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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Middlemarch and morality : a study of the development of George Eliot's ethical creed. Campbell, Patrick Anthony Charles

Abstract

This thesis is a study of George Eliot's moral philosophy as revealed in her novels. Since the novelist's ethical creed did not undergo any radical change after 1350, I have devoted the initial chapter to a discussion of her early training and reading. In Chapter two, an analysis is made of George Eliot's early works of fiction. As a result, both of her religious training and her avid reading of moralistic literature, she is too prone to pass judgement on her characters. Sometimes sympathetic to her creations, she is often intolerant of moral laxity in these novels. In Middlemarch, this ambivalence of moral vision is no longer noticeable; the voice of the austere moralist, judging by inflexible standards, is muted. This development is partially attributable to a more skilful and less frequent use of didactic devices than hitherto. Chapter three is therefore devoted to an analysis of the novelist's didactic technique in Middlemarch. The final chapter shows that George Eliot the moral philosopher has also developed in Middlemarch. Her views have not altered radically, but her outlook is more catholic, and the elements in her ethical creed are blended more effectively than in her early novels.

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