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The Contrast between Idealism and Realism in George Eliot's Middlemarch: An AP Literature Essay on Rosamond and Lydgate's Relationship



Middlemarch Ap Essay: How to Write a Persuasive Analysis of Eliot's Portrayal of Rosamond and Lydgate




If you are taking the AP English Literature and Composition exam, you might encounter a question that asks you to analyze a passage from a novel by George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Ann Evans (18191880). One such question is from the 2011 exam, which requires you to write a persuasive analysis of how Eliot portrays the complex relationship of Rosamond and Tertius Lydgate, a recently married couple who face financial difficulties, in a passage from her novel Middlemarch. In this article, we will show you how to approach this task by using literary devices such as narrative perspective and selection of detail as tools for your analysis.




Middlemarch Ap Essay


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Introduction


The first paragraph of your essay should provide some background information on the novel Middlemarch by George Eliot and the passage from question 2 of the 2011 AP English Literature and Composition exam. You should briefly explain what Middlemarch is about, when and where it is set, and who the main characters are. You should also briefly summarize the plot of the passage, which depicts a conversation between Rosamond and Lydgate, who are struggling with their marriage and their debts. Then, you should explain the main task of the essay: to analyze how Eliot portrays the complex relationship of Rosamond and Lydgate through literary devices such as narrative perspective and selection of detail. Finally, you should provide a thesis statement that summarizes the main points of your analysis. Here is an example of an introduction paragraph:


Middlemarch is a novel by George Eliot, published in 1871-1872, that explores the lives and relationships of various characters in a provincial town in England in the early nineteenth century. One of the central themes of the novel is the contrast between idealism and realism, especially in matters of love and marriage. The passage from question 2 of the 2011 AP English Literature and Composition exam is taken from chapter 59 of the novel, in which Rosamond and Tertius Lydgate, a newly married couple, confront their financial difficulties and their dissatisfaction with each other. In this essay, I will analyze how Eliot portrays the complex relationship of Rosamond and Lydgate through literary devices such as narrative perspective and selection of detail. I will argue that Eliot uses a third-person omniscient narrator to reveal the thoughts and feelings of both characters, showing their contrasting perspectives on their marriage and situation; that she also uses selective details to highlight the differences between Rosamond and Lydgate, showing their incompatible values and expectations; and that she further uses irony and foreshadowing to create a sense of tension and tragedy in their relationship, showing their lack of communication and understanding.


Body Paragraph 1


The second paragraph of your essay should focus on one of the literary devices that Eliot uses to portray the relationship of Rosamond and Lydgate: narrative perspective. You should start with a topic sentence that states your main point: that Eliot uses a third-person omniscient narrator to reveal the thoughts and feelings of both Rosamond and Lydgate, showing their contrasting perspectives on their marriage and financial situation. Then, you should explain how the narrator exposes Rosamond's superficiality, vanity, and lack of empathy for her husband; and how the narrator exposes Lydgate's frustration, disappointment, and resentment towards his wife. You should provide textual evidence and analysis to support your claims. Here is an example of a body paragraph on narrative perspective:


One of the literary devices that Eliot uses to portray the relationship of Rosamond and Lydgate is narrative perspective. She employs a third-person omniscient narrator who can access the thoughts and feelings of both characters, showing their contrasting perspectives on their marriage and financial situation. For example, the narrator reveals Rosamond's superficiality, vanity, and lack of empathy for her husband when she thinks that "she had married [Lydgate] without loving him" (line 25), that "she had not been solicitous about his happiness" (line 26), and that "she felt herself hardly dealt with" (line 27). These thoughts show that Rosamond is self-centered and indifferent to Lydgate's troubles, caring only about her own comfort and status. On the other hand, the narrator reveals Lydgate's frustration, disappointment, and resentment towards his wife when he thinks that "he had married her without being aware" (line 28), that "he had been beguiled by relations which were false" (line 29), and that "he had long ceased to repose any trust in her" (line 30). These thoughts show that Lydgate is unhappy and disillusioned with his marriage, feeling trapped by a woman who does not share his ideals or support his ambitions.


Body Paragraph 2


The third paragraph of your essay should focus on another literary device that Eliot uses to portray the relationship of Rosamond and Lydgate: selection of detail. You should start with a topic sentence that states your main point: that Eliot also uses selective details to highlight the differences between Rosamond and Lydgate, showing their incompatible values and expectations. Then, you should explain how the details of Rosamond's appearance, dress, and surroundings reflect her materialism, pretentiousness, and desire for social status; and how the details of Lydgate's profession, reputation, and debts reflect his ambition, idealism, and sense of duty. You should provide textual evidence and analysis to support your claims. Here is an example of a body paragraph on selection of detail:


# Article with HTML formatting (continued) She chooses details that emphasize the contrast between Rosamond's and Lydgate's characters and lifestyles. For instance, she describes Rosamond's appearance, dress, and surroundings as elegant, refined, and luxurious, reflecting her materialism, pretentiousness, and desire for social status. She mentions that Rosamond has "a soft white handkerchief" (line 2), "a gold bracelet" (line 3), "a delicate cambric handkerchief" (line 4), "a pretty dress" (line 5), "a white cashmere dressing-gown" (line 6), and "a dressing-room furnished with all that was necessary to a lady's toilet" (line 7). These details show that Rosamond is concerned with her appearance and comfort, and that she enjoys displaying her wealth and taste. In contrast, she describes Lydgate's profession, reputation, and debts as challenging, noble, and burdensome, reflecting his ambition, idealism, and sense of duty. She mentions that Lydgate is "a medical man" (line 8), "a man whose profession made him habitually conscious of some of the most painful facts of human life" (line 9), "a man who had done what he could to raise the standard of his medical practice" (line 10), "a man who had made expensive purchases" (line 11), and "a man who was in debt" (line 12). These details show that Lydgate is dedicated to his work and his principles, but that he also faces difficulties and pressures from his creditors and his society.


