Abstract

The collective voice of the eponymous community, the voice of communis opinio, has been recognized by George Eliot’s critics as playing a key part in the polyphony of Middlemarch, and especially in relation to the presentation of the major characters. The focus of this article is on the presentation of this community in its own right as a stratified society with regional voices at its base: an aspect of the novel hitherto not studied in any detail. I argue that this community is significantly highlighted in chapter 71, which is a key chapter in the development of the plot and the fates of Lydgate and Bulstrode. By deconstructing this chapter, I will show how the progress and power of “common opinion” is artfully directed by the narrator in a series of six scenes.

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