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Arguments Are Rarely About The

Arguments are rarely about the subject of their quarrel. Many dispute over petty examples such as what color to paint the house, where to go for dinner, and children’s names have been surrogate topics for the real issue — control and authority. In George Eliot’s Middlemarch, the newly wedded Rosamond and Tetrius Lydgate encountered a serious issue– a lack of funds. Yet in their argument, so similar to many marriage decisions, money is not the danger confronting their happy marriage. Rather, by telling detail and omniscient perspective, George Eliot reveals the stumbling block in the Lydgates’ relationship is their colossal pride. Tertius’s desire to maintain her pide as the “provider” and the one that puts the food on the table for his family. And also Rosamond’s wants of a more elegant, self-pleasing lifestyle

With very few obvious exposition, Eliot sets the scene in this passage by using her concise use of detail. The scene commences in Medias res, with the two lovers holding hands, and Rosamond blushing. While these details may at first seem stereotypical for people in an intimate relationship, when in reality offer incredible insight into the roots of their relationship. By the hands, the reader can deduce that these newly weds are, as anyone would expect, in love. Yet the blushing response and following question shows that there is not a lot of transparency in the relationship. Instead, it is comparable to a strategic game of chess, to manipulate the pieces to disarm the other of control in the relationship.

Even in the next scene after Lydgate says “No,” this manipulation is emphasized. Not only does Rosamond blatantly disobey her husband by proclaiming “Then I must tell hum!” but she also decays his authority convertly. ‘Moving “two yards distance” from him”. By including the detail of distance, Eliot emphasizes that this was not an emotional snap, but rather a calculated maneuver to thwart her husband . If her intention was to simply subvert him, she clearly succeeded. And even later in the short passage, the narrator exposes that her moving away “made everything harder to say”. These little details reveal the tension of the couple in one of their first arguments.

Details also serve to highlight the financial struggles of the two. The couple confronts, and shows to be less severe than expected. Perhaps the most telling portion of the passage is the description of what Dover, the appraiser, will do to earn the Lydates a larger sum of money. He will “take a good deal of the plate back again, and any of the jewelry we like”. This choice of detail conveys that this couple is not broke, but rather has a “good deal” of plate silver and enough jewelry to choose which ones to sell! By showing the couple to be only slightly financially distressed, Eliot allows the reader to focus on the true issue of the passage — who will get their way?

Another tactic Eliot employs to expose the pettiness of this argument is perspective. The narrator is third 3rd-person omniscient allowing for an unbiased peek into the thoughts and desires of each individual character. This serves the reader well by allowing him to see the motives behind each characters’ actions. This narrator shows the double fault at Lydgates’ offeinding Rosamond — both the man’s insensitivity and the difficult situation Rosamond placed in with her disobedience. It also exposes the selfishness of Rosamond, only wanting to find in her marriage “more indulgence, more exactly to her taste”. He also shows how she aims to take advantage of Lydgates’ momentary humility to “attend to her own opinion”. By shaming the flaws behind the reserved argument, Eliot’s narrator allows the reader to see both sides of this coin of this marriage.

As all unbiased narrators must, Eliot does not solely implicate Rosamond in this passage, she also antagonizes Lydgates for his pride. She first directly addresses it, saying that Lydgates’ “proud resistance to humiliating circumstances” hindered him from being sympathetic to his wife’s unfortunate situation. Later, when Lydgate momentarily bows under his wife’s yoke, his pride quickly refounds when offended, with his “ignorance rising again”. This same pride that refused to ask his father in law for money, or any friends and family for help. He defends saying that she “doesn’t understand” his predicament and dismisses her as ultimately inferior, yet he still wishes to be gentle and imploring.

Ultimately, in this passage Eliot often references the early argument in the marriage as a way to initiate the reader to make them think that there is something happening behind the scenes and that not everything is as happy as they pretend it to be. She exposes, by keen detail and omniscient point of view, that both husband and wife have their own motives in their marriage. Yet she doesn’t condemn them. There is still intimacy in their marriage and one difficult time will not ruin a lifelong relationship. Yet she warns that unless this couple stop playing games and start being honest, their meaningless squabbles will quickly escalate into fights.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.