Book I, Miss Brooke
What are some complexities and difficulties in interpreting the novel’s narrative voice? (This is difficult to interpret because of the internal relations of its subplots, the relation of portions of the plot to each other and to the narrative voice, and the relationship of different narrative judgments and expressions of sympathy and affect to each other.)
The tone clearly can be interpreted in several ways--the same statements can be perceived as essentially sincere, ironic, or sly; sometimes its tone seems more critical than it admits to being--and its ambiguity gives distance and control. The narrator seems a controlled roving moral evaluator! It’s hard to deflect a measured understatement.
Eliot’s practice gives new meaning to the term “omniscient author.” Her narrator possesses a polyphonic, partial omniscience--reader and narrator combine to judge the material presented, a kind of interchange of judgement.
What are some aspects of the novel’s organization? (carefully plotted with four subplots--the Bulstrode/Raffles plot; the Vincy/Lydgate plot; the Dorothea Brooke/Casaubon/Lydgate plot; and the Garth/Vincy/Featherstocking plot) Which plot is closer to Mary Ann Evans’s own origins? (the Garth plot; Caleb Garth modelled on her father, Mary given her own name).
What function does the narrator take in introducing the reader to Dorothea at the beginning and throughout book I?
--presents her as an ideal physical and religious figure and demands our sympathy
----xiii first sentence attempts to define reader as serious and sympathetic
----xiii narrator defends the futility of her efforts, as outlet for her ardor
--3, narrator demands sympathy, “poor Dorothea”
--narrator tells us what our attitude should be--others find her unaccountably charming, 3, we see others admire her (“not in the least self-admiring, it was pretty to see . . . ," 3)
--narrator gives an interpretation of her character, “in girls of sweet ardent nature, every sign is apt to conjure up wonder, hope, belief, most as a sky . . . ”, 15
--defends her on the grounds of inexperience, 15
--narrator notes repeatedly that Dorothea’s ideals are in contrast to the narrow conventions of the day, 16, 17 over-sarcastic presentation of young love
--speaks of her “active conscience” and “great mental need”--adds intensifying adjectives--her “nature [is] altogether ardent, theoretic, and intellectually consequent”
--narrative description, she “holds up hands to the fire in passionate propitiation for wanting to know and think” (ignores extent to which her tears are over her own blindness--not so abstract as all that)
--repeated references to poor Dorothea, 26, yet the comments made to her had been accurate. Sometimes narrator attempts to pull our sympathies away from the ironies she has just presented--overlooks situation
“she wished, poor child, to be wise herself,” 42 (seen not as over-ambitious but as ill-fated, childlike)
“poor Dorothea,” 44, in context of describing her distaste for classical statues
--praiseful narrative voice, “she has full current of sympathetic motive,” 58; “the entire absence from her manner and expression of all search after mere effect,” 59
What kind of metaphors are used in presenting Dorothea?
--xiii St. Teresa
--xiv, cygnet amid ducklings
--she is a Blessed Virgin in dress (there have been other simply-dressed women)
--her profile and bearing that of a fine quotation from the bible!
--her musical intonation like a piece of fine recitative, 30
--Ladislaw responds to Dorothea’s voice, like the voice of a soul that had once lived in an Aeolian harp, 53
--like Santa Barbara looking out from her tower into the clear air, 59
single-mindedness of these metaphors
Why do you think George Eliot may be somewhat defensive in presenting her heroine? Is she an unusual type for a Victorian novel heroine?
(narrator wants to be certain we forgive her heroine for moral intensity. The year is 1871/72 and the average opinion on female education is probably close to that of Mr. Brooke.)
What function is served by the character of Celia? How do her remarks reveal the limits of Dorothea’s vision? (reveals Dorothea’s obliviousness, her ignorance of others’ motives, her heedlessness of the social and sexual forces which will limit her happiness)
Does Dorothea condescend to Celia? (22, eternal cherub, squirrel)
What irritating traits does Celia have? (impervious, purring, catty, more malicious than the narrator is willing overtly to tell us)
--scolds Dorothea self-righteously, 23
--speaks of “your fad to draw plans,” 23
--purring, gutteral voice
--exercises restraint of one whose feelings were limited
--unruffled propriety, 31
--catty, “someone young is coming down the walk,” 51; begins objections to Casaubon by discussing his eating habits
Do our attitudes toward Celia change throughout the novel? (She is presented more sympathetically at first, but as Dorothea’s fortunes decline we feel more for the latter's struggles for an authentic life.)
How is Mr. Brooke presented? How does he behave toward Dorothea? How is he contrasted with Casaubon? (his pretentiousness in learned matters and condescension to Dorothea make Casaubon seem intelligent and polite by comparison, yet his kindliness, helpfulness, and vague tolerance are traits which wear better than the pretentions of Casaubon.)
What role is served by Mr. Cadwallader? Are his comments sympathetic and sensible? (45, 47 Mr. Brooke, 47, she does not do it (marry) for my amusement, 47 enjoys satire on himself) What does he fail to see? (ironically he is the only one who fails to see the unsuitability of the marriage)
Does Book I present sufficient evidence to prepare for the later failure of Dorothea’s marriage?
--Casaubon’s cool letter
--his inability to feel passion
--his lack of interest in practical goodness
--his coolness to his cousin
--his lack of physical ardor (expressed in symbolism of the statues)
--correction of his wife
--his smug acceptance of her worship
--desire to study in Rome without her
What are Eliot’s views on the position of nineteenth century women? Does she attack conventions for women frontally?
--3, women were expected to have weak opinions
--12, Sir James, “a man’s mind . . . has always the advantage of being masculine . . . and even his ignorance is of a sounder quality.”
--26, Mr. Brooke repeatedly speaks of women in the abstract--sort of man a woman would like--so does Sir James (men who are judged deficient think of women as an abstract class)
--29, Mr. Brooke’s views on superior male gifts (35, won’t argue with a woman on politics, 43, Dorothea shouldn’t learn classics or mathematics)
--32, Casaubon speaks of female capacity for ardent self-sacrifice (41, thinks of female fancy, tendance, etc.)
--42, female graces of amateur art and music satirized--Dorothea doesn’t like to play light songs (but Casaubon too harsh on music)
--48, a woman dictates before marriage that she may have an appetite for submission afterwards
How do the characters’ responses give us information about other characters and events in the novel?
--Celia’s responses indicate lapses of her sister’s observations, and also indicate by contrast some of Dorothea’s merits (cmp. Lucy, Hetty). Celia is blandly, quietly catty, able to dismiss all issues as “fads,” and her sister’s aspirations as mere willfulness.
--Mr. Brooke, Sir James, Celia, and Mrs. Cadwallader comment on Casaubon. Mr. Brooke never “got ideas” from him, 25, i. e., helpful hints on mild social reform. To Sir James, “he is no better than a mummy,” 38; “look at his legs,” 45 (cmp. Celia); “Has he got any heart?” 46. Mr. Brooke’s warnings concerning marriage are surprisingly prophetic, 26. He has a practical sense Casaubon lacks, and also when young did have more charitable impulses, 26 (statement both boastful and to some degree true). Casaubon by contrast is ominously impervious to all active duties and good works, 33, 34.
How do their judgments affect our view of Dorothea? (careful and humorous balance of sympathy--defense of Dorothea intensified but also balanced by presentation of qualifying views)
How intrusive is the narrator in describing other characters besides Dorothea?
--with Casaubon, reminds us that he merits pity, 57, 102
--with Mrs. Cadwallader, reminds us that other ladies may also be narrow, 40, why confinement of readers to category of “ladies”?
--with Ladislaw, after repeating his mean thoughts concerning others, tells us (untruely) that Ladislaw’s laughter “had no mixture of sneering and self-exaltation” (54).
--with Mary Garth, describes her as having a fund of humor (“observation sate laughingly”) after she has made critical remarks
What seem to be Dorothea’s motives for matrimony?
