Middlemarch is a Victoria novel written by George Eliot in 1871. It is the story of love, ambition, sacrifice, and compatibility in marriage. The novel explores the reasons people may choose to become married, how people feel after being married, and how people criticize others when they make choices that do not match social expectations.
Eliot did not write this novel with the idea that people always chose love as the primary motivation to get married. Instead, Eliot wrote the novel from the viewpoint that being in love is not always the best reason to be married, especially if there are underlying conflicts based on incompatibility and the inability for people to reach their personal goals. If conflicts exist between the couple, the marriage may not always be a positive experience, even if the couple originally based their reason to marry on passionate love.
Some people, including women, may have preferred to pursue a career instead of becoming married, even though this was not the social norm. Or, people may discover that being in a marriage is confining, and that marriage prevents people from reaching their full potential. In the novel, Eliot shows that the feelings that marriage stifles a person’s ambitions can cause any normal person to feel regret, anger, or frustration with the marriage. For these reasons, marriage does not always result in the happy, storybook ending that society conditions people to believe they will get. Instead, it can be a very unhappy situation to be in if the couple does not have compatible goals. Ironically, society criticized George Eliot for her novel because her story made marriage seem like a depressing situation. At the time, this style of writing did not fit the standards for how society believed that a woman writer should write.