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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A thematic study of the characterization of women in three novels by George Eliot Kirby, Elizabeth Anne

Abstract

A Thematic Study of the Characterization of Women in Three Novels by George Eliot emphasizes the development of her ability to end her novels in a genuine and consistent manner. This process culminates in her final novel through her extension of a sympathetic appreciation of human error and psychological illusion to a credible conclusion which both convinces the reader and satisfies the demands of plot. Her initial use of artificial endings, such as death and marriage, assures the reader that there will be no extraneous experiences to consider at the close of each novel. In Daniel Deronda, however, George Eliot depicts the future of her heroine as an unknown element in which the only constant is the process of maturation. This novel offers a detailed perspective on human development concluding with the concept of a future in which new awareness will be applied to unspecified events. Considering the intricacies of the issues of human nature that George Eliot deals with, such as individual illusions, the effects of social pressure, the inescapable consequences of past behavior, and the course of moral growth, the simplicity of her closed and happy endings in the novels previous to Daniel Deronda are aesthetically and emotionally unsatisfying for the reader. This study accounts for the superiority of her final novel by virtue of its faithfulness to the condition of change implied throughout the development of plot and characterization. Chapters I and II of this thesis deal with Maggie Tulliver's drowning in The Mill on the Floss and Dorothea Brooke's final marriage in Middlemarch as examples of George Eliot's characteristic of completing her novels with a brief and ungratifying account of the heroine after rendering a slow and faithful description of her temperament, her emotional traumas and the consequent moral dilemmas established against the panoramic background of provincial society. Chapter III, however, establishes Gwendolen Harleth's new and disturbing vision of reality and the uncertainty of her future as a conclusion to Daniel Deronda. This open-ended structure gratifies the reader's expectation by its consistency with the complexity of the heroine's psychological drama.

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