As the novel progresses, the reader is introduced to a host of other characters, all of whom the narrator is able to know to a more intimate degree than the typical omniscient point of view, which tends to focus on the thoughts and activities of a single character. These other characters comprise the majority of the upper echelons of the Middlemarch community, a rural village well removed from the bustle of the big cities that were then springing up in response to industrialization. Thus, Eliot’s epic is an epic in terms of the numbers of characters it encompasses as well as the numerous dreams and disappointments that make up their lives. This comprehensive depiction of the complexity of provincial life and the confusion this causes at the individual level serves to help illustrate the ways in which society served to confine women within a tight conception of what she ‘should’ be in order to be of greatest enjoyment to men. In Middlemarch, Eliot combines narrative technique and character development to illustrate how the ‘notion commonly entertained among men that an instructed woman, capable of having opinions, is likely to prove an unpracticable yoke-fellow’ served to constrain women within a narrow ideal and limit their pursuits.
The narrative technique employed in the novel provides a realistic means of viewing the characters that eliminates the self-delusion under which the characters operate and provides a glimpse of how society as a whole serves to define the ‘proper’ activities for women. This approach provides the reader with a more succinct understanding of the characters’ motives and desires while also aiding the understanding of how these motives and desires serve to hide reality from the characters. For instance, in one of the descriptions offered regarding the community, the narrator says, “In the prosaic neighborhood of Middlemarch, May was not always warm and sunny, and on this