George Meredith: The Egoist

(2461 words)

George Meredith's 1879 novel The Egoist is one of the major comic novels in the language. In telling the story of Clara Middleton's struggle to extricate herself from her engagement to Sir Willoughby Patterne, the novel presents an ironic subversion of texts that had shaped the pattern of Victorian femininity. Clearly situated as an apparently realist novel in an English country house, this ‘Gothic romance' (as Judith Wilt calls it) embodies in its language the monstrosity of an unequal relationship between man and woman as endorsed by the prevailing attitudes of the time. Clara has been pressured into an engagement with the eligible Sir Willoughby and the dynamic of the novel is carried by her dawning realisation …

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Zlosnik, Sue. "The Egoist". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 08 October 2004
[, accessed 09 October 2015.]