Marriage as Slavery in Middlemarch

It is only as an historian that he [the author] has the smallest locus standi. As a narrator of fictitious events, he is nowhere. --Henry James

Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready to be institutionalized. --May West

One of George Eliot's challenges in Middlemarch is to depict a sexually desirous woman, Dorothea, within the confines of Victorian literary propriety. The critic, Abigail Rischin, identifies the moment that Dorothea's future husband, Ladislaw, and his painter-friend see her alongside an ancient, partially nude statue of the mythic heroine, Ariadne, in a museum in Rome as the key to Eliot's sexualization of this character. Ariadne is, in the sculpture, between her two lovers. Theseus, whom she helped to escape from her father's labyrinth in Crete has already left her, while the jubilant God, Bacchus, her next lover, has yet to arrive. "By invoking the silent visual rhetoric of ancient sculpture," writes Rischin, "George Eliot is able to represent the erotic female body far more explicitly than Victorian conventions of... language would permit... By juxtaposing the statue with Dorothea, Eliot displays Dorothea's erotic potential." Here, Eliot uses an allusion...

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