--desires a teacher, 4
--husband to be father (guide), could teach me Hebrew
--especially excited by the prospect of learning academic dead languages
--pleased at first man who had talked directly to her on subjects of passionate concern to her, 20
--learned men kept oil of lamp of moral/rational life, 58
Are we given foreshadowing in the preface and Book I of the novel’s probable outcome? Do you find this helpful or overly heavy?
--perhaps a tragic failure xiii; loving heart-beats are dispersed among hindrances xiv
--imagery of gloom associated with Casaubon’s home;
--we’re told Lydgate may change his disapproval of Dorothea, 63; that Lydgate, Rosamond, and Dorothea will affect each other’s fate, 64
In Book I how are events and people of the next plot introduced? What are the connective links between the Dorothea-Casaubon plot and the Lydgate-Vincy-Garth plots?
--men at party speak of Rosamond Vincy as ideal, 60
--women at party discuss medicine with fervid ignorance, 61
--Lydgate finds Dorothea too moral for his tastes, 63, her society heavy, 64; foreshadowing as narrator tells us he may change his mind, 63
--descriptions of Rosamond--social-climbing, catty to brother, hyper-proper in conventional ways, has romantic fantasies of marriage to a man of birth, 80, 81, called an “angel,” a “vision,” snide in misrepresenting Mary’s comments to Fred, 82
--by contrast, Mary Garth is shown as sensible and quick-witted, much more honest, 79
In presenting a female bildungsroman, what are some predecessors of which Eliot may have been aware? (Austen’s Emma, Charlotte Bronte’s Lucy, her own Maggie Tulliver)
How are names in this novel used emblematically? (Farebrother, Caleb Garth (honest yeoman), Featherstone, Bulstrode, Mary (cmp. Mary Ann Evans), Dorothea, Casaubon--we hardly know his first name, Tertius Lydgate, Rosamond)
How are the beginnings and endings of each book important?
What seem to be some of the intentions of this novel? Is it a work of realist fiction? In what time period is it set? (presents range of social types and aspirations of a period roughly contemporaneous with the author’s girlhood, a common pattern in novels; shows variation under a seemingly dull surface; variety presented by the contrasting plots)
Book II, “Old and Young”
Who are the old and young, and with whom do our sympathies lie?
--Fred and Mary/Mr. Featherstone
--Casaubon/Dorothea and Ladislaw
--Lydgate/older generations of Middlemarch, Farebrother
Our sympatheties are generally with the young.
Are the various youth/age oppositions related in theme? (in aged, failure to fulfill youthful ideals; in young, great expectations and overconfidence.135, tragedy in frequency of disappointment. Novel presents the need to temper expectations with foresight)
Are there any ideal characters among the older generation? The younger generation?
Does the narrator serve the same function here as in Book I? (Still intrusive, makes judgments and intervenes whenever anyone behaves badly; intrusive regarding Lydgate; insincere obtrusive narrator, p. 107) Do you prefer the narrator’s attitude here?
What are some constrasts around which this book is structured?
--Mrs. Vincy/ Mrs. Garth
What types of scenes or events do you feel Eliot portrays best?
--emotions of self-conscious weakness, loyalty--Fred and Mary Garth, Farebrother’s graceful tact with Lydgate, the scene in which the two men converse, e. g. issue of Lydgate’s bought note, Mr. Casaubon's quiet jealousy of his cousin
--when Dorothea speaks for herself scenes improve--descriptions of her seem forced, include special pleading
--perhaps narrator is better at sarcasm, or descriptions of those such as Lydgate with whom she feels more distant, limited sympathy, e. g. moment in which Lydgate finds anatomy entry, 84, 85 his medical motives--moment of illumination. In some ways able to deal more concretely with his merits than those of Dorothea, because he’s not a moral ideal.
--by contrast, the narrator’s treatment of romantic love seems forced--Ladislaw is interested in each movement of Dorothea’s eyelid, 190; Lydgate’s memory of Dorothea retained until death
--indirect in expressing sexual emotions, 137, claims that the sexual affection of “every sweet woman” is the result of childhood emotions, the purity of maternal sentiment (Eliot was defensive on this issue, from the persecution she had suffered)
What is the narrator’s view of Lydgate?
What have we learned in Book II that we didn’t know before?
What is the significance of the endings of Books I and II? Are there any resemblances between them?
How may the structure of this novel have been affected by the fact that it was published serially?
Book II, chapter summaries
13 Lydgate and Bulstrode meet for the first time. Bulstrode will consider giving him the hospital to manage, but wants his co-religionist Tyke elected as chaplain. Vincy asks Bulstrode for a testimonial for Fred; Vincy and Bulstrode quarrel, but the latter does relent and provide the letter. (Scene reminiscent of tensions between Tulliver and the Dodsons.)
As always, the characters are permitted to critique each other; Vincy says of Bulstrode, “You must be first chop in heaven, else you won’t like it much.”
14 Featherstone gives Fred a hundred pounds, but the latter is disappointed since he’s a hundred sixty pounds in debt, with a note held by Mary’s father. Mary is unhappy as a companion to Featherstone, but she’s also disliked teaching, 93. Fred proposes marriage, she reproves him for idleness. Her father says an idle man ought not to marry, 94, 95. She wants him to work, suggests he pass his exam.
15 As newcomer, Lydgate is the subject of others' speculations and designs; narrator describes his past, 97, 98. Intellectual passion little celebrated in fiction, 99--a beautiful passage. He dreams of discovery, 101. He had followed an actress, Laure, in Europe; she had murdered her husband--striking vignette.
16 Lydgate meets Rosamond, who is clever but not humorous (contrast Mary). She’s described with detailed malice 109-110. She plays well, though in a merely imitative manner, Lydgate admires the docility of her intelligence, 112, just the kind one would desire in a woman, an ominous assumption, 115. Aunt Bulstrode hopes she will find a husband suitable to her financial tastes.
17 Lydgate visits Farebrother’s home, finds him a bit hen-pecked by his mother and sisters. Farebrother tactfully suggests they can be friends on the basis of scientific interests, however Lydgate votes on the chaplaincy.
18 Lydgate casts the deciding vote for Tyke, judges Farebrother as suffering from an infirmity of will, 130.
19 Painters who view Dorothea in the Vatican in Rome describe her as a Christian Antigone--having “sensuous force controlled by spiritual passion.” Ladislaw feels women can be better described in language than art (primacy of writing).
20 Dorothea quarrels with Casaubon, 135. Narrator notes that the tragedy of disappointment is a common one. She has wished to extract his notes, 139. He fails to respond to her affection, 137. She seeks least partial good, 141. Note care with which chapters end.
21 Dorothea is visited by Ladislaw, who informs her that Casaubon has not read the latest German mythological and anthropological studies. He views Dorothea as “an angel beguiled.” She apologizes to her husband on his return home, understands the “sad consciousness in his life” which weighs on him, 146, “he had an equivalent center of self, whence the lights and shadows must always fall with a certain difference.”
22 Ladislaw’s friend Nauman draws Casaubon as St. Thomas Acquinas and Dorothea as Santa Clara. After many internal effusions about Dorothea’s qualities, Will calls on her and they disuss Mr. Casaubon’s choice of sources; he tells her he will return to England to support himself (cmp. Mary-Fred plot). When she suggests he could be a poet, he flatters her with the response that she is one. Casaubon is chilly about Will’s resolutions.
Questions for Book II:
1.At the end of book I, what do we learn indirectly about the characters who will be introduced in Book II—such as Lydgate, Rosamund, Featherstone and the Vincys? What report is given of Rosamund? Of Dorothea?
What do we learn of the characters of Rosamund and Fred Vincy? Of Mary Garth’s position in the social hierarchy?
Why do you think the author introduces her characters obliquely?
2. What is the significance of Book II’s opening scene? Its closing scene? Why do you think these two incidents are chosen as bookends?
3. Which names of characters reflect their respective personalities? Is Eliot’s naming practice similar to that of Dickens?
