Middlemarch

Middlemarch

by

George Eliot

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Cottages Symbol Icon

Dorothea Brooke, one of the main characters in Middlemarch, cares about social progress and is also fixated on the idea of making an impact on the world. As a hobby, she makes architectural drawings for cottages for the tenant farmers who live and work on her uncle Mr. Brooke’s estate. Dorothea’s obsession with planning the cottages marks as different from the other women in Middlemarch. Women of her class are encouraged to engage in light aesthetic pursuits such as fine art and music—although even these are not supposed to be taken very seriously. Dorothea, however, throws herself into her designs for the tenants’ cottages, disregarding the social norms that prohibit women from engaging in a field like architecture and ignoring the fact that she does not have the formal education to support this work. The cottages thus symbolize Dorothea’s utopian vision along with the theme of social progress; Dorothea hopes that they will improve tenants’ wellbeing and she puts a great deal of care into her designs. However, the cottages also highlight the limits of ambition, alongside Dorothea’s naivety and the restrictions on what a woman can achieve in Middlemarch society. Although some characters such as Sir James Chettam support Dorothea’s plans, this is largely to appease her, rather than because they actually believe in the cottages’ viability. Ultimately the plans for the cottages never transpire, and as such they represent the failure of unrealized dreams.

Cottages Quotes in Middlemarch

The Middlemarch quotes below all refer to the symbol of Cottages. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Women and Gender Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of Middlemarch published in 2015.
Book 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

“It is very hard: it is your favourite fad to draw plans.”

“Fad to draw plans! Do you think I only care about my fellow creatures’ houses in that childish way? I may well make mistakes. How can one ever do anything nobly Christian, living among people with such petty thoughts?”

Related Characters: Dorothea Brooke (speaker), Celia Brooke (speaker)
Related Symbols: Cottages
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:
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Cottages Symbol Timeline in Middlemarch

The timeline below shows where the symbol Cottages appears in Middlemarch. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 1
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Progress and Reform Theme Icon
...Both sisters are upset until Dorothea asks Celia to look at the architectural plans for cottages she has drawn. Dorothea rests her cheek against Celia’s arm as a way of apologizing... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 3
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Money and Greed Theme Icon
...Casaubon she will “learn everything.” She dreams about helping him with his research and designing cottages for the tenants in Lowick, before feeling ashamed that she is getting ahead of herself.... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Community and Class Theme Icon
Progress and Reform Theme Icon
...opinions. He goes on to say that he has heard about her designs for tenants’ cottages and thinks they are “wonderful.” He offers to pay for the cottages to be built... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Progress and Reform Theme Icon
...their conversations, the only thing that disappoints her is his lack of interest in the cottages. Dorothea feels ashamed at her own feelings of disappointment. Mr. Brooke then goes to visit... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Community and Class Theme Icon
Progress and Reform Theme Icon
Dorothea insists that she must abandon the cottages and be rude to Sir James from now on. She begins to cry; Celia tries... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 8
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Community and Class Theme Icon
Progress and Reform Theme Icon
...no chance of interfering in Dorothea’s engagement. Nonetheless, he persists in helping her with the cottages. Perversely, during these exchanges Dorothea is more pleasant than ever, as she no longer feels... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 9
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Community and Class Theme Icon
Progress and Reform Theme Icon
...Dorothea that she will like the nearby village, as the houses there are like the cottages she is designing. In a private moment, Celia whispers to Dorothea that she saw a... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 10
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Community and Class Theme Icon
Progress and Reform Theme Icon
...The women then observe that Dorothea is having a lively conversation with Tertius Lydgate about cottages and hospitals. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 28
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Progress and Reform Theme Icon
...a wonderful match, and Celia adds that Sir James has been continuing work on the cottages in Dorothea’s absence.  (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 39
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Community and Class Theme Icon
Progress and Reform Theme Icon
...that Sir James has told her that Mr. Brooke plans to improve the farm and cottages, which thrills her. However, Brooke says he is only considering it. Dorothea insists that Brooke... (full context)