The Novel 100, Revised Edition (The Literature 100) by Daniel S. Burt

By Daniel S. Burt

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After achieving some notoriety and financial success with his fi rst two novels, Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847), gaining him a reputation that he derided in 1851 as “the man who lived among the cannibals,” Melville ventured beyond a straightforward “narrative of facts” for romantic fancy and metaphysical speculation in Mardi (1849). S. ” Feeling constrained by the personal adventure-travel narrative from the self-expression and intellectual speculation that interested him, Melville took up his whaling story aware that “What I feel most moved to write, that is banned,—it will not pay.

Emma’s last vision is of the blind beggar, the novel’s death’s-head figure, who mirrors her own blindness and corruption. Her final dignity is undercut by the opposed representatives of bourgeois life, Homais and Bournisien, who guard her corpse. indd 32 5/17/10 1:43:18 PM MADAME BOVARY 33 the reader simultaneously outward for a satirical portrait of provincial life and inward to the formation of a mental landscape, tracing the way in which thoughts, feelings, memories, and needs conspire to produce consciousness.

Contemporary readers acknowledged the novel’s genius but greatly preferred the human warmth of George Eliot’s earlier novels, such as Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss, to the perceived chilly behaviorism and analytical dissection of Middlemarch. Henry James found the novel’s amplitude structurally problematic, calling Middlemarch “at once one of the strongest and one of the weakest of English novels,” and a “treasure-house of details” but “an indifferent whole” that set “a limit . . ” If subsequent novelists turned away from Eliot’s panoramic method for depth rather than her unsurpassed breadth, Middlemarch remains, like Tolstoy’s War and Peace, an exemplary novel because it both risked and achieved so much in pursuit of a comprehensive vision of human nature and experience.

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