4. Why do you think Book II is named “Old and Young”? Who are the old and young, and with whom do our sympathies generally lie? What seem to be the problems which beset people in each category?
5. Are there any ideal characters among the older generation? The younger generation?
6. Does the narrator serve the same function here as in Book I? Whom does she pause to criticize? To praise?
Are there instances in which the narrative voice seems insincere or misleading? Can you give an example?
7. What are some important contrasts of character around which Book II is organized?
8. In this book, what are some types of scenes or events which you think Eliot portrays best?
9. What are some instances in which Dorothea speaks for herself, as opposed to being described? Which form of presentation do you prefer?
10. What aspects of Lydgate’s ambitions are most favorably presented? What motivates his desire to be a doctor? At this point in the novel, do you think he is likely to attain his ambition, and on what grounds can you make such a judgement?
11. How is Ladislaw’s attachment to Dorothea presented? What form of attachment does the narrator claim she feels for him?
12. What have we learned in Book II that we didn’t know before? How would the novel have been altered by reversing the sequence of the first two books?
Chapter 13 What do we learn in this chapter about the financing of hospitals in Middlemarch? What faction is represented by Bulstrode and Tyke?
What causes a quarrel between Bulstrode and Vincy? Is anyone in the “right”? What do the two men think of each other?
Chapter 14 Why isn’t Fred happy when Featherstone gives him a hundred pounds? What are Mary’s career prospects?
How does Mary respond to Fred’s proposal, and on what grounds? What advice does she give him?
Chapter 15 What do we learn about Lydgate’s romantic past? What speculations do others form concerning him? What topic does Eliot believe has been too little portrayed in fiction?
Chapter 16 How does the narrator describe Rosamund? Are there any ominous signs for her future?
Chapter 17 How is Mr. Farebrother described? What is Lydgate’s opinion of Farebrother’s home life, and how might this be improved? Why doesn’t Farebrother campaign to be given the chaplaincy?
Chapter 18 Why does Lydgate cast his vote for Tyke’s appointment as chaplain? Are his grounds religious?
Chapter 19 To which iconic heroine is Dorothea compared by painters in Rome, and on what basis?
Chapter 20 On what grounds do Dorothea and Casaubon quarrel? What is her considered response to her husband’s coldness?
Chapter 21 What does Dorothea learn from Ladislaw about the nature of her husband’s studies? How does he interpret her loyalty and interest in her husband’s work?
Chapter 22 What is the significance of the roles the painter Nauman chooses for Casaubon and Dorothea respectively?
What resolution does Will make? Is this important to the plot?
Book III, “Waiting for Death”
One of shortest books, 62 pages (in contrast to 82 pages of Book I); a kind of miscellaneous quality; fortunes decline or are stagnant. At beginning of second quadrant, lacks the excitement of new beginnings--Eliot is preeminently a novelist of slow development.
For whose death are we waiting? Are there other forms of waiting in this book? What effect does each delay have?
--Featherstone’s--effect of delay in his death? Fred’s difficulties increase; delay reveals flaws in his character.
--Casaubon’s--effect of his sickness? Delay emphasizes Dorothea’s devotion.
--Fred’s sickness--effect of his recovery? Rosamond and Lydgate become engaged.
What themes seem most heavily reiterated, and how are they supported by the book’s structure?
--theme of false goals and tempered illusions; destructive fantasies vs. acceptance of fate
--contrasts and comparisons--Mary Garth and Fred/Garths vs. Vincys/Lydgate and Rosamond/Dorothea and Casaubon.
Fred wise in love, stupid in outer world; Lydgate the reverse
Rosamond overhasty to climb socially, Mary consistent in eschewing false ambition
Caleb Garth and Fred--Caleb presented as ideally humble man. Mary and Caleb are the only two whose fantasies are real, 173
Mary Garth and Fred’s non-engagement based on reality; Lydgate and Rosamond engage themselves on the basis of an illusion
Rosamond a social climber, Caleb Garth desires to remain associated with business, 173
How does Mary Garth’s relation to Featherstone relate to this theme?
--cmp. relatives’ desire to tamper with the will with Mary’s refusal to alter it at the last minute
--person with no expectations makes final determination of the disposal of the old man’s estate
What were patterns of relationship between men and women of which Eliot approves and disapproves?
In each case, one partner or potential partner suffers distress:
--Rosamond, Lydgate comforts her
--Fred, Mary feels maternal emotions (also she’s a good daughter); 176, they had played together as children
--Casaubon, Dorothea feels pain at his psychic estrangement. Lydgate admires Dorothea’s fervid concern for her husband.
At which places in Book III does the narrator seem most concerned to intrude? (In finding fault with Fred Vincy, 158, 159, 161, 167, a fortunate passion tempered by good character of others) Why this emphasis on severity? (Fred’s false expectations are emphasized in contrast to Featherstone’s promises.) (Narrator also intrudes in Casaubon-Dorothea incident)
What is significant about Mary Garth’s refusal to collude with Featherstone’s burning of his current will?
Are there humorous aspects to the Featherstone death scene? Moral aspects?
What are some noticeable paterns of imagery and symbolism?
--Rosamond birdlike, Lydgate a bear with bird, 208, blue flower, 187, bear-bird
--scene of relatives surrounding dying man
--death of old Featherstone impotent and clutching gold--does he too have illusions? (cmp. themes of Great Expectations and Vanity Fair)
What are some relationships between the subplots? (e. g. Lydgate visits Chettam and Casaubon)
What are some features of the structure of Book III? (three illnesses precede a death, casting a shadow forward)
What changes/progress is made from the end of Books I and II to the end of Books III and IV?
23-25 The Fred and Mary plot continues: Fred loses money on horses and must confess his loss to the Garth parents and to Mary; scene shows Fred’s gullibility, he’s a good-natured egotist.
26-27 Fred’s sickness provides the occasion for increased friendship between Lydgate and Rosamond.
28-30 Dorothea and Casaubon return from Rome after a stiff and unhappy honeymoon; their quarrel precipitates Casaubon’s first heart attack
31 Lydgate and Rosamond become engaged. Mr. Brooke invites Ladislaw to visit him.
32-33 Featherstone’s death
Book IV, “Three Love Problems”
9 chapters, 75 pages, slow unfolding.
The Brooke circle comment on Featherstone’s death and funeral, a meeting of different social classes.
Featherstone is dismissed with wonderful irony, 221, interactive narrator.
Dorothea dislikes her remoteness from her neighbors, 233.
The catty Mrs. Cadwallader is nonetheless accurate when she describes Mayor Vincy’s benefitting from the handloom weavers in Tipton and Freshitt, 224.
Mrs. Cadwallader and Celia comment snidely on Ladislaw, 224-25.
The reading of the will is described in detail, with the disappointment of each of the auditors presented in turn. Joshua Rigg's presence at first evokes some suspicion and even derision (the thought of Joshua Rigg as a "love child" provokes Fred to laughter), but to everyone's surprise he turns out to be Featherstone's illegitimate son and heir.
Mary learns the result of her action/refusal, 230. In the first will, the Garths were not mentioned, but Fred was to receive ten thousand pounds (which would have provided an income of five hundred pounds yearly, enabling him to marry). The second will left the residue of Featherstone's estate for the erection of alms-houses, with the sentiment that he hoped God Almighty will see fit to forgive his sins, and left nothing to anyone present except Rigg, who inherited his land.
The notion that the almshouses might actually have been an appropriate legacy also seems to occur to noone--as Featherstone's sister Jane notes, Featherstone in his lifetime had never shown interest in the favor of God Almighty.
After the funeral and disappointing will, Rigg moved to the area, assuming the surname of Featherstone. No one suspects that Rigg will cause further problems.
Lydgate and Rosamond plan their marriage; less is given on this subplot than on the other two. Mr. Vincy is worried about money, Lydgate doesn’t like his in-laws, Rosamond more concerned about clothes and visits, and Lydgate under some pressure buys furniture on credit.
