Middlemarch Book II – IV: Inkblot Test

We’ve come to the midpoint of our tentative reading plan. Hard to believe one month’s gone by already. Instead of a review of all the chapters, how about a Middlemarch inkblot test?

What word comes to your mind when you see the following:


  • Dorothea 
  • Casaubon 
  • Ladislaw 
  • Fred 
  • Rosamond 
  • Lydgate 
  • Celia 
  • Mr. Brooke 
  • Mary Garth


I’ll just stop with these ones. Have your views about these characters changed from first you met them?

Any surprises in the storylines?

Which characters do you click ‘Like’?

What to do with the ones we don’t? Is Eliot having fun with Austen’s idea of creating characters whom no one would much like?

Favorite Quotes?

Here are some of mine, for various reasons, but mostly for Eliot’s power of association in her descriptions.

Will Ladislaw’s thought about Dorothea:

“To ask her to be less simple and direct would be like breathing on the crystal that you want to see the light through.”

About Dorothea’s predicament:

“I suppose it was that in courtship everything is regarded as provisional and preliminary, and the smallest sample of virtue or accomplishment is taken to guarantee delightful stores which the broad leisure of marriage will reveal. But the door-sill of marriage once crossed, expectation is concentrated on the present. Having once embarked on your marital voyage, it is impossible not to be aware that you make no way and that the sea is not within sight –– that, in fact, you are exploring an enclosed basin.”

And if Eliot were among us today, she would likely be vocal in the #Metoo and #Timesup movements:

“Society never made the preposterous demand that a man should think as much about his own qualifications for making a charming girl happy as he thinks of hers for making himself happy.”


Your two pebbles?

Wood Duck.jpg



Other posts from our Read-Along participants:

Men of Middlemarch

Middlemarch –– Ladislaw’s Force of Unreason

Middlemarch by George Eliot –– Completed today


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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

23 thoughts on “Middlemarch Book II – IV: Inkblot Test”

  1. To do the one word:

    Dorothea true Casaubon confused Ladislaw jumbled
    Fred spoiled Rosamond proud Lydgate self-centered
    Celia follower Mr. Brooke generous Mary Garth true

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I find that Eliot effectively creates sympathy for her characters eventually, though I don’t know if I will ever like Lydgate — or Brooke!!

    I have so many favorite quotes – spent a long while transcribing some of the scores I have underlined, and yes, most of them are because the dialogue humorously demonstrates some character trait or mere foible, or because Eliot’s analysis of the characters’ is so deep and wise. I am trying to compose a post of my own, but that seems to be too much yet, on top of reading!

    Here’s an interesting comment from the text, on the society in general:

    “Women were expected to have weak opinions; but the great safeguard of society and of domestic life was, that opinions were not acted on. Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Gretchen,

      Yes, glad you mention one of your fave quotes. That’s a good one, showing Eliot’s sharp wit, humour and insight. Through this first half of the book, I’m particularly impressed by her wide-ranging knowledge, and of course, the vivid descriptions of her characters. I think she’s quite effective in helping us accept those who may not appeal to us readily. And I’m learning not to judge them too harshly. At this point, I don’t have any dislike for Lydgate or Brooke. I look forward to your post, or posts. No hurry since we still have a month to go. Definitely would like to know your views as this is your reread.


  3. My inkblot test, though it’s hard not to write a paragraph for each…
    Dorothea – passionate, spiritual
    Casaubon – cold, cowering inside himself
    Ladislaw – irreverent, (except concerning Dorothea :))
    Fred – friendly slacker
    Rosamond – egocentric, careful façade
    Lydgate- potential work-aholic, if it weren’t for craving wifely affection
    Celia – self-absorbed (but not mean, just in a fluffy sort of way)
    Mr. Brooke – out-of-touch, non-committal
    Mary Garth- confident, self-respect, committed to family

    As far as the unlikeable characters, I was just telling the hubby last night that I found all of the men difficult to really like, as they were all so much like real people 🙂 I can sympathize with them, but like…like is a strong word. That being said, I don’t mind reading about them- I think Elliot did a great job of drawing us into their world, and investing us in their struggles.

