It took me two months to listen to Middlemarch via audiobook, but I did it! It’s one of my all-time favorite novels, and it’s been years since I read it. Spoiler: it did not disappoint.
Since it’s a classic novel and probably read widely, I thought it might be fun to do something kind of different. So, without further ado: what if the Middlemarchers went to Hogwarts? Here is how the Sorting Hat would sort some of the major characters:
Tertius is a Gryffindor. Duh. This man has a Cause and a Mission and he is going to Change the World. Etiquette be damned. Propriety be damned. He is a passionate and ardent believer in doing good. Unfortunately, Tertius is also a major misogynist. He believes in the prettiness of submissive ladies, and he likes the empty-headed mind he can mold to his own temperament and thinking. This piggish attitude makes his own marital mishap all the more hilarious and unfortunate, because the magical vagina he stakes his claims on turns out to be anything but a pretty face. Which brings us to…
Girl, please. Rosamund is a Slytherin. Homegirl is playing a long game, and make no mistake about it. Rosamund LOOKS pretty and sweet, and she is completely aware of the feminine powers she possesses. That swan-like neck makes her seem vulnerable, so she flashes it when she needs attention or consideration. She plays the part Tertius desires of her until his will crosses hers. And then the tables turn. Rosamund knows exactly what she wants, and she will do what it takes to get it.
Rosamund suffers no fools. Much like another blond queen who would arrive decades later:
This brings us to Dorothea Brooke:
Considered to be a counterpart (but not a match) for Lydgate, Dorothea is a Gryffindor. Like her house companions, Dorothea is passionate, ardent and cause-oriented. Of course, this desire to change the world and do good leads her to marry a dried-up prune who turns out to be a really despicable creature. And of course, when he conveniently dies and leaves Dorothea an immense fortune (with the caveat that she never marry his young, talented, and extremely hot cousin), she still wears her widow’s weeds for far longer than is necessary. Because she is FEELING all the THINGS. Gryffindors [eyeroll]. In all seriousness, I love Dorothea, I really do. I think that Eliot’s plotting is so clever, because it shows the kinds of limitations imposed on women, and how marriage was seen as this driving force to change the world, when it often just meant you married the wrong man.
So, let’s talk about that wrong man, shall we? Edward Causabon, one of the worst men in literary history:
That haircut. [Shudder] It’s perfect. Mr. Causabon is, in my opinion, a Hufflepuff. Given the choice between ardent scholarship and discussion of his field or stubbornly sticking to HIS idea, Mr. Causabon chooses to stay the same course, even though a Key to All Mythologies is Simply.Not.Possible. He’s happy to stay in his musty books without his new wife or other scholarly companions. In the end, he wants to fulfill the same rote responsibilities and stay in his same surroundings. I realize you could make the interpretation of Ravenclaw, but a true Ravenclaw pursues intellectual knowledge and are often smart enough to change courses when they realize the scholarship is headed another direction. Hufflepuffs are stubborn, yo. Which Causabon is. Also: he sounds like an extremely cold fish in the sack. Poor Dorothea. [Shudder]
Let’s move on to Fred Vincy, shall we?
I think Fred is also a Hufflepuff. He wants to be loved, and he just wants to find some useful work. He’s not terribly ambitious, nor is he remarkable in many ways. He’s nice and earnest and pretty, but he’s kind of foolish. Poor Fred. He does improve by the novel’s end, I am happy to report, mainly because of my deep affection for…
Mary is a Ravenclaw. She is witty and bitter and acerbic, fighting off disappointment with humor and sarcasm. She’s also determined to maintain a sense of integrity to her morals, which she does, even if it means denying Fred’s love, which she honestly wants for herself. Mary is always seeking the truth, which keeps her free from being tainted by Peter Featherstone’s mindgames. I love me some Mary Garth.
Now, for one of my favorite literary men of all time: Will Ladislaw.
Will is, I also argue, a Ravenclaw. He’s an artist, but he’s not cause-oriented. Nor is he stubborn in the same way that Causabon is. He tries art, politics, writing, and eventually becomes an activist, determined to do good, but because he finds his talent there. Unlike Dorothea, he is not driven by a hazy notion of altruism, but by a sense of purpose based on his talents and artistic vision. He’s not a fighter, but a mind and artist (much like my lover, Peeta Mellark).
I find this interesting, because Eliot is, herself, a Ravenclaw. She is an observer of human nature, but she is not cause-oriented. Nor does she harbor an idealistic vision of life. Rather, she reported as she saw. And that’s why she’s one of my favorite authors. If there is anyone who Gets It, it’s George Eliot.