Irredeemable egoism in the novels of George Eliot

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dc.contributor.advisor Jennings, C. Wade en_US White, Katherine Anne Mitchell, 1943- en_US 2011-06-03T19:32:25Z 2011-06-03T19:32:25Z 1978 en_US 1978
dc.identifier LD2489.Z64 1978 .W55 en_US
dc.description.abstract This dissertation examines the theme of irredeemable egoism in all seven of George Eliot's novels. Irredeemable egoists are those characters who do not complete the process of shedding what Eliot identifies in Middlemarch as the "moral stupidity" into which all people are born, and they contrast with those major characters in her novels that achieve a moral victory over egoism.The characters share in common a predilection for self over others. They are self-deluded, have a narrow imagination, and lack compassion for others. Depicted as pitiful and miserable, these characters are doomed by their natures to imprisonment within themselves. They are also incapable of redeeming themselves for actions that harm others, actions they all commit, for all of them break, betray, or deny the bonds a commitment entails. Their blocked or distorted vision of the world prevents a clear understanding of their duty to their fellow men, a duty which Eliot sees at the heart of the fulfillment of mankind's quest for not only improvement and enrichment but finally salvation.Chapter two looks at Hetty Sorrel and Arthur Donnithorne in Adam Bede. Hetty is a creature whose primitive egoistic cravings lead to a cold alienation from all human contact, while Arthur's morally irresponsible behavior is inexcusable despite his efforts to seek redemption.In chapter three, Torn Tulliver and Stephen Guest are scrutinized. Tom's rigidity and narrowness make him unresponsive to Maggie's natural warmth and affection. This unresponsiveness results in anguish and emotional turmoil for Maggie. Stephen produces the same results with opposite motives, seeking self-gratification despite Maggie’s explicit belief in self-denial.Silas Marner is examined in the next chapter, with Godfrey Cass at the center of the study. While the nemesis is mild, as Eliot herself says, the basic theme remains the same; Godfrey crows to regret his abandonment of Eppie, but his misgivings come too late to change the effects of his actions. Rompla, the subject of chapter five, contains Eliot's archetypal villain, Tito Nelema, who represents the extreme of moral degeneration. Tito's wanton disregard of other people's good will and well being is evident from the beginning, as Eliot carefully depicts his complete deterioration while he betrays family, friends, and country for personal gain.In chapter six, three characters in Felix Holt the Radical are discussed. Mss. Transome is perhaps the most sympathetic portrayal of despair and bitterness in all of Eliot's fiction. Her sin years earlier has produced only emotional deprivation, disillusionment, and tortured regret as she finds her son to be no source of joy and her former lover a grim reminder of her post transgression. Harold Transome is oblivious to the needs of his mothers and Jermyn is self-seeking and untouched by the needs of others. Middlemarch contains three major characters that clearly do not shed moral stupidity. Bulstrode, the religious hypocrite, Casaubon, the desiccated pedant, and Rosamond Vincy Lydgate, the self-centered beauty, are closely analyzed in chapter seven.Chapter eight focuses on Eliot's final novel, Daniel Deronda, which contains a character as evil as Tito Melema, Henleigh Mallinger Grandcourt. His psychological cruelty to his mistress, his wife, and everyone else he cares to trifle with marks him a sinister, repugnant example of unregenerate egoism. On the other hand Gwendolen Harleth, though clearly as potentially destructive as Grandcourt, is rescued from moral impoverishment by Deronda. Eliot uses all these characters, shown at various stages of moral dissolution, to illustrate her belief that egoism is harmful, often deadly, and produces consequences that are extensive and unalterable. The characters are punished by remorse, degradation, humiliation, defeat, or even death for their inability or refusal to emerge from moral stupidity. en_US
dc.format.extent 196 leaves ; 28 cm. en_US
dc.source Virtual Press en_US
dc.subject.other Eliot, George, 1819-1880 -- Criticism and interpretation. en_US
dc.title Irredeemable egoism in the novels of George Eliot en_US Thesis (D. Ed.) en_US
dc.identifier.cardcat-url en_US

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  • Doctoral Dissertations [3210]
    Doctoral dissertations submitted to the Graduate School by Ball State University doctoral candidates in partial fulfillment of degree requirements.

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