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Henry James' piece was the most fascinating piece of criticism to me because I really respect him as an author already, and he brought up many interesting points about the novel that I hadn't thought about in much detail. He calls Middlemarch "at once one of the strongest and one of the weakest of English novels" (578), and it seems like he believed that the novel had so much potential, but ultimately fell short. One of the issues he took with the novel is how Eliot has a tendency to "make light of the serious elements of the story and to sacrifice them to the more trivial ones" (579). When I read that statement, I knew exactly what James meant because there were many times in Middlemarch where I wanted to (for example) spend more time in Dorothea's mind, hearing her thoughts about her disastrous marriage or see more of Fred and Mary's relationship. These are big issues, but they get the same amount of coverage as smaller details that don't seem to have much importance to the overall themes of the novel. However, I could see the reason Eliot might be doing this on purpose. Middlemarch is supposed to be a comprehensive view of life in a small town, which involves both large issues and small, seemingly unimportant issues. As readers, we really are getting a complete picture of what life is like for the different characters, and Eliot makes the 'big stuff' just as important to the characters' lives as the 'small stuff.' James also has a big problem with the character of Ladislaw. He states, "The figure of Will Ladislaw is a beautiful attempt, with many finely-completed points; but on the whole it seems to us a failure. It is the only eminent failure in the book." He goes on to state, "We have not found ourselves believing in Ladislaw as we believe in Dorothea, in Mary Garth, in Rosamond, in Lydgate, in Mr. Brooke and Mr. Casaubon" (580). James points out how Eliot intended Ladislaw to be the hero and Dorothea the heroine, but how Lydgate is the true hero of Middlemarch. I agree with James about the character of Ladislaw. He is one of the few characters in the novel that I just can't really connect with and don't feel any sympathy for; he just doesn't feel real. Lydgate, on the other hand, comes alive in the reading for me, and I love the section on page 182 where Dorothea and Lydgate come into contact with another after Casaubon's heart attack. They are both great characters that stand out, and I agree with James when he states that he wanted Lydgate and Dorothea to be the ones to end up together. Instead of that, however, Eliot has Lydgate get into an unhappy marriage, which makes sense for her purpose of showing the many disappointments in life. James points this out when he writes, "The author has desired to be strictly real and to adhere to the facts of the common lot, and she has given us a powerful version of that typical human drama, the struggles of an ambitious soul with sordid disappointments and vulgar embarrassments" (581). Ultimately, then, Middlemarch is an extremely successful novel despite the small flaws James illuminates.
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