Rosamond’s persistence is commented on, 237. Mr. Vincy discusses the engagement’s financial burden with his sister Harriet Bulstrode, but her intercession with her husband is to no avail. Lydgate urges a swift wedding, but Rosamond is concerned about wedding clothes. Rosamond is always associated with flower imagery. The narrator heavily undercuts Lydgate’s illusions, especially on wifely admiration, 245. He is the subject of heavy-handed censure--we’re not permitted to hear his own thoughts, but rather the narrator interprets them for us.
We learn that a Reform Bill is in prospect (the 1832 Reform Bill) and that Mr. Brooke is liable to criticism as a stingy landlord (247)--an irony, in view of his reformist sentiments on matters at large.
Ladislaw talks with Dorothea at Lowick about his editing of Brooke’s newspaper, The Patriot. Casaubon wants to evict Will from the environs but Will refuses to leave, and Casaubon plots more measures. The narrator intrudes to describe Dorothea’s attitude toward Will, 249, her pleasure in his agreement with her thoughts, 253. Casaubon’s aunt’s son, as the child of the elder daughter, would have inherited at least half of the estate which went to Casaubon in lieu of another heir, and Dorothea thus suggests an alteration of his will in Ladislaw’s favor, an idea which angers Casaubon.
Brooke’s candidacy is disapproved of by his circle, and he’s attacked in the papers for his inconsistency. By contrast Sir James is a considerate landlord, and he suggests the employment of Caleb Garth to manage his and Mr. Brooke's lands. A hilarious “Trumpet” article satirizing Brooke appears, 265.
Tenant Dugley shows his dislike for Brooke and runs him off his land. Ladislaw and Dorothea talk at Tipton, in a conversation in which she declares her faith in a will toward goodness, 270. Chettam urges Dorothea’s visit to her uncle, and she encourages her uncle's employment of Garth on his estate.
Mary Garth is saved from the undesired fate of teaching by Garth’s good fortune; Caleb thinks of apprenticing Fred, and persists in his thoughts despite Mrs. Garth’s reservations, that the Vincys will object, and that pride should prevent them from seeming to wish to ally with their better-placed relatives. Caleb responds that the world would be a poor place if such motives prevented one from doing a helpful deed.
The narrator tells us of Mary Garth’s admiration for Vicar Farebrother, 218, and of his fondness for her and his slight jealousy of Fred. Garth surveys Featherstone’s land for Bulstrode, who seems a potential purchaser.
The Rigg and Raffles connection is introduced, and we learn of Joshua Rigg’s past. Raffles has been a harsh stepfather and selfish husband. When Raffles asks Rigg for money, the latter demands that he leave the property under threat of arrest.
42 Casaubon learns from Lydgate that his heart condition could be fatal, and faces the fact that he may be unable to complete his supposed life's work. He also fears that Dorothea may be swayed by Will, and ominously, he thinks of how to prevent this after his death.
Dorothea is angered when her suggestion that Casaubon could leave 1/2 of his estate to Will at his death is (not surprisingly) rejected by the latter, and their tense conversation precipitates feelings of unwellness in both. Casaubon writes a letter to Will stating that he hopes the latter will desist from the ungentlemanly occupation of journalism and leave the vicinity, and Will replies with reasonable politeness that he intends to earn his living where he chooses. Dorothea conquers her anger sufficiently to join her husband affectionately as he leaves the seclusion of his library to retire for the night, with compassion for his sense of aging and fear of death.
What are the three love problems?
What are some comic aspects of the account of the funeral?
What do we learn in this section about Rosamond’s responses to her father and to Mary? (ignores her father's opinions and treats Mary as a servant, 340) Her grounds for choice of mate?
About Lydgate’s character and marital expectations? (335)
On what subjects do Lydgate and Rosamond’s views diverge? (honeymoon, 338-39) Why is this important?
What is Casaubon’s response to Will’s new occupation? (357) What does this suggest about Victorian attitudes toward journalism? Eliot's own views?
Note instance of deceptive narrator, 362.
What are some situations in which we learn about/gather new insights about a character from the remarks of others? Are there cases in which even unreliable or flawed characters convey a certain truth?
How is the Dorothea/Casaubon/Will plot affected by Casaubon and Dorothea's childlessness?
Questions for Book IV:
What are the three love problems referred to in the title?
What is the attitude of the Brooke family circle toward Featherstone’s death? What has been their view of Featherstone?
What do we learn about the sources of the Vincy family income?
What lack does Dorothea note in her interactions with her neighbors?
What have been the provisions of Simon Featherstone’s will? How may have Mary’s action in preventing his changing of the will affected Fred’s (and her) future?
What do you think may have been Eliot’s purpose in creating this outcome?
What motives are ascribed to the choice of Mr. Rigg as heir?
What are some unfavorable circumstances which attend Lydgate and Rosamond’s plans for their wedding?
On what points do the engaged couple disagree? What does the narrator think of their respective values and judgment? What are some instances of narrative irony?
On what grounds does Mr. Vincy ask for help from his brother-in-law? Does he receive it? What features of the character of both men are revealed in this incident?
Why does Mr. Brooke hire Will Ladislaw to help him edit a newspaper, and what will be the newspaper’s point of view?
What motivates Mr. Casaubon to desire Will’s removal from the area?
What does Dorothea learn about the circumstances of Will’s/her husband’s background, and what form of redress does she suggest? (Would it have been common to leave one-half of an estate to one's cousin, especially an unliked cousin? Could there have been a middle position between abandoning Ladislaw and making him one's half-heir? Do either Casaubon or Dorothea anticipate the existence of future children?)
What will be the unintended result of her suggestion?
What does Mr. Brooke’s circle think of the wisdom of his parliamentary candidacy? On what grounds is he publically attacked?
What do we learn of Sir James Chettam’s qualities as a landlord? Whom does he suggest as an appropriate manager for Brooke’s estate?
What incident dramatizes Brooke’s deficient relationship with his tenants?
Under what circumstances do Dorothea and Will meet, and what is the topic of their conversation?
In what matter do Sir James and Dorothea cooperate? What point does Eliot seem to make in her presentation of Sir James’ good judgment and thoughtfulness?
From what fate is Mary Garth saved by her father’s new employment? Why does Garth choose Fred as his apprentice?
What is Mary’s attitude toward the Vicar Mr. Farebrother, and his toward her? What plot complications may this suggest?
What do we learn about the past of Raffles and Joshua Rigg?
What do we learn in book IV about Rosamond’s responses to her father and to Mary? Her grounds for the choice of a mate?
About Lydgate’s choices and character?
On what subjects do Lydgate’s and Rosamond’s views diverge? Why are these differences important?
What is Casaubon’s response to Will’s new occupation? What does this suggest about Victorian attitudes toward journalism?
What do you think would have been George Eliot’s views on this matter, and what biographical evidence can you give?
Can you find instances of a deceptive or sly narrator in this book?
Book V, “The Dead Hand”
97 pages, 12 chapters
What is the dead hand? What new developments occupy Book V?
Dorothea decides to visit Lydgate to ask information about her husband and encounters Rosamond with Ladislaw. He regrets the social gulf between them, and she wonders if she should have encountered him without her husband’s consent.
Lydgate tells Dorothea of his hospital plans, to which she promises to contribute two hundred pounds yearly. Rosamond discusses Dorothea’s visit with her husband, and Casaubon agrees to her donation.
Lydgate doesn’t charge for dispensing medicines, a practice which offends other doctors and potential patients alike. He gains the respect of some patients through cures, and with Bulstrode’s money establishes a fever hospital, to be managed by a board of five contributor-trustees headed by Bulstrode. Farebrother advises him to steer clear of Bulstrode personally and to refrain from debt. Rosamond expresses her disapproval of the medical profession.
Ladislaw, driven by circumstances, takes to political journalism and advises Brooke to support the Reform Bill (of 1832) in the Pioneer. Lydgate and Will debate Brooke’s candidacy, and Will defends the Reform Bill; Lydgate worries about a bill for furniture which he is unable to pay.
