A Sympathetic Happiness: Dorothea's Moral Development in "Middlemarch"

Far off in the bending sky was the pearly light and the manifold wakings of men to labour and endurance. She was a part of that involuntary, palpitating life, and could neither look out on it from her luxurious shelter as a mere spectator, nor hide her eyes in selfish complaining.

- Middlemarch

A chief aim of George Eliot's Middlemarch is to unloose the normally nebulous web of causality that shapes and guides all of humanity's affairs. By explicating the full extent of humankind's many varied experiences, the novel aspires to produce an understanding of our being that is both collective and long-lasting; it is a comprehensive "experiment in life" that endeavors towards the discovery of "enduring truths which would ennoble human existence." Yet, what are these truths and how can they be achieved? Though the citizens of Middlemarch hail from different backgrounds and bear different fates, those who achieve happiness reach the same realization: they are part of a world and a struggle beyond their own immediate selves. In her path away from egoism and alienated suffering towards humanistic sympathy, Dorothea is a premiere example of Eliot's theory of moral development.

Though Dorothea is not a...

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