Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hello, fellow Big Book readers! Following my thoughts on Eliot's deep sympathy for her characters, and for all facets of our all-too-fallible human nature, I am wondering if anyone is able to find herself or himself having any sympathy for the old humbug Bulstrode. I admit I find him very hard to tolerate, much harder than poor old Casaubon. But, as we near the end of Book VI, specifically on pages 590-591, Eliot once again shows her ability to present the most hypocritical, deluded, self-serving character in a not altogether damning light. I love her use of third-person limited narration in the series of questions Bulstrode is asking himself and, by extension, asking the Almighty, with whom he believes he has some special relationship. I think that is masterful fiction writing, and takes me as a reader deep into Bulstrode's subconscious mind as well as shedding light on my own. And it's interesting that all of this stream of consciousness presented on these pages is experienced by the reader against the totally unlikable, creepy character of Raffles. (Raffles strikes me as a kind of Dickensian character, something like Orlick in Great Expectations. There certainly ARE people like this, though he seems more like a character in fiction than anyone else I've encountered in this book. In an earlier blog post I think it was Patrick who commented that Eliot's characters are more well-rounded people than Dickens who tends to use caricatures.) I might despise Bulstrode, but somehow I want him to win over Raffles--and it's that tension that I think Eliot wants to create by introducing John Raffles in the manner that she does. It will be interesting to see how this subplot develops, and how it intersects with the plot involving Dorothea and Will.

A final note (well, for now) on the extent of Eliot's sympathy for her characters. I think she might have less sympathy for the rather spoiled Vincy siblings Fred and Rosamond. Interesting, though, that even when we can't "see" them, as one would in a film, say, their physical charm and attraction does have an effect on the reader, at least this reader. Admittedly, as a heterosexual male reader this is especially true in my response to Rosamond, who is thoroughly selfish and shallow, I think, and yet attractive because of the way Eliot has portrayed her physical appeal. Because of Eliot's incredible ability to paint the picture, I feel that I do see Rosamond, and feel the charm of what it would be to be in her presence even if I knew, as I do, how obtusely self-centered she is. As for Fred, oh, Fred, a big good-looking dolt; well, not really a dolt, but pretty clueless (I love the incident with the horse that he buys!). His real redeeming feature, it seems to me, is the affection he has somehow garnered from Mary Garth, who may be the most appealing character in the whole novel, don't you think?

1 comment:

  1. I find Bulstrode a harder sell than Casaubon, perhaps because his flaws have a more wide-ranging effect. Further, I can't see that Bulstrode - at least at the point in the book which I've reached - has much self-awareness of his faults. I believe that at some level Casaubon knew, or at least was wrestling with, his deficits at the time of his death.