Will maintains an ideal feeling toward Dorothea, and visits Lowick Church to see her, but she seems distressed.
Casaubon asks Dorothea to mark passages for his notes for the projected book; she notes the rapidity of his mind once aroused. He asks her to agree to do something he desires, but will not tell her what this is until after she promises. She asks for delay, and when she goes into the garden, presumably to agree, she finds him dead.
Casaubon's will disinherits Dorothea should she marry Ladislaw, and Sir James vainly urges Mr. Brooke to work toward his departure from the area, but Ladislaw has become too genuinely useful for him to agree.
Dorothea learns of the codicil from Celia; she returns disillusioned to Lowick to look through Casaubon's papers. To help his friend, Lydgate suggests Farebrother might be a good incumbent rather than Tyke. Dorothea is receptive to this, noting that to her religion should seek a wider good rather than promote specific doctrines such as "imputed righteousness" or the nature of a future Apocalypse, topics favored by Mr. Tyke. (We see that she is basically "Broad Church" in her sympathies, as opposed to orthodoxly Evangelical as is Mr. Tyke, sympathies which would have accorded with Eliot's Positivism.)
The wavering parliamentary candidate Mr. Brooke delivers a meandering speech and is mocked by his auditors, who pelt him with eggs. He gives up his candidacy and the Pioneer, and tells Will that he is no longer needed. Will hasn't decided what to do next.
Mr. Farebrother is delighted to receive the Lowick living, and promises Dorothea he will strive to fulfill his duties honorably. His family are pleased, and his mother suggests that he should marry Mary Garth. By coincidence, perhaps, Fred--newly granted a bachelor's degree by one of the ancient universities--enters with the request that Farebrother should ask Mary his opinion about Fred's becoming a clergyman, since she has previously expressed distaste for this possibility and he doesn't want to do anything which would preclude the possibility of their eventual marriage. This request is presumably justified by the fact that Mary has forbidden him to speak directly to her of marriage.
Farebrother carries out the request, but when Mary answers that she would not wish to marry Fred were he a clergyman, Farebrother persists and asks if her attachment is sufficiently fixed so that she would not wish to marry another, and she answers in the affirmative, thus dashing Mr. Farebrother's own quiet hopes.
Mr. Bulstrode buys Stone Court in the hopes of retiring there, but when discussing some improvements with Caleb Garth, he is dismayed at the approach of Raffles, who is unaware that the property has passed to a new owner. The latter greets him familiarly, and mentions several matters from Bulstrode's past, including the existence of a former wife, an illicit business, a lost daughter, a cover-up relating to property, and someone named Sarah. Bulstrode attempts to persuade Raffles to leave, giving him 200 pounds as a bribe, but Caleb Garth has heard enough to leave in discomfort, and the reader is interested when Raffles reaches back with difficulty into his memory of Sarah's husband and extracts the name "Ladislaw."
Questions on Book V:
Whose is the “dead hand”? What new developments occupy Book V?
What prompts Dorothea’s visit to Lydgate, and what unanticipated encounter results? What does Ladislaw feel has changed his position with regard to Dorothea?
How does Dorothea respond to this encounter? What may be Eliot’s intention in including this detail?
How does Dorothea respond to Lydgate’s plan for a new hospital? What would have been the value of two hundred pounds yearly relative to her income?
What is shown by Rosamond’s reaction to Dorothea’s visit? On what grounds does Casaubon agree to his wife’s donation?
Why does Lydgate object to the practice of physicians charging for the dispensing of medicines? Why are the other doctors and even patients offended at his reforms?
On what grounds does he gain respect in his practice? On what terms is he able to establish a fever hospital? What potential problems or conflicts does this arrangement suggest?
What advice does Farebrother give Lydgate? Will the latter heed it?
What do we learn about Rosamond’s view of the medical profession? How is her view contrasted with that of Lydgate? Dorothea? What is likely the narrator’s opinion of her reactions?
What motives prompt Will Ladislaw to accept employment as a political journalist? What is revealed about his politics in this chapter? How would readers have been expected to respond to his support for the 1832 Reform Bill?
What are the views of Lydgate and Will about Mr. Brooke’s candidacy?
What personal problem nags at Lydgate?
How does Will contrive to see Dorothea? Why is she distressed on encountering him?
What change occurs in Casaubon’s attitude toward his work, and what do you think has caused it? What does he seem to be about to ask his wife to do, and why does he not simply make his request openly? Why does she delay?
On what grounds does she relent? Why do you think that Eliot included this detail? What does Dorothea find when she enters the garden, presumably to assent to his wishes?
Is there any symbolism to the circumstances of Casaubon’s death? Is this scene well presented?
What do we learn are the conditions of Mr. Casaubon’s will? Would such a provision have been unusual? How is it regarded by those in the Brooke circle?
Why does Sir James urge Mr. Brooke to cease his employment of Will? What causes Mr. Brooke to resist these urgings?
From whom does Dorothea learn of the circumstances of her husband’s will, and under what conditions? How do others react to the suggestion that Will might have a romantic interest in her, or she in him? What is her response?
What is her reaction to the prospect of completing her husband’s unfinished book? How is the reader's view of Dorothea's obligations affected by a knowledge of the codicil? How does she judge his motivations?
What kindly act does Lydgate perform in order to help Farebrother? What does this suggest about his attitude toward his earlier vote for Tyke as hospital chaplain?
On what grounds does Dorothea make her decision about who should be granted the living at Lowick? What do we learn about her views of religion? In the context of Anglican practices of the time, how might Dorothea's views be described?
Why does Lydgate confide in Dorothea of the betting habits of his friend? Why does Dorothea appoint him to the position anyway?
What incident prompts the termination of Mr. Brooke’s parliamentary candidacy? What seems to be the narrator’s attitude toward this turn of events? What are the indirect results for Will and for Dorothea?
What changes are made in Mr. Farebrother's situation and expectations by the new appointment? What are his family's wishes on his behalf? Is this a source of embarrassment to him?
What do you make of the fact that Fred asks Mr. Farebrother to inquire of Mary Garth her opinion about his choice of future occupation? Was an intermediary necessary?
Does Mr. Farebrother pass beyond what he has been requested to do in asking questions?
What possibilities are closed out/left open by Mr. Farebrother's conversation with Mary? To what extent does she convey her interest in Fred? What conditions does she set? On what grounds does she justify her preference?
Are the results unmixedly happy for Mr. Farebrother, Mary, and Fred?
With what motives and expectations has Mr. Bulstrode purchased the Stone Court lands? What ominous circumstance forces him to feel anxiety about the future?
What do we make of Raffles's remarks about Bulstrode's past? What seems to have been hidden? What name does Raffles recall with difficulty, and what might this memory imply in view of the remarks about a grandmother, Sarah and other matters?
With what ominous metaphor does the book end? ("black spot might reappear and become inseparable even from the vision of his hearth," 368)
Is Dorothea's situation altered by the fact that she and Casaubon have not had children?
As the book ends, which thematic and plot elements are left in suspense? Based on the novel’s development thus far, what do you expect to be some likely outcomes?
How are money and morality intertwined, in Eliot’s view?
VI, “The Widow and the Wife"
54. Dorothea wishes to return to Lowick, where she writes a memo to her dead husband refusing to complete his project. She wishes to see Will, who visits her to say goodbye. Despite emotion on both sides, neither explains his/her situation, and when Sir James Chettam enters, Ladislaw bids her farewell.
55. As Will recedes into the past, he can become a cherished memory, 378; Dorothea sobs over his picture. At Freshitt second marriages are discussed, and Dorothea relieves an awkward social situation by assuring her sister and brother-in-law that she will not remarry. Instead, she wishes to found an ideal labor colony, and intends to consult Garth about its execution.
Sir James shows more tact than does Celia, but he also doesn't like the thought of a woman's second marriage. Ironically this causes him to sympathize with Dorothea's desire for solitude.
