Middlemarch Summary and Analysis of Chapters 34-44

Chapter 34:


Mr. Featherstone is finally buried, with many relatives whom he did not like there; the occasion is a rather expensive one, for although Featherstone was miserly in many respects, he liked to show off his money when it could impress many people. Dorothea and Celia, along with Sir James, watch the proceedings from their house, as he is being buried at the church that is on Casaubon's land. Will Ladislaw appears again, and Mr. Brooke reveals that Will is his guest, and has brought the picture that Casaubon sat for in Rome. Casaubon is shocked and upset, and Mr. Brooke explains that he wrote to Ladislaw when Casaubon was ill, not Dorothea; Mr. Brooke continues to speak of his fondness for Will, as Casaubon tries to hide his displeasure, and Dorothea becomes alarmed.


Money is a theme of importance in the book, and means very different things to different people. To someone like Fred, money is something that appears when he needs it, and is not something of terrible consequence; to the Garths, money is a precious commodity, and is saved carefully for worthwhile causes. Featherstone's character is illuminated by the way he regards money; he uses money to gain power over people, like Fred, and to show off the power and advantages that having money gives him.

In Eliot's explanation of the significance of Featherstone's funeral to Dorothea, we are introduced to another theme of the novel; the unity of people in Middlemarch, through events that they share in. Dorothea might not be at the funeral, nor did Featherstone mean anything to her in particular; however, it is times like this one that become associated with moods and feelings, and so become important in the memory. The funeral "mirror[s] that sense of loneliness" that is part of Dorothea's nature, and so becomes significant to her.

Chapter 35:


The funeral is over, and people are waiting anxiously for the will to be read and the sums they are to receive to be announced. There is a stranger among them, though, who makes them nervous; his name is Rigg, he is in his early 30's, and no one is quite sure of who he is or where he comes from. A lawyer is there, named Standish, who went through the will with two witnesses; he reads through the two wills that Featherstone left, regarding the last one as the most correct. Mary Garth is nervous, and somewhat excited, since her refusal to burn one of the documents has led to this outcome. The first leaves Fred a good bit of money, and gives something to most of the relatives; the second, which is considered the correct one, gives everything to Mr. Rigg, who doesn't seem surprised.

Upon hearing this, many of the relatives start complaining about the expense of traveling to the funeral, and how they should not have come if they were to get nothing. Mrs. Vincy cries, and Fred seems upset as well, to have a large bequest announced, and then taken back. No one seems very fond of Mr. Rigg, who takes the name Featherstone as requested in the will. But, it seems that all the greedy relatives, and the expectant Vincys, have all gotten their just desserts; the Garths could have been better served, but overall, people do get exactly what they deserve.


Eliot compares the procession of different relatives at Featherstone's funeral to the line of different paired animals onto the ark, and says that in both cases, it might have been thought that the sheer numbers would decrease rations, and that it was better to have fewer there. The parallel between the situations is clever, and it is certainly a fair description of the situation at the funeral, and before the will is read.

Money is said to bring out the worst in people, and here it does. With money present, people forget their shows of politeness, say rash and uncomplimentary things, are greedy, and jealous as well. When the theme of money is introduced in the novel, it is usually to show people at their basest, or illuminate their flaws; and here, when money becomes an issue in the plot, it does exactly this.

Chapter 36:


Fred is sorely disappointed with not getting any money; he expected that he would get a large amount, and would not have to work. Now, he will likely have to join the clergy, or find some form of work; he will finally have to stop being idle, as his father will tolerate his idleness no longer. Mr. Vincy also says that Rosamond will have to postpone her marriage, until the family are in a better position to pay for it; Mrs. Vincy, Fred, and Rosamond are all spendthrifts, expecting that the money they need will somehow drop into their laps. Rosamond takes the issue up with her father, and he caves in; Mr. Vincy doesn't have the heart to stand up to his daughter, though she clearly needs some reasonable advice on the subject of her marriage.

It seems that only Mrs. Bulstrode knows better on the subject of Rosamond and Lydgate's engagement; she knows how difficult it will be for Rosamond to live on little money, and how extravagant she is, and how ill prepared Lydgate is to live with a flighty girl like her. However, no one will listen to her; her advice, though it will prove correct, is unheeded.

