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Teacher's Guide [imagemap with 2 links]

Discussion and Activities by Episode

Episode I | Episode II | Episode III | Episode IV | Episode V | Episode VI

Episode I

Before Viewing Questions
  1. What kinds of things does our society expect of women? of men? How might these expectations limit a person's choices in life?

  2. What does it mean to "make a difference" in the world? How do you think it is accomplished?

After Viewing Questions
  1. What attracts Dorothea to Casaubon and Casaubon to Dorothea? What does each of them expect from their marriage? What do their views about each other reveal about themselves? Predict what you think will happen to them.

  2. Choose a Middlemarch character. What is the difference between what this character seems to think about herself or himself and the impression you have of her or him? How might this character's lack of self-knowledge prove dangerous?

  3. To which characters is self-sacrifice important? To which characters is it unimportant? Why?

Suggested Activities
  1. Celia is horrified that Dorothea finds Casaubon appealing. The night after meeting him, both women draw a cartoon of Casaubon in their journals. Ask students to discuss why Celia finds Casaubon so uninteresting, and why Dorothea finds him so appealing. Then, have students draw both Celia's and Dorothea's cartoons. Ask them which depiction they find more accurate and why.

  2. Ask students to name some of the social and political issues of the 1850s that are apparent in Episode 1. Which of these issues do they think our culture is still grappling with today, and how? Ask students what issues they might raise if they were to write a contemporary story or play. Have them make a list of some of the issues they might include, with notes about how they might work them into a narrative.

  3. Have students devote half a page or an entire page in a notebook to the following characters: Casaubon, Dorothea, Ladislaw, Bulstrode, Rosamond, Mary, Fred, and Lydgate. After each episode, ask them to note the important events that happen to each of these characters, including the conflicts, climaxes, and resolutions that affect them.

  4. In groups, have your students discuss their impressions of Casaubon and Dorothea and note the similarities and differences between girls' and boys' responses to these characters.

Episode II

Before Viewing Questions
  1. How might society influence a person when he or she is choosing a mate?

  2. What are some of the reasons people fear change in their community?

After Viewing Questions
  1. How well is Lydgate adjusting to life in Middlemarch? Who or what is helping or hurting him? Use examples from this episode to support your opinions.

  2. Describe Caleb Garth. Why do you think he pays Fred's debt?

  3. Why do you think Dorothea, Rosamond, and Celia choose the men they do? Why do you think Casaubon, Lydgate, and Chettam choose the women they do? What, if anything, do the women's choices have in common? the men's?

  4. Is Casaubon the man he appears to be? Why or why not? Use examples from the Episode II to support your answer.

  5. How do the people of Middlemarch view change - new inventions, new ways of practicing medicine, new laws, and newcomers to the town? How are these reactions to change similar to and/or different from responses to change in your community?

Suggested Activities
  1. Suggest that students bring Dorothea and Casaubon into the 20th century so they can get help from a couples counselor. Students can script or improvise a counseling session in which the couple reveals their difficulties and a therapist offers advice.

  2. Invite students to design a brochure for Middlemarch's new hospital that will help attract new patients, additional benefactors, and top physicians. Suggest that they include a drawing of the buildings and grounds, a list of the facilities and a description and perhaps a portrait of Dr. Lydgate. It can be a hospital for the 1850s or the present day.

  3. To find out how medicine was practiced in England and the United States in the 1850s, have students use reference materials to write a report about the treatment of typhoid, cholera, and heart disease or the life of a doctor during this period.

  4. Have students write a journal entry as one of the Middlemarch characters after an incident from Episode II. They might, for example, write Mary's entry after she gives Fred her savings.

Episode III

Before Viewing Questions
  1. What kinds of love are there? Which kind of love do you think leads to a fulfilling marriage?

  2. What do you think are some of the reasons people gossip? When is gossip harmless and when is it dangerous?

  3. How can a personal decision affect the lives of others?

After Viewing Questions
  1. What is it that Featherstone loves most? How is this conveyed in the episode? What do the people who surround him before he dies love most? How are these people portrayed in the series?

  2. How might you describe the love in Dorothea and Casaubon's marriage and the love in Rosamond and Lydgate's marriage? Which spouses do you think dominate and how?

  3. Many lives were affected by Mary's decision on the night of Featherstone's death. Do you think Mary made the right choice for herself and for others? Why or why not?

  4. What reason does Casaubon offer Will Ladislaw for asking him to leave Middlemarch? Why do or don't you believe him?

Suggested Activities
  1. Have students write and deliver a funeral eulogy for Casaubon and/or Featherstone. Ask them to try to address these characters' negative qualities without destroying their memory. Students may want to include appropriate background music with their delivery.

  2. Ask students to think of a scene from Episode III in which a dialogue cannot be heard by the viewer (for example, the innkeeper's conversation with his friends at the bar). Have them imagine what the characters might have been saying about another character or an event, and in groups, script the dialogue and enact it for the class.

  3. To heighten their classmates' interest in the series, have students write and deliver an exciting and provocative television commercial for the series that includes a second summary of Episode III, and an introduction for Episode IV.

Episode IV

Before Viewing Questions
  1. Politicians are sometimes described as egocentric and eager to promise but slow to deliver. Explain why you agree or disagree with this description.

