English, Department of



Derek Miller

Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 24 (1993) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/


The George Eliot Review 2018 (24)


After a paragraph in which the narrator sympathetically examines Rex's love for his cousin Gwendolen, the young people plan a tableau vivant at Offendene. Gwendolen rejects Rex's suggestion of himself as Achilles, with Gwendolen as Briseis, then agrees with his next idea that she should be Hermione as the statue, and he Leontes, from The Winter's Tale. During the playing of this scene, and provoked. perhaps. by the 'thunderous chord' (91)1 struck by Herr Klesmer on the piano. the panel on the wall opens to disclose what the family saw on the day of their moving in, 'the picture of an upturned dead face, from which an obscure figure seemed to be fleeing with outstretched arms' (56). In this episode, the reader is invited to look at and then beyond the moment near the end of the play as a comment on matters early in the novel.

Just before the passage about Rex's love, the narrator offers to the reader the most famous of several warnings about the way the novel is to be read, 'for all meanings, we know, depend on the key of interpretation' (88). The tableau itself is 'likely to be successful, since we know from ancient fable that an imitation may have more chance of success than the original' (90). This touches, of course, the questions of mimesis discussed by Aristotle. but also takes the reader back a few lines to ancient fables arising from the mention of Achilles.