(NeMLA 2020) George Eliot's Unfortunate Men
Things often end badly for males in George Eliot’s fiction. Macarthy, the antisocial artist in her first published prose fiction, dies unappreciated; dreamy Seth Bede reconciles himself to a pitiful bachelordom; Smilesian Tom Tulliver charters his wealth (but not his wellbeing); opportunistic Harold Transome is chastened by his circumstances; pedantic Edward Casaubon fails as a scholar and as a gentleman; and formidable Henleigh Mallinger Grandcourt drowns because Eliot is unsure what else to do with him. These men are usually disposed of in credible ways, but are they treated fairly? Are their respective fates convincing given their character flaws and contexts, or are they treated more harshly than the women who share their fictional worlds? In other words, why are several of Eliot’s male characters disposable?
This panel investigates why things often end badly for George Eliot's male characters. Are we readers convinced that their respective fates are credible given their character flaws and contexts? Are these men treated more harshly than the women who share their fictional worlds?