56. Fred intervenes to help as a group of laborers attack surveyors and Caleb Garth, who are preparing for the laying of a railroad. Caleb soothes the workers skillfully, and Fred stays to help. Later he arranges to work for Garth at eighty pounds yearly. Mrs. Garth regrets Mary's presumed loss of Farebrother as a spouse, and Fred's father is disappointed and his mother grieved at the prospect of such a humble connection. The contrast is underscored between Fred's choice of realism and Rosamond's unrealistic, unfounded expectations and Lydgate's mounting debt. (Compare Tom Tulliver's education in The Mill and the Floss, which like Fred's is a mistake and too "gentlemanly" to prepare him for an occupation.)
An interesting feature of this chapter is the use of dialect, 386-87.
57. Mrs. Garth hints to Fred of Farebrother's attachment, and shortly afterwards he anxiously suggests the matter of a possible union to Mary. Mary returns home from the Farebrothers to leave the site of temptation, choosing to preserve her old ties, 400, a decision of which the narrator approves. Perhaps too, the reader reflects, Eliot doesn't approve of marriages between older men and younger women. Mary jokes at Fred's expense, 400; her merriment seems to conceal hostility, 398.
58. Rosamond rides with Col. Lydgate and miscarries from fright (horse symbolic). Lydgate tactfully asks her to help him cope with his debts but she remains coldly neutral and self-pitying. Lydgate's resolve sinks under despair, but the memory of Dorothea prevents him from generalizing about womankind, 409. He forbids Rosamond to ask her father for money, and faces her refusal to understand that they must live on his earnings. She wishes to leave home during the inventory of their goods, 412, but is persuaded to stay. Her utter absence of solidarity foretells a bleak future.
Rosamond has quickly "gotten over" the loss of her child, a clear sign of fickleness.
59. Rosamond tells Will of the codicil to Casaubon's will, about which she has learned from Fred. Behind Lydgate's back she has begged both her father and the Quellingham Lydgates for money. Rosamond is afflicted with a dissatisfaction "which in women's minds is continually turning into a trivial jealousy," 415, and is displeased by Ladislaw's indifference to her and her father's refusal to give them money.
60. At an auction, Raffles identifies Will as the son of Sarah Dunkirk, and tells him that his mother's parents had been thieves, and that his mother had run away from them in horror and disgust, 583. Will sees this as a blot on his position with respect to Dorothea.
61. The narrator offers retrospection on Bulstrode's marriage; Raffles' visit has become a source of concern, and he is anxious not to lose his wife's good opinion. Years before Bulstrode had married Will's grandmother, and had paid Raffles to keep silence when daughter Sarah and grandson Will were found. Bulstrode offfers Will five hundred pounds annually plus an inheritance, which the latter angrily rejects, charging Bulstrode with dishonorable business dealings (as a pawnbroker who received goods without questioning their source), 43. This of course means that Will has lost the wealth which would have enabled him to court Dorothea. However he has gained the stature of someone who at least had access to wealth, but chose honor and truth instead (as had his mother).
Bulstrode's past is still with him, 425. He had wished to be a dissenting minister, but turned to business for practical reasons, and had justified his greed on the grounds that he would use wealth to accomplish God's will.
62. Others remind Dorothea that Ladislaw spends his time with Rosamond. Will explains to Dorothea that he knows of the codicil and must leave her environs. He makes a declaration of love as he leaves--"as if I were not in danger of forgetting everything else"--but it is too late for her to respond. However she feels free to think of him, 438, and turns to sublimation and imagination as modes of expressing love. When she drives by him in her carriage without stopping, 439, tears are on her face, and she feels they have forever parted. He leaves town the next day. The separation between them is chiefly a matter of pride and incomplete explanations, 438. She worries that his words of attachment may apply to Rosamond.
Questions on Book VI:
Who is the widow, and who the wife? What purpose is achieved in emphasizing this contrast?
On her return to Lowick after her husband’s death, how does Dorothea indicate her intentions concerning her dead husband’s legacy? How do you interpret her use of writing to communicate with him?
What issues are not/cannot be raised in her interview with Will? Does this seem plausible to you? (she knows of codicil but he doesn't yet know)
What plans does Dorothea make for her life after her husband’s death?
Why does her assurance that she won’t remarry relieve Cecilia and Sir James? Will she keep her promise?
How are the laborers who attack the surveyors building a railroad presented? What form of language do they speak? Was it common for early and mid-nineteenth-century novels to reproduce dialect speech?
Where do you think Eliot’s sympathies lie? What role does Fred serve in this incident?
What are Caled Garth’s motives for employing Fred? What salary will he be given, and how do his parents and Mrs. Garth react to the new arrangement?
Does the narrator approve, and if so, how do you know?
What role does Mrs. Garth take in her daughter’s potential courtship by Fred and Mr. Farebrother?
How does Fred react to the suggestion that Farebrother might be interested in Mary? What do you make of the scene in which she chides him for jealousy? What motivates her severity?
What prompts Mary to leave the Farebrother household? What attitude is the reader expected to have toward her choice, and how can you tell?
What Victorian attitudes toward horseback riding and pregancy are revealed in the account of Rosamond’s miscarriage? What symbolism may be associated with the termination of her pregnancy? Does the loss greatly grieve her?
What financial and social difficulties do the Lydgates face? What emotional tensions exacerbate their problems? What does Lydgate ask Rosamond to do, and does she comply?
On what grounds does Lydgate feel grief and fear?
How does Will Ladislaw learn of the codicil to Causabon’s will?
What means has Rosamond used to try to gain money for her husband and herself, and with what result?
How does she respond to rejection? How are we expected to judge these behaviors?
What new information about his parentage and ancestry does Will learn, and under what circumstances? How does he react to the news?
On what grounds does Mr. Bulstrode feel anxiety about Raffles’s presence in the locality? What do we learn about Bulstrode’s own past? Unknown to Will, what wrong has he committed against his mother Sarah Dunkirk and himself?
What offer does Bulstrode make to Ladislaw, and what is his response? What effect does this seemingly have on his ability to court Dorothea? Do you think we are expected to approve his decision?
What purpose is served by the introduction of this incident into the plot?
What do we learn about Mr. Bulstrode's inner life? What original purpose has he abandoned, and how has he justified his preoccupation with acquiring money?
Does the portrayal of Bulstrode’s motives constitute a critique of religious hypocrisy/any particular variety of Victorian religion?
What reasons are given for Will’s friendship with Rosamond? What incident prompts him to declare that he must leave the area, and what confession results?
What is Dorothea's response? What further events cause misunderstanding? Are aspects of their failed communication the result of Victorian social conventions?
Chapter 62 ends volume III of the novel; how has book VI, and especially its ending, prepared the reader for the unravelling in volume IV?
What role is played by the narrative voice in this chapter?
How are things shifting? (The Will-Dorothea plot is drawing toward closure as more information is revealed.)
What seem to be the author's/narrator's chief concerns in this book?
--dissection of marital alienation
--unravelling of plot; serious themes of novel are perhaps somewhat mortaged to contrivance.
VII, "The Two Temptations"
9 chapters, 62 pages
What are these two temptations? (Lydgate slowly backed to the wall by debt; Dorothea yearns for Ladislaw (suggestive parts of this second subplot were removed from the original draft). The two plots converge as Dorothea’s help is necessary to save Lydgate. Also Fred is tempted by debt and Bulstrode tempted to murder.
How are these temptations a culmination of what has occurred thus far in the novel?
How have things changed for Lydgate since his entrance into Middlemarch?
What makes a bad marriage? Do we see any good marriages in this novel? (Garths, within limits)
To what degree do you believe the narrator holds Lydgate responsible for Raffles’s death?
What contrasts in character and choice help organize the book?
What changes have occurred in the narrator throughout the book? Do our sympathies progressively shift?
What is the relationship of the subplots, here and throughout the final section of the book? Are these relationships artificial, or do they make allegorical or social sense?
