I wonder if you know who is the fictional character I would like to meet? Do you know which character had this said of her? Which book she was from?
Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
The answer is of course Dorothea Brooke from “Middlemarch“. There are many characters I adore in the novels I have read, but one of my personal favourites is Dorothea, as she made a deeper impression on me than most. Not just an entertaining or interesting character, she struck a chord with me and still does twenty years after I first became acquainted with her on the pages of “Middlemarch“.
I love the comparison of her nature and it’s effect on others to the multitude of channels the mighty Euphrates river was broken into. I can’t help but think too of the quiet yet immense effect of Cyrus diverting the course of water that surrounded mighty Babylon, before his army waded across and conquered the city, thus causing a world empire to crumble overnight. I also love the statement that the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistorical acts…the noble and unselfish acts of good and mercy and kindness that are mostly unsung and are often forgotten by others. Yet we have so much to thank those quiet and unselfish souls who have a delicate yet profound influence on others.
If you have never read “Middlemarch” and are planning to at some point, beware my post contains a few spoilers!
I was torn between Dorothea and Anne Elliot from “Persuasion“, but I have already published a post about Anne recently and have another one in my drafts folder. But I have admiration, empathy, and affection for both of these characters, so today I am going with Dorothea!
I read a few character studies on line about Dorothea while I was thinking about this post. More than anything I was surprised that not all have the same esteem for her as I. There were some who seemed to think that to be exalted to “superhero” status, she should have been more of an independent female and that her happiness should not have been tied up with the love of a man who would become her second husband.. Not all approve of her decisions especially later on in the book.
But in today’s age where feminism – and I don’t think I fully comprehend feminism in all honesty, it is all rather foggy to me. I should be happy with Dutch treats, standing up on the bus or tube while young men lollop and rest their sneaker-clad feet on the spare seats, and being paid the same as a man I am working twice as hard as???
I don’t really understand the definition of feminism. I do understand “no means no!” But as far as I have seen, equal is not always fair. When I was at school, all I cared about was the boys letting me play football because I was a decent player and I loved running around – that was all that mattered to me!
I like being a woman. I have always loved wearing beautiful dresses. I have equally always loved climbing trees, playing football and working on construction sites. Most of the work I have done has been for charity and I have not received a penny in return.
Perhaps Dorothea’s decisions don’t sit right with the modern world, but I can relate to her a lot! I think especially her character. I think there are descriptions in the novel where others ponder Dorothea’s features and manners – some are fascinated by her. Is she a taciturn, demure character? I love her mind. She may make mistakes in her judgment, but she has a noble mind. She cares, she wants to make a difference. She becomes trapped in a loveless marriage to a man she believed in and was inspired by. Her endurance and calm under even the worst provocation make me think her made of something stronger than diamonds.
I love her decisions later in the book. Well, of course I would never encourage a husband of mine to run for political office. But I mean her decisions regarding love and being a loyal support to the man she truly loves. I love the sacrifices she makes to spend her life with the man she has come to love and admire after her awful first marriage.
Here is another description of Dorothea I adored:
Dorothea herself had no dreams of being praised above other women, feeling that there was always something better which she might have done, if she had only been better and known better.
I think that is one of the things I love about both Dorothea Brooke and Anne Elliot. I can never imagine either of them wanting to be the centre of attention, being showy, gaudy, wearing the most opulent gowns or decorations. I can only imagine them being a delight, an absolute pleasure to have afternoon tea with. Beautiful gentle manners, noble minds, interesting and lively conversationalists, none trying to take the spotlight, but earnest about how to contribute to the occasion and to the enjoyment of others. These two women are both incredibly endearing to me.
I love those words in the passage I quoted at the start of this post, with regards to Dorothea, that…
“…the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive.”
She touched all around her, often in a quiet gentle way. Others were influenced by Dorothea in the same way I was. The qualities she displayed were so precious, they make her value tremendous. She was a tower of inner strength best expressed by remarkable endurance and stamina. She was crushed, yet she persevered. She regained hope and joy, and allowed herself to love and be loved again. She wanted to make a difference to those in need and she seized any opportunity she had to do so.
Dorothea Brooke, even though you are just a fictional character, it would be an absolute delight to have you round for afternoon tea! I would invite Anne Elliot too, I think you would get along with her rather well.
This was my response to one of the writing prompts in the August Write-Away Challenge hosted by Sarah Elizabeth Moore. Even though I am very very late, I just did not want to abandon this post as I found the question so interesting.
8 thoughts on “The Effect Of Her Being On Those Around Her Was Incalculably Diffusive”
Middlemarch was one of the set texts for GCSE when I had my first teaching job, but I played it safe being my first job and did Silas Marner. My reasoning being that the performing arts department were doing a play of Silas for the big winter play, so I knew that the students would be a little bit familiar with it.
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In all honesty, I found some of Middlemarch hard going, but I was fascinated by Dorothea.
I can’t remember a lot about Silas Marner. Maybe I need to go back and re-read.
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I too found Middlemarch hard going which is why I didn’t select it. From a purely personal point-of-view I still think that the approach taken by many secondary schools towards English Literature is operated badly and is more than likely to put off students from fully embracing the texts and delving into further readings, and most importantly reading for pleasure.
For me, feminism is about equal opportunities and free choice rather than being slotted into certain roles simply because society expects it. Maybe sometimes feminism looks like being a stay-at-home mom making lovely meals for her family five days a week and the other two days putting on a hard hat to do construction work on a volunteer project, plus coaching football one evening a week.
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That sounds like a balanced week to me!
I guess that in some ways having those choices can mean that in lands where women do have those choices, they can be whatever they want, or at least they can try to be. I can’t remember what I was thinking when I wrote this post three years ago but I do remember working with a bloke who expected me to do everything. The two of use had the same pay for the same job, but I was doing most of the work. The things he used to say would often irritate me.
To be honest – I think as with most things – it is when there seems to be a balance, and people are just trying to be the best version of themselves that we all thrive. It sometimes saddens me that there can be so much conflict. I have always loved that there have been hardly any limits over what I do. I have been able to work in many different fields, some of them formerly male dominated areas of work and have been able to enjoy doing what I love and learning new skills. But I also feel free to be me. I don’t want to fight about any of it though. I just want to live in the way that makes most sense and allows me to thrive and to build strong relationships with those around me.
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I think that balance is key. We all want different things and are good at different things, and that should be celebrated rather than restricted.