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12 November 2021
The New Statesman piece concludes: 'How do we keep on living in the face of crushing disappointment? It’s a question that feels pertinent now, when the pandemic and, let’s face it, the whole political, economic and environmental shit-show has robbed so many of us of our imagined futures. And it’s particularly poignant as Middlemarch contains so many characters trying to be good. What they discover is that decency, intelligence and hard work can’t prevent disaster... If there’s no way of avoiding disappointment, what may be redeemed from it? Humility? Stoicism? Moral development? For every character, growth is enabled or constrained by others – which is presumably why Dorothea has to make peace with achieving little more than marriage, children and some nebulous “unhistoric acts” of good. There is a sense of mortal resignation in the novel’s beautifully ambivalent [and famous] final paragraph. “But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”'And as a final note: for the next two months the marvellous six episode adaptation of Middlemarch is available on BBC iPlayer here.
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