  2. What does classism mean? In what ways is society classist?

After Viewing Questions
  1. What do you think are Brooke's reasons for getting into politics? What are Ladislaw's reasons? Name a politician that is like Brooke or Ladislaw, and explain why.

  2. After Casaubon's death, how is Dorothea's life still restricted by her late husband? Why is Chettam so angry about what Casaubon did? Name another character over whom Casaubon still has influence.

  3. Given what you've seen thus far in the series, do you think political reforms were necessary in I9th-century England? Support your answer with examples from the series.

  4. Who is Raffles, and what is his relationship to Bulstrode?

  5. What factors might account for Rosamond's miscarriage? How do you suppose this event will affect her marriage?

Suggested Activities
  1. Ask students to bring Dorothea into the 20th century. She's 21, a widow, and has decided to go to college. As part of her application, she must write an essay about what is most important to her. Have students complete that part of her application.

  2. Have students draw the interior or exterior of one of the houses or cottages they've seen in any of the Middlemarch episodes. Have them explain the home's role in the story and how it is a reflection of its occupants.

  3. In groups, have students write and design an issue of the Middlemarch News that includes different kinds of articles about events in the town. For example, they might include an interview with Brooke about his campaign, a political analysis of the reform movement, and a society column highlighting the Vincy's party and the Lydgates' highborn visitor. Suggest that they include illustrations and provocative headlines.

  4. Have students work individually or in groups to research the 19th-century reform movement in England. Why was it necessary? What were some of the issues it neglected? Ask students to write a report and present it to the class.

Episode V

Before Viewing Questions
  1. People heavily in debt sometimes say they can't "get out from under it." What does that saying suggest? In addition to the financial obligation, why does debt place such a heavy emotional burden on most people?

  2. How do you think society can restrict a person's options in life?

After Viewing Questions
  1. Describe both Rosamond's and Dorothea's personality. How does each woman live up to and/or disregard society's expectations of women?

  2. Consider Mary Garth - her values, her social position, her self-image, and the possibilities available to her How does she cope with the confines of society? Why do Fred Vincy and Farebrother both want to marry her?

  3. What is happening to Lydgate's life? Discuss all the areas where he's having trouble and why. What might you do if you were in his situation?

  4. What does it mean to be internally conflicted? Name a character who appears internally conflicted in this episode. What are the choices this character has? What outside forces have contributed to her or his current situation?

  5. What images do you remember most clearly from this episode, and why?

Suggested Activities
  1. Have groups of students work together to turn some of what they've seen in the Middlemarch series into a contemporary TV soap opera episode. Once the scripts are written, students can present them to the class.

  2. Many people in Middlemarch (and 19th-century England) were wary of railroads and the change they would bring. Ask students to think of an idea or a technology that elicits this kind of reaction today. Have them write an essay comparing the response to a current idea with the Middlemarchers' reaction to the coming of the railroad. Before they write the essay, you may want to have students do some research on the Luddites, a 19th-century English group opposed to labor-saving machinery.

  3. Students can start planning a Middlemarch game that they can complete after viewing Episode Vl. It could be a board game, with traps like "Fred's horse goes lame. Go back three spaces." Or, it could be a quiz show in which contestants answer questions about the characters and events in Middlemarch.

  4. The Middlemarch Enquirer is known for printing half-truths and publicizing the bizarre. Ask students to think of incidents from this episode that they could twist around for this sensationalistic newspaper. Have groups of students write these articles and create a front page of the Enquirer.

Episode VI

Before Viewing Questions
  1. How would you describe despair? What are some of its causes and what do you think can be done to dispel it?

  2. What is an "unsung hero" and what role does this kind of person play in society?

After Viewing Questions
  1. Why do you think Eliot chose not to match Dorothea with Lydgate? If she had, do you think this relationship would have worked? Why or why not?

  2. Discuss how Dorothea and Lydgate cope with their despair. Do you think each of them does the right thing? What might you have done in their situation?

  3. Think about all the episodes you have seen. What lessons are there to be learned from the story?

  4. Are there any heroes in Middlemarch? If so, who are they, and why do you think so?

  5. If you could play any part in Middlemarch, which would it be, and why?

  6. How is Middlemarch the same or different from your town?

  7. Think of any of the Middlemarch characters. If he or she were alive today, what might his or her life be like?

Suggested Activities
  1. What did Farebrother and Bulstrode want from Lydgate, and what did they offer him in return? How did Lydgate feel about each man? Have students write an essay comparing and contrasting Lydgate's relationship with these two men.

  2. Have students stage a mock trial in which Bulstrode is accused of murdering Raffles. Suggest that they include testimony from Lydgate, Ladislaw, Caleb Garth, and Bambridge.

  3. Ask students to hold a seminar on marriage with Dorothea, Rosamond, Mary Casaubon, Ladislaw, Lydgate, and Fred as participants. Have seven students play the different parts and speak about their personal experiences and beliefs. In groups, have students write scenes that they think would be likely to happen later in the lives of various Middlemarch characters. Each group can act its scene out for the class and then discuss why they believe the story would continue this way.

Teacher's Guide:
Viewing Strategies | Discussion and Activities by Episode
After-Viewing Activities by Episode | George Eliot: A Brief Biography
The Historical Context of Middlemarch | Looking at Film | eNewsletter Sign-up

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