[club] George Eliot – Middlemarch : Les femmes dans le roman

Dorothea serait le personnage auquel l’auteure s’identifie selon Virginia Woolf (je pense que c’est vrai en lisant la biographie de George Eliot). Elle incarne ce qui est au centre de ces romans : « a deep feminine passion for goodness ». En effet le roman débute par un épisode de la vie de Sainte Thérèse d’Avila : l’élan d’une enfant brisé par un rappel à la réalité. Cependant cet élan annonce une nature passionnée qui a besoin d’une vie épique. La sainte l’ a trouvée avec la réforme du carmel. Mais beaucoup de jeunes filles ne trouvent pas de vies épiques ce qui fait beaucoup de vies gâchées. « Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heart-beats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centring in some long-recognizable ». Le finale confirme que les Theresa et les Antigone sont des exceptions et le lot de la plus part est le malheur et la frustration.
Dorothea est une de ces theresa qui s’ignorent. C’est la passion qui la conduit à épouser Casaubon et la voue au malheur. La pauvre est doublement frustrée. Sur le plan intellectuel, Casaubon la renvoit à son ignorance à ses limites. « Dorothea seized this as a precious permission. She would not have asked Mr. Casaubon at once to teach her the languages, dreading of all things to be tiresome instead of helpful; but it was not entirely out of devotion to her future husband that she wished to know Latin and Creek. Those provinces of masculine knowledge seemed to her a standing-ground from which all truth could be seen more truly. As it was, she constantly doubted her own conclusions, because she felt her own ignorance: how could she be confident that one-roomed cottages were not for the glory of God, when men who knew the classics appeared to conciliate indifference to the cottages with zeal for the glory? Perhaps even Hebrew might be necessary – at least the alphabet and a few roots – in order to arrive at the core of things, and judge soundly on the social duties of the Christian. And she had not reached that point of renunciation at which she would have been satisfier’ with having a wise husband: she wished, poor child, to be wise herself. Miss Brooke was certainly very naive with al: her alleged cleverness.” On retrouve un thème que nous avons déjà rencontré : les femmes ne doivent pas en savoir trop, c’est une preuve d’orgueil et un manque de respect envers Dieu. Sur le plan sexuel, Dorothea est également frustrée : son mari est un vieillard qui ne la comble pas, la délaisse. « To those who have looked at Rome with the quickening power of a knowledge which breathes a growing soul into all historic shapes, and traces out the suppressed transitions which unite all contrasts, Rome may still be the spiritual centre and interpreter of the world. But let them conceive one more historical contrast: the gigantic broken revelations of that Imperial and Papal city thrust abruptly on the notions of a girl who had been brought up in English and Swiss Puritanism, fed on meagre Protestant histories and on art chiefly of the hand-screen sort; a girl whose ardent nature turned all her small allowance of knowledge into principles, fusing her actions into their mould, and whose quick emotions gave the most abstract things the quality of a pleasure or a pain; a girl who had lately become a wife, and from the enthusiastic acceptance of untried duty found herself plunged in tumultuous preoccupation with her personal lot. The weight of unintelligible Rome might lie easily on bright nymphs to whom it formed a background for the brilliant picnic of Anglo-foreign society; but Dorothea had no such defence against deep impressions. Ruins and basilicas, palaces and colossi, set in the midst of a sordid present, where all that was living and warm-blooded seemed sunk in the deep degeneracy of a superstition divorced from reverence; the dimmer but yet eager Titanic life gazing and struggling on walls and ceilings; the long vistas of white forms whose marble eyes seemed to hold the monotonous light of an alien world: all this vast wreck of ambitious ideals, sensuous and spiritual, mixed confusedly with the signs of breathing forgetfulness and degradation, at first jarred her as with an electric shock, and then urged themselves on her with that ache belonging to a glut of confused ideas which check the flow of emotion. Forms both pale and glowing took possession of her young sense, and fixed themselves in her memory even when she was not thinking of them, preparing strange associations which remained through her after-years. Our moods are apt to bring with them images which succeed each other like the magic-lantern pictures of a doze; and in certain states of dull forlornness Dorothea all her life continued to see the vastness of St. Peter’s, the huge bronze canopy, the excited intention in the attitudes and garments of the prophets and evangelists in the mosaics above, and the red drapery which was being hung for Christmas spreading itself everywhere like a disease of the retina.”
Et en mourant, il veut que ce malheur et cette frustration perdure en lui interdisant d’épouser Will. La faute en est à la passion : son orgueil à lui, son besoin d’épisme à elle. Le problème est que Dorothea ne sait pas quoi faire de son énergie, de son désir. Ainsi le narrateur décrit ainsi les Theresea : « Their ardor alternated between a vague ideal and the common yearning of womanhood ; so that the one was disapproved as extravagance and the other condemned as a lapse »
Celles qui son heureuses ce sont les héroïnes ordinaires comme Mary. Au fond ce sont elles les vraies féministes parce qu’elles parviennent à l’amour et au bonheur. Elles assument pleinement leur féminité.

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