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!