Rosamond tells Lydgate that her father wishes their marriage to be postponed; Rosamond says that she refused, not so much out of love for Lydgate, but out of stubbornness. Lydgate urges her that they be married soon; Rosamond agrees to six weeks, and manages to convince her father. Lydgate soon starts buying new things for the house, though he has little money to do so; already, he is spending beyond his means, a dangerous habit. They will go to his uncle's estate for their honeymoon; he is a baronet, and wealthy, which boosts Lydgate's hopes for a better position.


Eliot compares Rosamond and Lydgate's love to a "gossamer web," and indeed, the metaphor describes the relationship well, being based on tender moments together, delicate feelings, and easily dashed hopes. At the same time, the relationship is anything but solid, and certainly not based on genuine compatibility either; it is also ironic that Lydgate hurries forth with the relationship, after getting burned before by love, and the difficulty of his present circumstances.

Eliot's tone becomes slightly mocking, and shows the ridiculousness of Lydgate and Rosamond in their considerations of marriage. Rosamond's mental faculties are belittled, as becoming "slightly meditative," quite a feat for her, amounts to no more than thinking of how long it will take for her marriage clothes to be made. That Lydgate and Rosamond consider everything in deciding to get married but whether they love each other and are compatible is an irony that dooms their relationship from the start. The demise of their union is foreshadowed by their consideration of only inconsequential things, and their inability to act outside of the confines of their pride, vanity, and stubbornness.

Lydgate too believes in the preconceived notions of the day about gender relations; the "goose and gander" model, as Eliot calls it, is his ideal. Indeed, Lydgate wants a woman who is unassuming, attractive, knows the appropriate arts and flourishes, and will obey him. Rosamond is all of these; but what he does not foresee is how little economy she has, how silly she really is, and how basically unsuited they are. Lydgate is misled by society's ideals of women, and of marriage; and in searching blindly after these ideals, he will make a marriage that will not be beneficial for him, an be very disappointed in the life he will have to live with Rosamond.

Chapter 37:


Middlemarch politics assert themselves once again, in the rivalry of the two papers of the region. It is revealed that Mr. Brooke has bought one of the papers, The Pioneer, and has inserted his unorthodox political views into it. Will Ladislaw has been hired to head the paper, and Mr. Brooke is very pleased with his work, and his coverage of the Middlemarch political situation. Casaubon continues to resent Will, and Will grows more angry that Casaubon married someone as young and naïve as Dorothea, dragging her down into Casaubon's dull, dry world of academia. Will's affection for Dorothea continues to grow, and Dorothea becomes more and more fond of Will in return.

Will goes to Lowick to sketch; luckily for him, it begins to rain, and when he takes refuge in the house, he finds only Dorothea at home. They begin to speak as they did in Rome, very happy to be alone in each other's company; Dorothea becomes more aware of her husband's failings, but also learns of his generosity toward Will's family. Will tells Dorothea that he has a job at Mr. Brooke's paper, if he wants it; Dorothea says she would like him to stay in the neighborhood very much, but then realizes that Casaubon would disagree with her.

Dorothea tells Casaubon, who of course is not in the least supportive. Casaubon writes Will a letter, telling him he should not take the position, nor should he call at the house any longer. Casaubon's letter seems to be motivated not out of embarrassment for having a relative of lower status nearby, but out of some jealousy perhaps for his friendship with Dorothea. Dorothea becomes consumed by the case of Will's grandmother, and her unfair disinheritance when she married; she believes that Will is owed a good part of what Casaubon has because his family was impoverished unfairly, and wants to bring that up to Casaubon, though it will upset him.

Casaubon is not suspicious that Dorothea is being influenced by Will, but he thinks that it might happen; his insecurity and jealousy lead him to contrive secret hindrances for Will. He dislikes his cousin more than ever, because he imagines that Dorothea would like Will more than she likes him.


