The "Fellowship of Illusion" in Middlemarch

In George Eliot's novel Middlemarch, each character struggles to reconcile his desires with the realities of his life. This struggle often leads to an imaginative construction of reality in the "fellowship of illusion." In this novel, the characters of Dorothea Brooke and Tertius Lydgate share a similar form of imagination, both constructing in their minds an ideal marriage vision. As these illusions are forced to surrender to reality, the characters must attempt to understand the desires that fueled their imagination in the first place, and must try to make peace with their situation. The narrator attempts to show through these two characters this common tendency of humanity to create what we desire as a tool for dealing with a disappointing and limited life.

Dorothea and Lydgate imagine strangely coincidental forms of the ideal marriage partner. Dorothea seeks an intellectually dominant man who will guide her to her higher purpose, while Lydgate seeks a submissive woman who will share in his difficulties and help him achieve his lofty goals. In many ways, it seems they were looking for each other. The common element in this ideal was someone with whom they could share their higher goals, but both ended up with...

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