63. Lydgate’s financial and marital difficulties increase, as Rosamond feels no obligation to help with their debts; Lydgate rejects Farebrother’s oblique and tactful offer of financial help.
64. Rosamond intervenes to prevent the rental of their house and secretly solicits money from Lydgate’s relatives; she and Lydgate quarrel. Lydgate is forced to adapt to a life lacking common purposes with his wife.
65. Lydgate receives an angry letter from Sir Godwin. He tries to reconcile with his wife, but she is impervious and self-righteous. Lydgate plays billiards for money as Fred and Farebrother have done before him. (Gambling is symbolic—and highly disapproved of--in Eliot’s works.)
66. Fred is startled to see Lydgate gamble for gain, and tries to distract him. In a parallel gesture of help, Farebrother warns Fred against gambling and thereby renounces his hope of winning Mary; Farebrother’s speech is perceived by Fred as noble, and the narrator emphasizes Mary’s good effect on both men.
67. Bulstrode tells Lydgate he can no longer manage the hospital independently; Dorothea may provide funds; Bulstrode rejects Lydgate’s appeal for money and advises him to declare bankruptcy! Eliot is skilful at showing the emotional dramas related to money.
68. Bulstrode tries to get rid of Raffles, who has returned to town, and agrees to lease Stone Court to Fred Vincy if Caleb will manage it. Unfortunately, when Raffles’s behavior causes Caleb to refuse his help, the deal is postponed, and thus his caution in not having mentioned the matter to Fred is validated.
69. Caleb tells Bulstrode that Raffles has returned to Stone Court. Garth refuses the lease as a result of Raffles’s revelations about Bulstrode's past; Raffles is taken ill at Stone Court, and Lydgate attends. Dover’s agent comes to take Lydgate’s household goods for debt. Rosamond desires to leave for her family’s home during these difficulties. Why does Caleb feel the need to separate his affairs from Bulstrode's (cmp. Mary’s attitude toward Featherstone)? The narrator describes Bulstrode’s inner conflict and fear of exposure, 489.
70. Bulstrode unexpectedly gives Lydgate a thousand pounds; shortly afterwards Raffles dies after Bulstrode has watched the night and refrained from following Lydgate’s best medical advice. The narrator describes this turn of events with deep and constant irony, 490. Bulstrode is the passive accomplice of death in withholding useful information (cmp. Guendolyn in Daniel Deronda; she tries to save her husband’s life, but only after an instant of pause).
71. As a result of Bulstrode's past, as revealed by Mr. Hawley, the scandal spreads rapidly. Bulstrode is publically denounced and rejected by his council of governors, as the narrator dissects the psychology of a secretive and cowardly man, 503. Lydgate is implicated by having taken the draft of money and by his attendance on the now-dead man. When she hears that others mistrust him, without questioning Dorothea assumes his innocence and desires to see if she can clear him.
Some elements of the Bulstrode and inheritance subplot resemble those of Susan Ferrier's The Inheritance, a novel Eliot would surely have known.
Questions for Book VII, “The Two Temptations”
To what two temptations does the title refer? May there be others as well?
Which of these temptations are a culmination of what has occurred thus far in the novel?
How do the separate subplots begin to converge during this book? Are the relationships between the various subplots meaningful in an allegorical or social sense?
63. What are some increased difficulties in Lydgate’s marital and financial situation? Why does he reject an offer of help from Mr. Farebrother? Are we expected to approve?
64. In what ways does Rosamond intervene to limit their chances of living more frugally? How does she attempt to gain money? Are these attempts honorable by Victorian standards?
65. What results from Rosamond’s letter to Sir Godwin? Why are the Lydgates unable to reconcile?
To what risky activity is Lydgate drawn--and who in the novel had pursued such strategies before? How are we supposed to view his actions?
66. What act does Farebrother perform toward Fred, and at what cost to himself? How does Fred, and the narrator, judge his warning? In turn, how does Fred attempt to help Lydgate?
67. What changes occur in the financing of the fever hospital? What has motivated Bulstrode to withdraw his support?
What response does he give to Lydgate’s appeal for a loan? Are we expected to think this is severe?
68. What means does Bulstrode use for trying to rid himself and the town of Raffles's presence? What prompts his change of plans for Stone Court, and what conditions does he set?
69. What confession does Raffles make on his return to Stone Court, and why does this prompt Caleb’s refusal to work for Bulstrode? How is the reader expected to evaluate his action? What will be the apparent consequences for Fred?
What conjunction of circumstances befalls Lydgate at the time that Raffles falls sick? Where is Rosamond during these difficulties?
What inner conflict does Bulstrode experience over Raffles’s possible revelations?
70. What unexpected event enables Lydgate to pay his debts? What are Bulstrode’s calculations as he watches at the bedside?
On what grounds is Lydgate uneasy about the circumstances surrounding Raffles’s death? Does he do all that he should have in this situation?
For what purpose does Farebrother visit Lydgate? Why does Lydgate feel uncomfortable in admitting the source of his money?
What future plans does Lydgate propose, and what will be his wife’s role in these changes?
71. Does his role in the death of Raffles succeed in preventing Bulstrode’s past from being known? Who in the end is the agent of revealing his past?
What social consequences fall from these revelations? What effect do these have on Bulstrode’s inner consciousness?
What suspicions fall on Lydgate? Who tries to help him, and on what grounds?
As this book ends, what plot and thematic elements remain to be resolved in the final volume?
Have we seen any good marriages thus far in this novel? What seems, in the author’s view, most likely to precipitate a bad marriage?
What contrasts in character and choice help organize book VII? What changes have occurred for Lydgate during this book? For Dorothea?
Have our sympathies or attitudes shifted in any way during the course of the book?
Book VIII, “Sunset and Sunrise”
16 chapters, 72 pages; the chapters are much shorter, and read like a series of concluding paragraphs.
Upon whom does the sun set, and on whom does it rise?
Are there parallels between the incidents of this last book and the resolution of The Mill on the Floss?
--return to family harmony; yet Dorothea remains more independent than Maggie. Although like Maggie, Dorothea sacrifices her self-interest, yet permitted to live!
What are some of the more striking contrasts?
--Dorothea is a more active heroine, though more seems to happen to Maggie: Dorothea is at least more able to control her motions and act in accord with her inner goals.
--Maggie dies, Dorothea marries a husband whose life will be distinctive, and with whom she has children.
--In Middlemarch the subplots have their independent power.
--Both good and evil prosper at the end of Middlemarch. The plot of The Mill on the Floss seems more determined, more restricted.
--Issues of sexuality less crucial to Middlemarch; Dorothea is less severely tempted by her passions.
--In Middlemarch truth is multiple; and accordingly there are multiple plot endings, not just one.
72. When she hears of Lydgate's predicament, Dorothea desires to determine his innocence and help extricate him from calumny. Her friends and relations disagree, especially Sir James and Celia, the latter with cutting deference to her husband: "And of course men know best about everything, except what women know best," 508.
73. Lydgate is wretched at the dimming of his intellectual prospects. He is forced to ask himself, too, whether under other circumstances he would have pressed a further inquiry into the cause of an unanticipated death. Still he refuses to cast public obloquy on Bulstrode, and delays confiding to Rosamond the events which will overwhelm them both.
74. Other women of Middlemarch discuss the fortunes of Harriet and Rosamond; Harriet Bulstrode visits her friends to gain news of whatever events may have affected her husband, but is too fearful to await an explanation, which instead she receives from her brother Mr. Vincy. In the moment of shame her loyalty is decided: "with one leap of her heart she was at his side in mournful but unreproaching fellowship with shame and isolation," 517. The narrator gives a trenchant assessment of her understanding of his duplicity, 517.
Bulstrode is anxious lest "he should never see his wife's face with affection in it again," but he does, and they weep together cleansing tears, 518. Yet they cannot discuss the details of his actions. The continuing contrast with Rosamond is underscored.