The issue of propriety would have Mr. Brooke take no part in papers, or in politics in general; also, the theme of social position plays a part in how neighbors and relatives regard Mr. Brooke's new venture. It seems that the newspaper business is regarded as too lowly and common a pursuit for a gentleman of money like Mr. Brooke; also, Mr. Brooke's airing of his political views in such a public forum is also considered distasteful. It is quite a paradox that politics in Middlemarch are decided through the influence of wealthy gentlemen like Mr. Brooke, yet to have these men publicly declare their opinion in politics is taboo.

The theme of social position is also very important in Casaubon's situation; he believes in a well-defined social hierarchy, especially since it gives him a position of superiority over people like Will Ladislaw. However, once Will stops accepting money from him, and establishes his own place in Middlemarch with Mr. Brooke's newspaper, Casaubon feels that his position over Will has been diminished, which he resents. Casaubon's feelings about social organization are not unorthodox in the Middlemarch community; there are others who feel the same as Casaubon does, like the Vincys and the Bulstrodes, who like people to know their place, and act accordingly.

Will's inner declaration of loyalty to Dorothea shows how his affection for her is continuing to strengthen; and the fact that she regards him highly as well foreshadows a romantic relationship between them in the book. Eliot is building up the romantic tension between them, as their feelings become stronger and more intense; they will have to come to terms with their mutual affection at some point in the book, and hopefully all turns out well. With Eliot's metaphor comparing them to "two flowers which had opened then and there" when they get in each other's presence, and describing Will as "fresh water" to Dorothea after the stagnation she bears in her marriage, it is unlikely that the two can be easily separated.

The changed tones of voice which Dorothea and Will use in each other's presence testifies to their being suited for each other; Dorothea only seems to shrug off her melancholy, and the careful, depressed tone she uses around her husband when she is talking to Will, and Will sheds his usual sarcasm and becomes more gentle and thoughtful in his tone and speech.

However, at the same time, "tongues are little triggers," and Will cannot help but display this metaphor at work. Dorothea becomes conscious of her husband's failures when she speaks to Will; Dorothea pours forth the reasons why she married Casaubon, which Will could not have guessed. But jealousy is a theme in the novel that comes about because of this relationship; Mr. Casaubon is anything but pleased that his wife and cousin are friends, and fears that Dorothea could like Will better than he, which she does. Casaubon pretends to act out of concern for social hierarchy, another theme of importance in Middlemarch life; however, his real intent is hidden beneath, and is a function of his insecurity about himself. The end of the novel, and the brief mention of Casaubon contriving obstacles for Will, foreshadows some great plot of his, some act of spite to come.

Chapter 38:


Mr. Brooke is making enemies through his advocacy for the Whig party, when Middlemarch is a predominantly conservative, Tory area. Bulstrode is allied with Brooke politically, but many of the neighbors disapprove, including Sir James. Sir James, Mrs. Cadwallader, and others are gossiping about Brooke and Will Ladislaw, Brooke's need to take care of his parish, and other subjects. Brooke comes by, in the middle of being discussed; they inquire about the state of his tenants, attacks that have been made on him, etc.

Brooke, however, does not wish to enter into any arguments, or listen to see if they do have any valid points to make amid the rumors they are discussing. Brooke runs out quickly, and the others wish that maybe he could see if he was doing something wrong, and act on that.


Middlemarch politics seem very modern, for all the wrangling an dealing that goes on; Sir James mentions that dirt will be dug up on Brooke, to discredit his opinions, a practice which is regular in today's politics. However, the enmity between the conservative Tories and the liberal Whigs is something that is a little uncommon; people seek to squelch minority opinion, something which is not as common today. Snobbery and social standing also have a great deal to do with political opinion, which is not as true now as it was then; the wealthy are mostly conservatives, and those who are not, like Mr. Brooke, are shunned. Middlemarch has its own "liberal," Whig-leaning media in the form of its papers, plenty of political haggling, dirt-digging, wild rumors, all kinds of things which are still parts of politics today, which might be surprising, regarding the time period.

In Middlemarch, rumors are almost as good a currency as fact; this intermingling of rumor and fact and how each works compared to the other, is another theme. Brooke especially sees that insinuation can do as much damage as fact; when Sir James and his company are talking, hearsay is treated as fact, even as having more weight than Brooke's denials or explanations.