    My favorite isn’t on your list- I enjoyed Mr. Farebrother and his family, and I could sympathize with his plights.

    As far as the ladies, Mary is my favorite, (I was cheering when she gave Fred her ultimatum!) but I’ve grown fonder of Dorothea as the story has moved on.

    Whew! That’s long enough- I won’t dig for quotes, but I enjoyed yours! My book’s due back Saturday so I’m pressing forward to the conclusion!


    1. Anne,

      Thanks for ‘taking the inkblot test’. I’m surprised that your reaction to Ladislaw is ‘irreverent’. I find him to be quite a romantic. I agree with you about Mary Garth, actually she just may be the hidden ‘heroine’ of the book, principled, grounded and resilient. As for those whom we may not like that much, you’re right, Eliot had done a great job of drawing us into their world, helping us see their struggles. Also, since you mention, I’ll pay more attention to Farebrother and his family from now on.

      Hope you’ll write a post on Middlemarch. As per your specialties, maybe a historical background in terms of the male / female relationships in Eliot’s society, the subtle or not so subtle criticisms Eliot is conveying through her book. She will fit right in today’s #Metoo and #Timesup movements, don’t you think?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm, I guess by irreverent, I meant one who doesn’t care about what others think, or about established norms (so I suppose a romantic fits just as well or better!)
        And thanks for the post ideas! I was thinking that I ought to do one, but hadn’t decided on a topic 🙂


        1. Indeed, a romantic could be quite irreverent. 🙂 Also, since I’m only half way through so I may not know certain info or how he turns out eventually. Looking forward to your post(s)!

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think I’d that underlined.

      You’re welcome to throw more pebbles in the Pond. Share with us which other ones you’ve picked out. 🙂


  4. The characters to me come across as:
    Dorothea true Casaubon confused Ladislaw jumbled
    Fred spoiled Rosamond proud Lydgate self-centered
    Celia follower Mr. Brooke generous Mary Garth true

    But am definitely interested in the ideas of other readers….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks C-Marie! Appreciate your input. I’m sure you’ll find all the comments here interesting. Feel free to respond to them as well. 🙂


  5. Somehow, I forged through this book entirely in May. I guess I needed to keep the impetus going or I might abandon it because it is a tad drawn out (in my opinion). And yet, it is so worth the last hundred pages. Even though I finished it a week or so ago, the characters will long stay with me.

    Dorothea ~ brave
    Casaubon ~ selfish
    Ladislaw ~ worthy
    Fred ~ immature
    Rosamond ~ vain
    Lydgate ~ patient
    Celia ~ faithful
    Mr. Brooke ~ foundation
    Mary Garth ~ sweet

    Dorothea, of course, is my very favorite. What a woman, to be brave, and moral and always look for the good. I greatly admire her.


    1. I agree Eliot goes into numerous storylines which readers may not be glued to for everyone of them, but only shows how massive and epic the work is. I’ve just finished and I feel I’ve only scratched the surface. Need to reread many times I suppose. But glad I’m reading with you all so I can get it finished. 🙂


        1. Definitely! The last couple hundred pages are riveting. Just finished last night. Dorothea is a saint. Also, admire her bravery and willingness to go against the tide of her family and community, all gearing for a gratifying Finale.


      1. I feel the same way about all those parallel storylines that I think could probably be shown by someone willing to write a masters thesis etc to be all pertinent to and revealing of one another, but I am far from wanting to make it my life’s work!


        1. Well Gretchen, you’re right. We don’t want to go into another Masters thesis to explore Eliot’s storylines. But I’m sure there are plenty out there already. What’s brilliant is all the storylines joined up the characters in one way or another. ie. They’re all connected. I have yet to write a final post, but that’s probably what I’ll write on, or, maybe something simpler. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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