1. What conflicts do characters experience between their ideals and their realities? How do these conflicts relate to marriage? Consider the role of gender and the contradictions between the public and private worlds.
2. Several characters want to be reformers. What do they want to reform? Why? Do they succeed? Do they fail? Why? Consider the contradiction between the characters' ideals and their realities. Consider the contradiction between public and private worlds. Consider the social classes the characters occupy.
3. How does Middlemarch represent the rise of the middle class? Consider the theme of choice of vocation. Consider the significance of money. Consider the rise of the Protestant moral value system.
4. Why is money powerful? Why is money a burden? Consider the characters of Dorothea, Lydgate, Ladislaw, Bulstrode, and Casaubon.
5. Why does Lydgate's marriage fail? Why does Dorothea's marriage fail? Why did they get married to Rosamond and Casaubon, respectively? Consider the contradictions between what they need and what they think they want in a spouse. How does self-determined choice play a role? How does chance play a role?
6. How do secrets drive the plot of Middlemarch? Consider Will Ladislaw's family history. Consider Bulstrode's sins.
7. Why might George Eliot have written such a detailed novel about provincial life? Why does she describe the society of Middlemarch as a web? Consider the role of marriage. Consider the role of money. Consider the role of secrets.
8. Why doesn't Middlemarch have a central hero or heroine? Consider the frequent use of the metaphor of the web to describe Middlemarch society. Is Dorothea a heroine? Why or why not? Compare Dorothea to Rosamond.
9. Why is Rosamond manipulative and vain? How does George Eliot make the reader sympathize with Rosamond? Consider Rosamond's education and upbringing. Consider Lydgate's behavior.
10. How do ordinary people do extraordinary things? How can quiet tragedies, unhistoric acts of courage, and unrecognized acts of dignity be more poignant than those of famous, historical people? How are the trials and successes of ordinary, unknown people more human?
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