75. Rosamond refuses to acknowledge Lydgate's actual position, and vainly imagines Ladislaw might have been a better companion, though the narrator tells us it is marriage itself which discontents her. Rosamond is referred to as "the poor thing," and the narrator softens our judgement, but with condescension. Mr. Vincy tells his daughter of the accusations against Lydgate; when she insists they move to London, Lydgate is too bitter to defend his actions to her.
76. When Lydgate visits Dorothea, he is heartened to learn that she believes he cannot have done anything dishonorable, and gives himself "up, for the first time in his life, to the exquisite sense of leaning entirely on a generous sympathy, without any check of proud reserve," 526, that is, he tells her his situation. Dorothea gives up her plan to found a model industrial village! 527 Sir James and Brooke have counselled against it. The narrator describes Dorothea with such words as "irresistible" and "adorable," 528. She offers to speak to Rosamond to explain the situation to her, as well as to Farebrother. Lydgate thinks she has a "heart large enough for the Virgin Mary"! 530 and she remits a thousand pounds to cover Bulstrode's loan.
77. Dorothea visits Rosamond, but her serene confidence in her mutual affection for Will is tested by the sight of Will holding Rosamond's hands and speaking fervently to her. Dorothea speaks very briefly to leave a letter and departs, feeling the renewed energy of scorn.
Celia is irritated at her absent-mindedness, cattily reproving the spectres of potential "schemes."
78. Stung by his association with Rosamond, Will reproaches Rosamond bitterly, proclaiming his idealizing love for Dorothea. Rosamond is rendered prostrate with disappointment, and is more appreciative of her husband's offices of comfort.
79. Ladislaw visits Lydgate, who tells him his bitter news; Ladislaw is too tactful to mention that by contrast he had rejected Bulstrode's money. But it is a contrast which will render him sufficiently morally unsullied to marry the protagonist. Will dreads the thought that if the Lydgates move to London, he will feel compelled to continue the association.
80. When Dorothea visits the Farebrother household, she is overcome by emotion on hearing affectionate praise of Ladislaw, and hurries home to grieve, admitting, "Oh, I did love him!" 542, weeps and lies on the bare floor, and feels "jealous offended pride," her first clearly self-regarding emotion, 543. She decides to accept her grief and turn to solacing the problems of others, so that "vivid sympathetic experience returned to her now as a power," 544. She symbolically sheds her mourning dress, and resolves to visit Rosamond.
81. Dorothea speaks to Rosamond on Lydgate's behalf, another third party intervention in private life, and Rosamond weeps, feels shock to her world, 549. Dorothea starts to speak of an extra-marital affection, which evokes from Rosamond an explanation that Ladislaw indeed loves Dorothea--a strange courtship by proxy! 500. The conversation between the women emphasizes the novel's motif of the power of compassionate sympathy, 549-550; Rosamond is carried on by an emotion stronger than her own, 550, recognizes Dorothea's goodness, 552, and they embrace. After her departure, Rosamond praises her, and she and Lydgate are more reconciled.
Does it seem in character that Rosamond should have openly solicited Ladislaw's advances? Does it seem natural that she would accept marital advice from a distant acquaintance? That she would have altered her view of things after this encounter?
82. Ladislaw returns to pay a visit to both Lydgates, and after hearing from Rosamond that the latter has told Dorothea of his real intentions, he still remains anxious lest Dorothea feel their association has been tainted.
83. Will visits Dorothea and they assure each other of trust and approval, holding hands during a storm while the lightning flashes outside. Finally he refers to money, and after a few platitudes she at last mentions that she can support them on her inheritance of seven hundred pounds annually, and she weeps.
84. Dorothea's family disapproves of her wedding, not surprisingly; Mr. Brooke even offers to Sir James that he can cut off the entail, an offer which fortunately is refused, and Celia reproves her, "you always were wrong," 566. Dorothea says regretfully that she has not carried out her plans--we hope her husband will be more helpful and supportive. Dorothea refuses to recount the narrative of their love, "pinching her sister's chin!" 567. Controlled malice!
85. Before the Bulstrodes leave Middlemarch, Bulstrode asks his wife if she wishes any reparation, and they agree she will invite Garth to manage Stone Court, with Fred as subagent. Of course our hearts rise at the thought that Fred will inherit the land from his aunt (though the Bulstrodes have daughters--not much mentioned).
86. Mary and Fred become engaged, after Caleb inquires of his daughter's preferences, and tells her of Harriet Bulstrode's offer. She teases Fred, feigning bad news, then agrees to marriage--with her usual references to her father and condescension. Still, her pride and independence are what she has. The new arrangements have the merit that her family, through her father, have rendered them possible.
87. finale: qualified acceptance of Dorothea's choice by her family.
The three unions have offspring: Rosamond, four daughters;
Fred and Mary, three sons, each spouse writes a book;
Dorothea and Will, one son, one other child.
Lydgate became a specialist in gout and died at 50. He compares his wife to a basil plant, 575, feasting on his brains, a horrible image, and continued to praise Dorothea throughout his life. After his death, Rosamond remarried a wealthy elderly physician.
Dorothea lives a life of sympathetic emotion rather than decision, 576; others feel she should have had a more independent life, but the narrator is untroubled, 576. No alternatives are permitted, and perhaps attempts would have been too unconventional or complex to portray for a novel of the period. Will, however, is returned to Parliament (where presumably he adopts reformist causes).
Final peroration, 577: What is its tone? In your view, does the narrator herself betray her own protagonist? Can the passage be read as an indirect cry against the anonymity of the lot of women?
Many have complained against Ladislaw, who is seen as being too unformed a character to form a fit mate for Dorothea. In superficial characteristics Ladislaw was in part modelled on Eliot's own partner, George Henry Lewes. The problem could instead be that the narrator refuses to envision any aspect of Dorothea's concrete future as a wife. She could have been a vigorous participant in the movement to improve primary schcool education, for example, or regional training schools. And of course she could have devoted her life to women's suffrage, to campaigns for women's higher education and against the Contagious Diseases Act, or she could have followed Octavia Hill in concerning herself with housing for the poor. At the least, her involvement in her husband's political career--or his reformist actions--could have been emphasized.
Lydate had failed to attain his scientific aims from a lack of moral consistency, and the narrative suggests the need to combine intellectual and moral judgments, as embodied in a successful life, free of the worst compromises. The moral is somewhat gendered, of course; no one expects Dorothea to find a cure for infectious diseases. The novel's closing sections affirm the redemptive power of a childlike view of the moral life, the qualities of a Virgin Mary or St. Teresa, and the value of anonymous and unheralded good actions.
Important themes in VII and VIII:
1. marriage--loyalty and chastened expectations-Lydgate and Harriet Bulstrode learn to bear their respective yokes (compare Dorothea earlier)
2. power of moral faith: role of women
Dorothea's trust enables Lydgate to reenvision hope; this is related to the Victorian belief in the specifically moral mission of women: Rosamond fails at this mission; Dorothea succeeds. Mary and Dorothea determine the fate of sympathetic male characters through moral faith and charitable action (compare the Victorian adancement of women into social reform careers).
The narrative proceeds through moral voyeurism--we watch others watch Dorothea's goodness (compare imagery of "The Eve of St. Agnes"--Madeleine also a saint). The reader is able to test outcomes against her/his judgements.
3. What are some of the points Eliot attempts to make through her final book? Are these different from those of The Mill on the Floss?
One has to compromise with life, but nobility can accomplish something, if only a little.
4. Is the application of this moral slightly gendered?
5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this narrator? Which aspects of her story does the presence of the narrator cause her to minimize? (Dorothea's stream of consciousness, e. g.)
6. Do you feel the book gathers to a sufficient dramatic ending? What is the sequence in which the plots are resolved? Do you find the endings equally satisfactory? (two rise, two fall, but with some consolation)
7. What is the significance of the narrator's final comments? Do you find them directly related to the theme of the book? Why is the conclusion qualified in tone?
8. What is your final evaluation of the novel?