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Social and Spiritual Energy in Middlemarch

Social and Spiritual Energy in Middlemarch

I do not believe that it is sufficient to say that Middlemarch explores the ways in which social and spiritual energy can be frustrated; it would be more appropriate to say that Middlemarch explores the ways in which social and spiritual energies (ideals if you will) are completely destroyed and perverted. One need only look to Lydgate to see an example of idealism being destroyed by the environment in which it is found. At the start of the novel, we are introduced to the “young, poor and ambitious” and most of all idealistic Doctor Lydgate, who has great plans for the fever hospital in Middlemarch. Throughout the novel, however, we see his plans frustrated by the designs of others, though primarily the hypocritical desires of Nicholas Bulstrode. The second example of the idealism of the young being destroyed by the old is that of Dorothea. This can be seen by her continuing desire to “bear a larger part of the world’s misery” or to learn Latin and Greek, both of which are continually thwarted by Casaubon, though this ends after his death, with her discovery of his selfish and suspicious nature, by way of the codicil.

The character who has their ambitions and ideals brought most obviously low is Lydgate. The earliest example is when he has to make the choice between Fairbrother and Tyke. Both of these characters are rather poor examples of the clergy (Fairbrother because of his gambling, and Tyke because of his rather lazy attitude). Our sympathies are clearly with Fairbrother for a number of reasons; he doesn’t gamble because he wants to, but because the wage he receives from running his parish alone is too small to support him and the various members of his family that rely on him. Lydgate has to make the choice between some one he likes as a person (Fairbrother) and someone who he needs help from (Bulstrode). It is clear that Lydgate is very similar to Fairbrother in a number of ways; both are scientists, and both have great hopes for the future. It would therefore seem to be the case that Lydgate would automatically support Fairbrother. However, Bulstrode uses his money and his influence to ensure Tyke’s success.

Bulstrode is another example of a character that has had his idealism and destroyed, though not by Middlemarch.

The Evil Eye in The Tell-Tale Heart

The Evil Eye in The Tell-Tale Heart

In Edgar Allen Poe’s Short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” much is made of the “evil eye” of the old man. Immediately we are introduced to a man who would never hurt a fly. The narrator of the story even goes so far as to say he loved the old man. This old man is portrayed as one who would do anything for you. However, the caretaker of the old man has one small problem with the old man. The eye that darn evil eye! What could cause a person to become enraged by an eye and only one eye?

Martha Womack stated that the violence comes from an irrational fear represented through the old man’s eye. “The belief in the evil eye dates back to ancient times, and even today, is fairly common in India and the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. References are made to it in Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu faiths” (Poedecoder). Womack goes on to compare the “evil eye” to a Medusa type object that is being able to harm a person just by looking at them. This comparison goes to support my theory of a God like entity within the eye of the old man.

Many people have attempted to rationalize the meaning of the single “evil eye.” Some people have attempted to relate the old man to a Cyclops. However, I see this eye from a Christian point of view. The eye is not “evil” in the sense of the devil instead in my humble opinion it is the eye of God. I agreed with B. D. Tucker. The first thing I attempted to do, was relate the Cyclops theory however, this did not sit well with me. The reason the Cyclops theory does not fit the story is that in the second paragraph Poe writes, “One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture” (Kennedy 34). The mythical Greek creature had only o…

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…deas for what the story could represent. After studying the “Evil eye” in this story, I have no doubt that the eye is that of God.

Work Cited

Benfey, Christopher. “Poe and the Unreadable: ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart ” New Essays on poe’s Major Tales viii (1993): 27-43

Canario, John W. “The Dream in ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.” English-Language-Notes 7 (1970): 194-97

Great Seal. Homepage 1 March 2001. Great Seal. 5 July 2001

Kennedy, X. J., 7th ed. An Introduction to Fiction. NewYork: Longman, 1998: 33-7

The Poe Decoder. Home page. 12 April 2001. The Poe Decoder. 5 July 2001>

Robinson, E. Arthur. “Thoreau and the deathwatch in Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.” Poe-Studies 4:1 (1971): 14-6

Tucker, B. D. “The Tell-Tale Heart and the Evil Eye.” Southern-Literary-Journal 13:2 (1981 Spring): 92-8

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