At the same time, Brooke could benefit from listening to the more mild, objective criticisms, and perhaps acting upon them; although he is politically liberal, it is his unique paradox that he is conservative when it comes to his own tenants and social improvements. Brooke would be better off if he did try to reconcile his public beliefs with his private actions; and his reluctance to do so foreshadows his downfall if he runs for office, especially since it is an idiosyncrasy that is well-known in the neighborhood, and much disputed.

Chapter 39:


Sir James becomes more judicious in his appraisal of Brooke's situation, and decides that Brooke needs to invest in improvements for his tenants if he wants to evade the scathing criticisms of the other Middlemarch paper, The Trumpet. Dorothea is the key to convincing him, figures Sir James, since she is a great advocate for improvements. Dorothea goes to visit her uncle, and Will Ladislaw turns out to be there; she tells her uncle that Sir James told her that Tipton was to be managed by Caleb Garth, and improvements made. Dorothea is very passionate that this should be done; however, her uncle will not commit. She and Will find a moment alone, to explain a bit more of themselves; Will seems to be falling in love with her, as their relationship becomes stronger.

Mr. Brooke goes to visit a tenant whose son has been poaching on Brooke's land, and is chastised by the tenant. Brooke, who liked to fancy himself a favorite of his tenants, is shocked; also, the house looks worse now that Dorothea has made her criticisms. It looks like Mr. Brooke will give in, and turn the management of the estate over to Mr. Garth after all.


When Dorothea speaks of improvements to be made on the property, to help the tenants, she is filled with passion for the first time in a while. Social reform is Dorothea's true passion; she is a woman who needs to be doing and achieving, which makes her match with Casaubon particularly ironic, and also strange. Dorothea in this scene becomes a complete dramatic foil for Casaubon; where he is cold and meticulous, she is passionate and impulsive. Casaubon's work is in his mind, and not result-oriented, whereas Dorothea wants real progress made, for the benefit of real people. As Dorothea becomes wiser about Casaubon's nature and about their marriage, the juxtaposition between the two of them becomes even more start; for Dorothea cannot stifle her true personality and self any longer to spare Casaubon's insecurities and feelings, and it just so happens that everything that Casaubon is, Dorothea is not.

The change in Dorothea's tone when she speaks about something for which she has so much interest is very marked; there is a great contrast between the brief, strained tone she uses with her husband, and the emotional, image-laden, eager tone that she adopts here. Self-expression is an issue that has dogged Dorothea since her marriage, and finally she is finding ways to express her feelings and desires. The irony is, where her marriage was supposed to broaden her knowledge and fulfill her desires, all the knowledge and fulfillment she has gained are from outside her marriage‹like Sir James and Will. Also, Dorothea's expression is quite apart from the appropriate modes of women's expression, which startles Will and reduces Mr. Brooke to stammering; this tendency is not looked upon kindly in society as a whole, and Dorothea continues to be very unconventional in nature compared to what women were expected to be.

The lancelet that the boy kills can be taken as a symbol of how Mr. Brooke is mistaken; he believes that the boy should be punished for killing the animal, just as he believes that his tenants should, and do, bear him some amount of affection. He actually finds out that things are very much the opposite; and Mr. Brooke is not such a hard man that suggestions from his neighbors and his niece, compounded with an outburst from a tenant, does not move him. Mr. Brooke realizes the irony that has dogged his position as landlord; he thought that everything he did as a landlord, including taking over the operation of his land, was positive and good, when in fact he was messing things up beyond what he could have expected.

Chapter 40:


Focus moves to the Garths, who are gathered at the table, reading letters. Mary is looking for another position, and has decided to take a place at a school in York, though it does not please her, or her parents, too well. However, Mr. Garth reads a letter from Sir James that asks him whether Mr. Garth would start managing Freshitt, and mentions that Mr. Brooke might want his services again as well. This would double the Garths' income, and means that Mary can stay at home; but Mr. Garth will need an assistant, and none of his sons are in the position to do so. The whole family is happy, Caleb Garth most of all because he will be able to do good work to help even more people.

