concerned with personal characteristics, while Darcy was more concerned with societal ramifications. In the end, though, they were both able to overcome those objections to finally be united in matrimony.
What is the difference between primary and secondary sources?
A primary source presents first-hand evidence of the topic being discussed. For example, an interview with a Holocaust survivor would be a primary source in a paper discussing the tragedies that occurred during that time in History. A secondary source interprets or discusses a primary source. For example, a passage about the Holocaust in a textbook would be considered a secondary source.