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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



This thesis assesses the centrality of care relationships in George Eliot’s Middlemarch and, by doing so, seeks to provide a nuanced understanding of individual and collective morality. Using the ethics of care as a methodological framework to acknowledge the importance of care acts and successful care relations – especially those complicated by the presence of dichotomized socioeconomic hierarchies – will allow readers to engage more fully with this text, its author, her relations, her characters, and the community of readers; reading Eliot’s work from this lens will allow us to validate every interaction, every thread of connectedness, and every act of care to better understand Eliot’s webs of relation. This thesis argues that it is the atypical or unexpected social figure that arises as the most effective care practitioner, regardless of social class. In order to arrive at this point, it will provide a foundational understanding of both care ethics – from the work of Nel Noddings to that of more contemporary theorists like Talia Schaffer and Sandra Laugier – and the economic theories circulating during Eliot’s time – Smithian, Ruskinian, and Socialist. Through an assessment of Dorothea Brooke, Fred Vincy, Mary Garth, and others within the Middlemarch community, this thesis integrates varying notions of political economy, reciprocity, engrossment, and genuine care for both compensated or uncompensated care acts. By doing so, it strives to privilege the success of authentic care, thereby triumphing the value of relationships over personal gain or ambition.


First Advisor

Suzanne Daly

Second Advisor

Lise Sanders

Third Advisor

Randall Knoper

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License