Saturday, 14 January 2017

Why can't women writers get alpha men right? Middlemarch by George Eliot

George Eliot could write, but she wasn’t always convincing when it comes to relations between the sexes. At least not in Middlemarch. The main couplings are generally badly observed accounts of how a woman thinks men and women act when it comes to sexual access, but the one that had me reaching for my gun is the Tertius Lydgate/Rosamond Vincy affair. 

Lydgate is a man’s man; he’s pulled himself up by his bootstraps and sets out in Middlemarch to make a name for himself against all odds. And he’s doing well, until Rosy Vincy wraps him around her little finger. To understand how phantasmagorical this is, it’s instructive to read two contemporary books by males that cover similar romantic terrain: Trollope’s Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite (published the year before Eliot’s proto-feminist fantasy); and Hardy’s A Pair of Blue Eyes (published two years after). 

Trollope and Hardy unsurprisingly understand that good looking women fall for alphas, not secret kings. And that alphas don’t magically lose their balls in the blink of an eye. In reality, Lydgate would have had a much greater selection at his fingertips, and Rosy Vincy would have been consigned to the parlour from which she sprouted. 

On the other hand, I did discover where J.K. Rowling came up with Draco’s name. Which reminded me that Rowling is another female writer who doesn’t understand female hypergamy. If she did, she wouldn’t lecture her teen fans that Draco is morally compromised and they should be wetting their knickers for the titular hero. Which of course they’re not; Draco is an alpha bad boy and the stuff of female fantasies. 

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