I read widely from many genres. Perhaps this blog will feature fewer ratings and reviews, but I certainly intend to write about my reading life - it's the subject I most find myself wanting to talk about.
A friend recently posted on social media some thoughts on water motifs in feminist and proto-feminist fiction. George Eliot's "The Mill on the Floss" certainly deserves a high spot on a short docket of such books.
Poor Maggie Tulliver has been singled out for her looks and headstrong disposition since childhood. And as fate sinks her family, her first priority is to be able to take care of herself. Her second priority is to be a credit to her family and honor her friends with kindness. She is open to love, but not at the expense of her selfhood and values.
Eliot does not submerge Maggie's fate - the final line of the novel is also its epigraph - and her fate is foreshadowed again and again. She ultimately is drowned by two men, her emotionally negligent and abusive brother, Tom, and her cousin's manipulative lover, Stephen.
There are a few place in the novel where Maggie could chart either an easier or more manipulative course for herself, but she remains true to her values. And she lives in a society that does not recognize or honor those values.
Carol Gilligan examines Maggie's plight in her famous work of feminist criticism, "In a Different Voice." Gilligan certainly helps us understand why Maggie can't overcome her circumstances and change the tides of her life.
A proto-feminist classic novel and a modern classic of feminist criticism both deserve a spot on everyone's reading lists.