Mr. Farebrother comes to visit; he has some interest in Mary Garth, and also likes to visit and spend time with the family. He has been talking to Fred Vincy, and informs them of Fred's situation, telling them Fred is going back to study, and still cannot pay off his debt to them.


Rosamond and Mary Garth are dramatic foils in every possible way; Rosamond is vain, naïve, materialistic, whereas Mary is intelligent, modest, and frugal. Although Mary and Rosamond are friends, Mary thinks nothing of pointing out Rosamond's ridiculous insistence on certain clothes for her wedding; "she can't be married without this handkerchief," Mary says, her playful tone bringing attention to Rosamond's folly.

The boys' reaction on hearing Mary say that she will have to teach at a girls' school exposes a bit of the difference between the education that boys receive, and the education that girls receive during this time. Most girls' schools were the equivalent of charm schools, like the one Rosamond went to; little is taught besides basic knowledge, social skills, and a little art and music. Girls are also not allowed to play like boys, as Jim points out; boys are given far more freedom and learning in their education, but girls must settle for a window-dressing equivalent.

Money, which is so important to so many others, is an issue of lesser importance to Mr. Garth. His first love is helping people, improving the land, making others' lives better through his work. Although the situations of Mr. Garth and Dorothea are quite different, there are parallels between the two because of their lesser regard for money, and their passion for social improvement.

The social standing of the clergy is a quirk of the English class system that is in place in Middlemarch; whereas most people are judged according to birth and family first, and according to wealth and landholdings next, clergymen, who are poor and have little property, are given far more respect and latitude than someone else of similar social, but different professional, situation. At the same time, the clergy is not for everyone; it certainly does not seem suited to Fred, though it is a profession that wayward sons and men with few prospects are dumped into.

The clergy, however, would not be an unrespectable field for a young man of good family, like Fred Vincy, to enter into; however, manual work, like Caleb Garth does, is considered beneath him. This is another place where social hierarchy intrudes upon Middlemarch life, attempting to hinder people for the sake of "respectability." At the same time, the Industrial Revolution is beginning to change English society, and notions of "respectable" occupations according to class; social mobility is becoming more common, and business and commerce are finally seen as decent occupations, as men like Mr. Vincy and Bulstrode are not looked down upon for their commerce-funded livelihood.

It is quite a paradox that Mary thinks well of Farebrother and is harsh on Fred, but loves Fred and is just friends with Farebrother. Mary's particular concern for Fred, especially for his prospects, foreshadows that they will become a couple; indeed, Fred is not one to learn from doing foolish things, but when he costs the Garths a good deal of money, he is more sorry of that than anything he has ever done. Family expectation is one of the guiding themes of Fred Vincy's life; he does try to please his parents with his choice of profession and his study, but at the same time, seems ill-suited to the academic and business pursuits they would have him enter into. Will Fred defy his parents' wishes, and society's unwritten rules, about the occupations he should hold according to birth and family position? Fred is unable to excel in anything he does not enjoy, so knowing him, if he wants to work for Caleb Garth, that will be all he will be able to do.

Chapter 41:


It is not long since Mr. Rigg Featherstone has gained the estate of Stone Court, and already there is word that he wishes to sell the place to Mr. Bulstrode. It is revealed that Mr. Rigg is Featherstone's illegitimate child, who was brought up far away from Middlemarch, with very little money. Someone named John Raffles is there, his mother's new husband; he wants money to start a tobacco shop from Mr. Rigg's new-found fortune. Rigg refuses, because Raffles, he alleges, was very cruel to him as a child, took money from his mother, and left them poor and miserable. He says that he will continue to send his mother an allowance, but will give Mr. Raffles nothing. Rigg gives him money to get back home, and some liquor, but not before Mr. Raffles makes use of an important paper, signed by Mr. Bulstrode, to keep his flask from falling apart.


