This chapter deals with the carefully detailed social structure that provides the backdrop of the novels and considers Eliot’s effort to create the illusion of historical reality within which her characters exist. Though the social worlds of the novels are distinct from each other, they all share something of the quality of the conceit that dominates Middlemarch — the web. This chapter does not attempt to sum up Eliot’s thinking about society, nor does it try to explore the social worlds of the novels fully. Rather, a few strands are selected that suggest the range and tendency of Eliot’s social concerns. Among the most prominent topics she deals specifically with the position of women in society, the gap between rich and poor, and the importance, social and personal, of work.
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