Body Paragraph 3


The fourth paragraph of your essay should focus on another literary device that Eliot uses to portray the relationship of Rosamond and Lydgate: irony and foreshadowing. You should start with a topic sentence that states your main point: that Eliot further uses irony and foreshadowing to create a sense of tension and tragedy in their relationship, showing their lack of communication and understanding. Then, you should explain how the irony of Rosamond's name, which means "rose of the world", contrasts with her selfishness and coldness towards Lydgate; and how the foreshadowing of Lydgate's future departure and Rosamond's pleas for stories suggest their inevitable separation and unhappiness. You should provide textual evidence and analysis to support your claims. Here is an example of a body paragraph on irony and foreshadowing:


A third literary device that Eliot uses to portray the relationship of Rosamond and Lydgate is irony and foreshadowing. She employs these devices to create a sense of tension and tragedy in their relationship, showing their lack of communication and understanding. For example, she uses irony in Rosamond's name, which means "rose of the world", to contrast with her selfishness and coldness towards Lydgate. Instead of being a loving and supportive wife, Rosamond is a thorn in Lydgate's side, who cares more about her own worldly pleasures than his happiness or welfare. She also uses foreshadowing in Lydgate's thoughts about his future departure and Rosamond's pleas for stories to suggest their inevitable separation and unhappiness. Lydgate thinks that "he had long ceased to repose any trust in her" (line 30) and that "he saw the day this boy will go" (line 32), implying that he has given up on his marriage and that he plans to leave Rosamond someday. Rosamond begs him to tell her stories, saying "Don't go! Hear the alligator story! The angel story once more!" (line 33-34), implying that she is childish and naive, and that she clings to him out of fear or boredom rather than love or respect.


Conclusion


The fifth paragraph of your essay should restate your thesis statement in different words, summarize your main points of analysis, and explain the significance of Eliot's portrayal of Rosamond and Lydgate for the novel as a whole and for the readers. Here is an example of a conclusion paragraph:


In conclusion, Eliot portrays the complex relationship of Rosamond and Lydgate through literary devices such as narrative perspective, selection of detail, irony and foreshadowing. She shows how they have contrasting perspectives on their marriage and financial situation, how they have incompatible values and expectations, and how they lack communication and understanding. By doing so, she illustrates one of the central themes of the novel: the contrast between idealism and realism, especially in matters of love and marriage. She also invites the readers to reflect on their own relationships and choices, and to consider the consequences of their actions and attitudes.


FAQs


Here are some frequently asked questions about Middlemarch Ap Essay:



  • What is the main theme of Middlemarch?



  • The main theme of Middlemarch is the contrast between idealism and realism, especially in matters of love and marriage. Eliot explores how different characters pursue their ideals or conform to their realities, and how their decisions affect their lives and relationships.



  • Who are the main characters of Middlemarch?



  • The main characters of Middlemarch are Dorothea Brooke, a young and intelligent woman who marries an older scholar, Edward Casaubon; Tertius Lydgate, a talented and ambitious doctor who marries a beautiful but shallow woman, Rosamond Vincy; Will Ladislaw, a charming and artistic cousin of Casaubon, who falls in love with Dorothea; Fred Vincy, a careless and irresponsible young man who loves Mary Garth, a sensible and practical woman; Nicholas Bulstrode, a wealthy and religious banker who has a dark past; and Raffles, a mysterious and blackmailing stranger who threatens to expose Bulstrode's secrets.



  • What is the significance of the title Middlemarch?



  • The title Middlemarch refers to the name of the fictional provincial town in England where most of the action of the novel takes place. It also suggests the idea of a middle way or a compromise between extremes, such as idealism and realism, passion and reason, reform and tradition.



  • How does Eliot use literary devices to develop her characters and themes?



  • Eliot uses various literary devices to develop her characters and themes, such as narrative perspective, selection of detail, irony, foreshadowing, symbolism, metaphor, dialogue, etc. She uses these devices to reveal the thoughts and feelings of her characters, to highlight their differences and similarities, to create a sense of tension and tragedy, to convey her social and moral commentary, to engage the readers' interest and sympathy, etc.



  • How can I improve my writing skills for the AP English Literature and Composition exam?



  • You can improve your writing skills for the AP English Literature and Composition exam by reading a variety of literary texts from different genres, periods, and cultures; by analyzing how authors use literary devices to create meaning and effect; by practicing writing essays on different topics and prompts; by revising your essays for clarity, coherence, organization, development, style, grammar, etc.; by seeking feedback from your teachers or peers; by studying the scoring guidelines and sample essays from previous exams; by taking practice tests under timed conditions; etc.



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