October 30, 2013

George Eliot's Simile Starpower

Like the other great 19th-century realists, George Eliot excels at rendering the subtle bits of thought and emotion flitting through her characters' head. What further distinguishes her is how she analogizes these in memorable images: 

Of Sir James's idea of masculine superiority, which would triumph over any unpleasantnesses that his future wife might bring to their marriage:

"Sir James might not have originated this estimate; but a kind Providence furnishes the limpest personality with a little gunk or starch in the form of tradition."

Of Dorothea's tendency to overlook Casaubon's emotional failings:

"His efforts at exact courtesy and formal tenderness had no defect for her. She filled up all the blanks with unmanifested perfections, interpreting him as she interpreted the works of Providence, and accounting for seeming discords by her own deafness to the higher harmonies."

The rector dismissing the idea that he could influence Mr. Brooke to oppose Dorothea's marriage to Casaubon:

"It would be nonsensical to expect that I could convince Brooke, and make him act accordingly. Brooke is a very good fellow, but pulpy; he will run into any mould, but he won't keep shape."

The neighbors' assessment of Casaubon:

"He has got no good red blood in his body," said Sir James.
"No. Somebody put a drop under a magnifying-glass and it was all semi-colons and parentheses," said Mrs. Cadwaller.

And finally, in a lovely meta-statement, on Casaubon's surprise that marriage did not bring him happiness:

"Poor Mr. Casaubon had imagined that his long studious bachelorhood had stored up for him a compound interest of enjoyment, and that large drafts on his affections would not fail to be honored; for we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them."

No comments:

Post a Comment