In George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Rosamond Vincy in many ways represents the conventional Victorian woman and takes on the limited roles that are permitted for women in her society. However, none of these proves sufficient to bestow upon Rosamond any sense of fulfillment or power, both of which she persistently desires and pursues throughout the novel. This essay explores these roles, specifically the “The Angel in the House,” who is exemplified in the poetry of Coventry Patmore, and the myth of the courtly lover, a symptom of the medievalism that was revived and romanticized in nineteenth-century England. Her performance as the Angel in the House allows her to obtain a man of good breeding for a husband but does not prepare her for her husband’s patriarchal expectations of his wife, his financial difficulties, or the marital strife that results. Later, her foray into the realm of courtly love proves ultimately to be a delusion, shattered when the object of her extramarital affection rebukes her. Finally, once all of Rosamond’s best laid plans have gone awry and her indoctrinated worldview is temporarily shattered, a Rosamond who does not perform is revealed in a genuine and potentially redeeming moment that demonstrates Eliot’s own philosophy regarding incremental but steady societal change.
"A Little World in Ruins: Rosamond Vincy and the Insufficiency of Performative Gender Roles in George Eliot’s Middlemarch,"
Vol. 9, Article 3.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/globaltides/vol9/iss1/3