It seems that Mr. Rigg has inherited more from Mr. Featherstone than just a name and some property; he has inherited Mr. Featherstone's coldness, whether deserved or not by the person on whom he bestows it. Mr. Rigg, like Featherstone, is the kind of person whom flattery cannot sway, nor belated kindness persuade; neither have much regard for their relatives if they are of no good account, but at least Rigg is less mean with his money when it comes to supporting his mother. However, Rigg's constitution also differs from Featherstone's; he is more quiet, less liable to taunt or try to impress people with his money, though it is newly come to him. Rigg is a man of greater stoicism and stiffness, and seems less likely to give people trouble if they deserve none.

Chapter 42:


Lydgate is at least back from his honeymoon with Rosamond, and is immediately called to Casaubon, whose health seems to be getting worse. He is also haunted by the idea that he has never been given credit for his studies, and that the Key to All Mythologies will never be finished; he is starting to admit that he has failed in his life-long project. Casaubon is disappointed also with Dorothea; she does all her duties as a wife, but he suspects that she is critical of him secretly, and this disturbs him a great deal.

Casaubon's vitriol against Will, and against Dorothea's suspected affection for Will, takes him over; he concedes to write a passage into his will "protecting" Dorothea from marrying eager, potentially deceptive suitors like Will. Lydgate finally arrives, and Casaubon asks that he be told exactly what his condition is. Lydgate tells him that he has a heart ailment, but cannot be sure that it will cut his life short, or have any immediate effect. Lydgate goes once Casaubon has heard enough, and Dorothea comes out to fetch him; he withdraws from her, and soon she becomes angry at him for treating her so. Dorothea realizes that she has reduced herself in order to try and please him, but he seems to be satisfied with nothing; she is tired of not being herself, and resents him greatly. However, when he says that he needs her help, she forgets her anger, and goes to join him.


The theme of gender roles and accepted notions of gender comes back to haunt Casaubon; he has been led to believe that women are supposed to be self-sacrificing, supportive, emotionally giving, etc., and no different from the flat, narrow stereotype of the typical wife. Ironically, he believes that Dorothea is a woman, but does not believe that this makes her a person; the idea that she might have opinions about him, a mind of her own, or the ability to make her own decisions disturbs him, as if she should lack these basic human qualities because she is a woman.

The Key to All Mythologies becomes a symbol of Casaubon's failure as a scholar, and as a human being; his life's work has finally come to an unpublishable heap of meaningless papers, and his obsessive devotion to these papers has cost him any real relationships he might have had. Casaubon's life among moldy books has gained him nothing, in the end; he has gained no recognition, because he cannot seem to distill his learning into anything of practical use. He is too involved in his directionless studies that he leaves no time to get to know his wife, or form any friendships with neighbors, or with family like Will. He is socially insecure and more than a bit jealous of people, like Will, who are able to operate in society in the ways he cannot; this is another hindrance to him, in finding and making acquaintances.

Casaubon's tone, as he speaks of "protecting" his wife and of the potential influence Will would have on her, becomes bitter, informed by suspicion, and prone to justify invention with a gloss of rational-sounding diction. His thoughts are structured like a lawyer's argument, the diction stiff and sometimes precise, though the sentiments contained within, and the presumptions of character, are mostly the stuff of Casaubon's paranoia. However, the fact that Casaubon is putting a formal hindrance in Dorothea and Will's way foreshadows that they will finally become a couple; such a mean-spirited, vain attempt on Casaubon's part must be proved as wrong as the spirit in which it was written.

Eliot's personification of death adds drama and immediacy to Casaubon's situation; it also foreshadows that something is to happen to Casaubon soon, and that his illness shall not be drawn out by any means. The subdued, solemn images and surroundings are also conducive, and sympathetic, to some dramatic event. Dorothea being described as being possibly a "heaven-sent angel" is also further hint about Casaubon's fast approaching fate; the metaphor is correct in characterizing her as a kind of loving, sympathetic creature, but not even Casaubon is his state will accept her affection.

This chapter sees Dorothea finally come close to revolt; she has shaken off her naivete about the marriage, and settled into anger, rather than pity or self-consciousness. If Casaubon has been displeased with her so far, he in unlikely to find any satisfaction; she knows that she has been trying hard to suppress herself, in order to please him, and can no longer do this. However, she sinks into her old ways once again, when he comes to get her, and asks for her help. Dorothea is so affection-starved that she will continue to distort herself in order to please, but in light of her realization, this tendency might not be long-lived.

