What in your view is the key function of the extended analogy between Dorothea Brooke and St Theresa in Middlemarch?
The analogy between Dorothea Brooke and St Theresa, illustrated largely in the prelude and the finale of Middlemarch, serves primarily to draw parallels between two lives; that of an ordinary lay woman and that of a saint. In doing so, the novel draws comparisons and documents the similar beliefs and struggles of the two women during the course of their life journeys. In addition, the analogy also reflects, the process of change in both characters by the time they reach their destination.
The analogy between Saint Theresa and Dorothea Brooke is first alluded to in the description of Saint Theresa leaving home as a very young girl to go and seek martyrdom as a child pilgrim. This illustration of passionate idealism, combined with religious fervour also reflects the unattainable quest of a young Dorothea Brooke. Both young girls dream of and aspire to a higher vocation and both are willing to lie upon the sacrificial altar. However, in their youthful naivety, neither girl has the knowledge or experience to attain her inner quest without first evolving into a more rounded, whole person.
Similarly, in their quest for righteous piety, neither Dorothea nor Saint Theresa can reconcile a use for needless or extravagant possessions; as Saint Theresa shuns the meaningless volumes of romantic novels, so Dorothea shuns the ‘artificial protrusions of drapery’ (Eliot 30). Of significance, Dorothea only opens the jewelry box of her deceased mother, six months into her inheritance and after being coaxed to do so by Celia.
Analogy of the two characters is also used as a tool to inject ironic commentary into the narrative....