Middlemarch: You be the Screenwriter

It’s a wrap. Here’s my finale for our Middlemarch in May Read-Along.

You may be a print purist, don’t want to see a movie made. Just take this as an imaginary writing exercise then:

You’re offered the job of writing a screenplay, the tall order of turning Eliot’s 800-page novel into a movie. The task at hand is to choose from the numerous storylines and just focus on a few that your feature will cover.

The following are some of the main storylines and thematic matters in Eliot’s Middlemarch. This list is just off the top of my head, feel free to add in. Which ones would you select and elaborate?


Sisterhood between Dorothea and Celia

Dorothea’s marriage to Casaubon

Celia and Sir James Chettam

Mr. Brooke’s political involvement

Politics, power and influence in Middlemarch

The mysterious cousin of Casaubon: Will Ladislaw’s backstory

Relationship between Casaubon and Ladislaw

Newcomer Lydgate: the young, aspiring doctor

Old vs. New: The introduction of new ideas and methods and their reception or rejection in Middlemarch

Lydgate’s character: idealism vs. practice

The Vincy family: Mr & Mrs., Fred and Rosamund

The Caleb Garth family: Mr. & Mrs., Mary Garth

Fred Vincy and Mary Garth

Fred’s lifestyle, his love and dreams, and his change

Rosamund’s lifestyle, her love and dreams, and her change (or, has she?)

Featherstone: The subjective construction of will and estate

Mary Garth’s moral dilemma in dealing with Featherstone’s order regarding his will

Farebrother and family: Farebrother’s role in joining Fred and Mary despite his secret love for her.

Raffles the disruptor of Bulstrode’s life: the wages of sins, or, the consequences of actions that last beyond the statute of limitations

Ladislaw’s true identity and Bulstrode’s dark history

Raffles’ falling ill and Bulstrode taking him in for fear of reverberation, hence leading to the suspected ‘wrongful death’ incident and the presumed guilty of bribery between Bulstrode and Lydgate.

Will Ladislaw being victim of class discrimination and racial prejudice in the provincial town of Middlemarch

Family finance, debts and gambling endangering a fragile marriage between Fred and Rosamund

How to choose a mate, keys to a happy marriage

Difference between romance and love, looking at three pairs of relationships: Lydgate and Rosamund, Fred and Mary, Dorothea and Will

And for that matter, how about intellectualism vs. passion, the marriage of Dorothea and Casaubon

Choices of actions of the characters based on values (or lack of), principles, and plain gut

Poverty, welfare, and social actions, responsibilities of the rich

Male/Female relationships in marriage and society, and how Dorothea both fulfills prescribed duties and overrides expectations.

Finally, probably the most important element in a movie, the emotional impact it elicits in your viewers: Which of the above storylines will you focus on to bring out such effects?

We all love the Finale of the book. But why does Eliot spend so few pages in describing the love relations between Dorothea and Will? They are seldom seen together, and in the rare occasions that we do see them, they’re caught in awkward and embarrassing situations. Would you give them more screen time together in a positive light?

I think one reason Eliot doesn’t elaborate on their courtship could be because she doesn’t want to mislead her readers that this is a ‘romance novel’. Rather, she brings out a kind of sublime love between the two, particularly on the part of Dorothea, a noble love that motivates her to give up her wealth, position and the familiarity of Middlemarch. These in Dorothea’s views are but shackles restraining her to do what she wants and to love freely.

Finally, any casting suggestions?


A huge thank-you to all participants and spectators for your input, comments and posts. It’s been a pleasurable ride, even though the length and numerous storylines and characters may have bogged us down occasionally. I appreciate the pebbles thrown into the Pond to make all those ripples.

Enjoy your summer!





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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.

9 thoughts on “Middlemarch: You be the Screenwriter”

  1. I would choose Old vs. New: The introduction of new ideas and methods and their reception or rejection in Middlemarch for my theme, and I would cast Claire Danes as Dorothea and Rupert Everett as Casaubon (but they would look younger, kind of like they did in the 2004 film Stage Beauty).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. YOU, Arti, are the obvious choice for screenwriter! Many different movies could be made from the riches of the Middlemarch world. I wonder how many times our screenwriter would read the book before she would feel ready… Thank you for a thorough wrap-up as well as an appealing start-up to get us inspired for this read-along. I will still be reading for a few weeks yet, and probably revisiting the characters, their sayings and their stories in my mind for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gretchen,

      Your comments never fail to make my day. Yeah, I’m open for business… just waiting for calls from studios. 🙂 As a matter of fact, I assume screenwriters working on literary adaptations do read the source materials carefully and repeatedly before they’d finish their script. That’s what I assume at least.

      Take your time to enjoy your reread. I look forward to more posts on your blog. They’re always detailed and insightful. Thank you for your participation. This has been a joy ride, although I admit it’s a little bumpy in the middle. But the last sections starting with Raffles’s revealing Bulstrode’s past and Ladislaw’s true identity had got my full attention. That read like a legal thriller. And the subsequent chapters have been gratifying all the way to the end.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I would quite like to see Tom Ellis, Lauren and Lesley-Ann Brandt from Lucifer in a period drama, now that my Mum and Dads favourite box set is coming to an end they need to be cast together in something else :).

    Thanks for the hat tip about the movie adaptation I’ll have to see if it’s on my brother’s netflix.


    1. Charlotte,

      I haven’t seen Lucifer so can’t comment on your choice. But sure, I’ll check this cast out and watch for their upcoming projects.

      As for Mansfield Park, surprisingly, or maybe not, there’s only one full-length feature for the big screen. But it’s worth checking it out. I’d enjoyed it and have seen it several times. Frances O’Connor is good as Fanny Price. BTW, she’s Rose Selfridge in the British TV series “Mr. Selfridge”.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “How to choose a mate; keys to a happy marriage” struck me the most. Reminiscent of The Portrait of a Lady, and Anna Karenina, the theme seems applicable to many classic books! Even poor Ms. Havisham could benefit from such a lesson. You are so much better with film than I, I’m sure you could cast Middlemarch perfectly. Care to venture any thoughts on whom would play Dorothea? Casaubon? Ladislaw? Those are the ones who matter most to me from the novel.


    1. Bellezza,

      Yes, that theme probably will have a larger appeal for audience. And as for my choice of cast: Carey Mulligan as Dorothea. I think she’s more a Dorothea than a Bethsheba (“Far from the madding crowd”). And since Ladislaw is younger than Dorothea, I’ll pick Nicholas Hoult, just slightly younger, and passionate. As for Casaubon, I’ll try to get him out of retirement: Daniel Day-Lewis. 🙂


      1. I love those choices! Carey Mulligan is one of my favorite actresses (An Education!!!) and Daniel simply screams Casaubon now that you bring him to my attention. You are a genius, Arti.


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