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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The novel is set in and around the town of Middlemarch in the 1830ís. The town is a typical provincial center with a number of manufacturers of textiles, its brewers, its merchants and bankers. Adjoining it are the twin parishes of Tipton and Freshitt on one side and Lowick on the other. Thus, the novelís sprawling canvas covers the rising middle classes of the town, as well as the landed gentry of the adjoining villages. Critics have identified Middlemarch town as being based on Coventry where George Eliot spent a part of her school days and where she lived as a young woman along with her father. Although met strictly a "historical" novel, the book does try to recreate vividly the tenure of a provincial town over a period of little over one-year. The pivotal historical event is the Reform Bell of 1832, tabled by Lord John Grey, and initially rejected by the House of Lords. The Bill was an assertion by the rising manufacturing class of its importance in the economy. It acted as a challenge to the till then dominant land owners and aroused a great deal of controversy. Some of the action in Middlemarch arises out of public responses to this reform bill. But, while George Eliot focuses on myriad characters, major and minor, she always depicts them against this dynamic and changing social scene.

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