Chapter 43:


Dorothea decides to seek out Lydgate, and ask him if there has been a serious change in her husband's condition, or else why he has been so troubled since Lydgate's visit. She goes to his house, and finds Rosamond there; but Will is also there, which makes Dorothea panic, and she immediately leaves to find Lydgate at his hospital. Will fears that Dorothea will think badly of him because she has found him in the company of another woman, and not totally devoted to her; but she acted the way she did because she likes him, and knows that her husband doesn't approve of the friendship, and that it is some kind of betrayal as well.

Rosamond begins to get ideas about perhaps attracting other admirers, in order to appease her vanity, and allay her fears about Lydgate's fondness for her growing weaker. It seems like she might try to win Mr. Ladislaw's affections, and seems a little jealous that he likes Dorothea rather than her. She also seems to suspect that maybe her husband has a soft spot for Dorothea, and that might have been part of the reason she was searching for Lydgate.


Eliot juxtaposes Rosamond and Dorothea in appearance in order to show a corresponding difference in their character. Whereas Rosamond dresses in a showy, fashionable way that plays to her vanity, Dorothea is attired in a way that suggests her piety, modesty, and humility, which are especially plain to see in contrast with Rosamond. Eliot's allusions to Imogen and Cato's daughter convey the almost theatrical dignity with which Rosamond composes herself; she is all for show, and acts the part, even at home.

Will feels that being seen at Rosamond might convey to Dorothea that he doesn't think exclusively of her; he fears it has made a bad impression on her, and that Casaubon has poisoned her against him. He feels that his dilemma lies in having to make acquaintances in Middlemarch in order to get ahead professionally and socially, versus devoting himself completely to his admiration for Dorothea. Will compares his situation to "the situation in which Diana had descended too unexpectedly upon her worshipper". The allusion to Diana confirms Will's high regard for Dorothea and her virtue, and the parallels between Will's conception of the situation and this example highlight his wishes to please her, and to convey his love to her.

Dorothea is torn by the theme of loyalty vs. desire; she wants to be in Will's presence, but on the other hand, this will be directly against her husband's wishes. Dorothea is not sure at all what she should do in this situation; she knows now of her husband's fallibility, and something of his prejudice toward Will as well. If she were to be herself, as she wishes, she would merely go to see Will, and think nothing more of it; but Dorothea is too faithful a creature to be dishonest, and must continue to struggle with her feelings, as Will is with his.

Chapter 44:


Dorothea finally talks to Lydgate, and Lydgate tells her that Casaubon now knows about his condition, and he is probably upset by it. Lydgate turns her attention to the new hospital; Bulstrode has been one of the few supporting it, and so many are against the hospital because they do not like Bulstrode. Dorothea says that she would like to do something for such a good cause, and pledges money from her yearly allowance; she is happier that she is able to make a significant contribution, but still her husband's illness and behavior bother her.


The theme of politics becomes prevalent once again; it seems that political maneuvering is more important than the health of the community, a stance that is both ironic and counterproductive. Political ties seem to trump almost any other kind of consideration in Middlemarch, including friendships and social duty. The amount of strong dislike for Bulstrode is not a good omen; it foreshadows his downfall if he attempts to overstep his bounds, as people are already poised to attack as things are.

Dorothea is down to her last avenue for joy, which is social improvement; it seems that she has given up any hopes for happiness in her marriage, or any idea that she might be able to please her husband as well. Since her husband's talk with Lydgate, Dorothea has settled back into her usual dejected tone, and pious understatements of her unhappiness. It is unexpected that Dorothea would be back to her old self after having her epiphany about Casaubon's behavior, the state of their marriage, and her uselessness in the union.

She is resilient in a way that is not necessarily healthy for her; she is getting more knowledgeable about her situation, but needs to snap out of her almost masochistic attraction to misery, and make some changes in her life. At this point, it is clear that Dorothea is not a prisoner, that she does have some power over her situation; however, she perversely refuses to use it, and makes herself into a kind of martyr, which suits the more perversely pious aspects of her personality.