' Moral crises are often about discovering the intransigence of others and taking the step to shoulder and accommodate those who cannot themselves change.'
How does Eliot present idea of the individual within a relationship in 'Three Love Problems'?
In ‘Three love problems’, Eliot presents various examples of relationships, with the characters in each having varying levels of individualism and cooperation within the relationship, contrary to the simplistic Middlemarch societal view of each couple as their own unit. She leads us to the conclusion that the most functional relationships are ones with mutual respect and understanding.
The way Eliot presents the idea of the individual within a relationship aligns well with the prompting statement when considering Dorothea (D) and Casaubon (C). Eliot shows that D’s empathetic nature makes her willing to accommodate C: ‘she seemed to be looking along the one track where duty became tenderness’. With the confident use of the word ‘failure’ in describing C, it is clear that D’s current moral crisis does not stem from an inability to accept her flawed perception of C. Rather, Eliot shows their non-communicative relationship, hindered mainly by C’s insecurities, as the source of her crisis. C regularly employs an approach of male superiority, which isolates D; upon her bringing up the topic of Will’s (W) employment, he states: ‘you have assumed judgement on subjects beyond your scope’. This reflects his usual ‘air of patience’ when listening to D’s ideas, which gives the idea of a barely tolerant teacher, and which leads to the detachment of the two individuals in the relationship. This is especially powerful considering D’s previous insecurity when thinking of ‘those provinces of masculine knowledge’, and later D’s perception of the marriage is described as ‘a perpetual struggle of energy with fear’. Most striking in this is the reference to fear, which shows the power of C’s volatile reactions over D, and further distances them. Despite this, Eliot steers the reader towards empathizing with C as an individual; for instance, she adds ‘as with all of us’, before ‘seeking rather for justification than for self-knowledge’, thus preventing readers from being carried away by his role in the failings of the marriage. Furthermore, D’s flaw of naivety plays a part in exacerbating their failing relationship by feeding into C’s suspicion of W: ‘her blindness to whatever did not lie in her own pure purpose carried her safely…where vision would have been perilous with fear’. The metaphor of sight is extended to C, with ‘Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin by which we see to blot?’ (a rhetorical question which, incidentally, also generates reader sympathy towards C). In this way, they are presented as two separate, blind individuals in their relationship, leading to D’s inability to shoulder and support C.
D’s moral crisis precipitates upon her...