Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Roy Miller, Charmaine Mosby, James Flynn

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


In the consideration of most critics and scholars. Middlemarch by George Eliot is a catalog of the Victorian era, depicting with clarity the concerns of the period as they appeared in all levels of social, economic, and political life. Although the form of the book is that of the novel, dealing primarily with the development of characters and their relationships, the author includes a sufficient number of references to contemporary political events to merit in-depth study of the purpose of these references. This paper locates and explains the references to contemporary political events in Middlemarch, it discusses the ways in which Eliot works the various references into the overall work and their contribution to the action and characterizations, and it draws some conclusions regarding the view of Middlemarch as a representative political or historical novel of the period.

Any study of Victorian literature must include some discussion of the background provided by the times. In a paper dealing with the political elements of a novel. this aspect of research is particularly important. To aid the reader in understanding Eliot's use of politics. Chapter 1 explains the political set-up in effect during the years covered by the action of Middlemarch and the events generated either by that situation or by efforts to alter the arrangement.

The novel itself provides the point of focus in Chapter II in determining Eliot's purpose for using political events. Each reference is studied to find what contribution it makes to the development of the story. Several events, such as the Reform Bill of 1832 and Catholic Emancipation, are referred to repeatedly; these running allusions are examined to see how they pertain to the overall idea of the novel.

Various critical and scholarly works on Middlemarch, George Eliot, and the Victorian period are utilized in Chapter III to reach a conclusion regarding the novel's right to be considered a valid political or historical novel of the times. This determination rests on other factors, including comparison with other political and historical literature of the period, both by George Eliot and by other authors.


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles