Middlemarch Summary and Analysis of Chapters 45-55

Chapter 45:


Lydgate's practice seems to be at the mercy of rumor, hearsay, and general sentiment; people go to him because they have heard about "miracle cures" that he has done, or stay away because they have heard he is newfangled, and they like their present practitioner just fine. The backward Middlemarch way of doing and deciding has helped Lydgate's reputation and practice to spread, but opinion could turn against him just as rapidly, and dry up his practice. Lydgate is unlucky enough to come into Middlemarch at a time when old ways are becoming contested in other regions, and reforms have started to creep into Middlemarch as well; a few believe that maybe his way is best, but others have been roused to defend the old, and are more militant about this point than usual. Lydgate is also disliked because he has taken on cases from other doctors, given a different diagnosis, and been able to cure them; this wounds the vanity of the old-guard doctors, and increases their personal dislike for Lydgate.

Mr. Bulstrode is on the side of progress, with Lydgate; this means that many prominent, wealthy citizens, who dislike both Bulstrode and innovation, refuse to donate to the new hospital. Lydgate is becoming too closely tied to the widely disliked Bulstrode that his reputation is beginning to suffer; Farebrother tells him so, and hopefully Lydgate will distance himself some. Farebrother also warns Lydgate against having too many debts.

Lydgate thinks that he might be among the great innovators of medicine, and this necessitates making enemies, and having opinion turn against you; in this, he is a little conceited, since there is no way he can claim an advance as great as those of his hero, Vesalius. It is fine for Lydgate to try and change the outdated medical practice around him; but his egotism and his visions of greatness could easily hamper his progress, and get him into even more trouble with his peers and patients.


Tradition seems to be the strongest force in all of Middlemarch; and it is tradition that is a major hindrance to Lydgate's attempt to innovate and streamline medical practice. It is a paradox that tradition isn't heeded because it is tried and true, or even the best way to do things; tradition is important because people are used to it, even if it is backwards and better things have since come along. Either Lydgate will have to give in to the usual way that surgeons practice in Middlemarch, or struggle very hard to get people to accept him; either way, the pull of tradition will be a theme in the novel with which he shall have to contend.

Prejudice is also another theme that Lydgate will have to fight; people are distrustful of him because he is new in the area and trying to make advancements, and this colors their ideas of his character, and of his medical practice as well. People who have not met Lydgate decide their opinion of him as a person by the tone of voice in which he is discussed; if people they know are expressing disdain, they assume that Lydgate must be an arrogant fellow, and hold that as their truth. It seems that there isn't any way for Lydgate to win; even when he does succeed with patients, like Fred Vincy, he gets no credit for his advice, and is even more cursed for his medical opinions.

However, social change is beginning to touch Middlemarch with regard to medical practice, and stubbornness will not be able to win out over the onslaught of progress. Luck has aided Lydgate in his cause, helping him impress people with the idea that the new way is the right way; it is clear that the Middlemarch ways of practicing medicine are counterproductive and less than useful, so it will take an enormous deal of blind stubbornness to keep traditional methods at work.

Lydgate is disliked by every other doctor because he is an upstart threat to him, and their opinions about him can damage his reputation; Lydgate does not deserve such ill-treatment, but at the same time, he is not a man who knows politics very well. It is fine to refuse to play games or manipulate people; but to stay afloat in Middlemarch, as Farebrother knows, one has to make certain concessions and try not to make too many enemies, as Bulstrode has. Granted, that Lydgate's enemies are all petty, piddling people who insult him for their own gain, or pleasure; but Lydgate must make a living among these people, so he must tread carefully.

Unfortunately, Lydgate seems to have little concern for the debts he has been making; he has little money, and Rosamond, who has expensive taste, could get him into trouble. Both Farebrother's careful warning, and Lydgate's refusal to really heed it, foreshadow the trouble Lydgate will be in when his debts catch up with him; he needs to keep it in his mind to be careful with money and how much he borrows, or else he will find himself in great trouble.

Lydgate seems to be an upstanding fellow in every sense but one; his idea that he might be a great man of medicine, like Vesalius or the like. Lydgate is a good doctor, but has shown no signs of being a brilliant one; and this opinion, if it is wrong, will continue to damage his reputation in Middlemarch. Maybe Lydgate will be able to make some difference in medicine, but as long as he continues to pretend that he is a genius to be extolled, he will be unable to set aside his ego and make any real medical progress.

Chapter 46:


An issue of reform is coming before Parliament, which Will supports, and Brooke decides to as well. Will seems to have a good deal of insight into British national politics, as he can make sense of issues and candidates, and make a convincing case for his opinion. Mr. Brooke, however, doesn't seem to be able to put his thoughts in a convincing argument; he is rather flippant in setting out his opinion, and is easily swayed by Ladislaw's better-formed opinions. Will is not winning any fans because of his unconventional behavior and views, as most people dislike his speeches and his writing because they are different.

Will wants Mr. Brooke to be elected to Parliament; however, with the uncomplimentary way in which Mr. Brooke is regarded in much of the neighborhood, this is unlikely. Will is perhaps a bit idealistic in believing that Mr. Brooke could actually win; he might assume that the citizens of Middlemarch are more sensible than they really are, in which case his plans would fail. Lydgate makes some points about area politics that perhaps he should take into account regarding his own situation; the two argue for a bit about these political issues, then Ladislaw leaves after they have tried to patch things up.


Although Will has a settled position in Middlemarch, he is still the same wandering, dilettante- like figure he has always been. He is at the newspaper for want of anything else to do, and actually finds it rather interesting; his interest in Dorothea, of course, also helps to keep him there. Mr. Brooke and Will are a sort of interesting juxtaposition; Mr. Brooke is absent-minded, rather eccentric, and very inarticulate, while Will has a more intelligent mind, is able to set things down intelligibly, and is less unexplainably odd. Will has good reasons for everything he does and says, unlike Mr. Brooke; he is unlikely to hold a prejudice even if it is completely incorrect, like Mr. Brooke's ongoing, and very foolish, prejudice against women.

The themes of social position and conformity struggle to defeat Will; many dislike him because they cannot fit him into any particular class, and also because he is of a lower rank than they, yet is politically vocal. Will is also disliked because he is a gypsy-like figure, defying classification, and also defying Middlemarch's desire that everyone conform to a certain mold. His situation is parallel to Lydgate's because they are both being told by Middlemarch to be traditional and regular, and are being scorned for refusing; however, it is Will's personality and personal views which are the object of spite in his case, whereas with Lydgate, it is a question of professional practice.

It is brought to Will's attention that his relation with Mr. Brooke, like Lydgate's with Mr. Bulstrode, might be harming his reputation; Mr. Brooke, though he is kind, is seen publicly as a scatterbrain and a fool, which is somewhat true. Will is seen as Mr. Brooke's pawn, a view which belies his intelligence, and dishonors his position at the paper. Both Will and Lydgate will need to sort out their alliances, if they want to correct the incorrect assumptions that their alliances have been spreading about them.

Chapter 47:


Will, who cares little what people think, stops to consider how his employment with Mr. Brooke, and his involvement with Mr. Brooke's politics, might be hindering him and making him look foolish. Even more important is whether he really is a fool for following along with Brooke; Will does think that the relation has cost him some of his dignity and individuality. All the same, he wants to stay in Middlemarch, at that position, in order to be near Dorothea; but he considers whether he is a fool with her too, and his hopeless devotion will amount to nothing if he gains no proof that she shares his affection.

Will has also become aware of what his cousin Casaubon thinks of him being friends with Dorothea; he knows that Casaubon might think that Will means dishonor in his interest in her, but Will really does not. Will decides to go to Lowick church to see her, aware that Casaubon will be upset. However, his doubt is only reinforced; Dorothea shows no happiness to see him, instead seeming pained; Will is saddened by the whole affair, and seems close to calling it quits on the whole affair.


For the first time, Will is saddled with the concerns of ordinary, settled, and employed citizens; although the work at the paper does suit him, he must ask whether he is compromising himself too much with his work there. The Pioneer has become a millstone to him, a symbol of the loss of his freedom and his sacrificing his real interest in art. And Dorothea is beginning to seem not worth the sacrifices that Will is making, because he can rarely see her; Middlemarch is quickly losing its charm, as Will's reasons for staying are diminishing.

Will cannot deny that he is a romantic, not a rationalist, at heart; he looks to nature to decide whether he shall go to church, and when the images he sees around him prove cheery, he determines to go. Will is no blind fool, he can see what is set before him plainly; at the same time, he is ruled mostly by his heart, especially when it comes to Dorothea. However, even Will needs signs and encouragement to go by; when he gains neither from Dorothea at the church, he cannot rationalize his being in Middlemarch merely for her sake any longer. Either Will is going to need some sign from Dorothea that she wants him to stay, or it is likely that he will leave Middlemarch sometime soon.

Chapter 48:


Dorothea is actually happy that Will showed up at church, and wishes for his company, since she is often alone at home. Dorothea is not allowing her husband's disapproval to stifle her feelings for Will, though it will be difficult for her to see him. Casaubon is, all of a sudden, requesting Dorothea's help with his studies, and being kinder to her; perhaps this is a result of his talk with Lydgate, and he wants to get his work in order finally, and be on better terms with his wife, in case he dies suddenly. However, Casaubon next asks her if she will follow his wishes for her after he dies, whenever that is; Dorothea has to consider, since she is reluctant to promise to do something, when she does not know what it is. She secretly suspects that it may have something to do with Will, but consciously considers that it has to do with finishing Casaubon's work, which she does not want to devote years to.

However, before she can make an answer, Casaubon dies. Dorothea is at first in denial, and tells Lydgate everything, and to tell her husband that she has an answer. It might be a good thing for her that she does not have to hold herself to any answer she made; but she still does not know what Casaubon's wish was.


This is the first time that Casaubon has showed real care for Dorothea's feelings since they have been married; he speaks to her in a softened tone, and actually says that he likes her company, and her help too. This sudden change might foreshadow an overall change in Casaubon and Dorothea's relationship; or, it could be a sign of his mortality, and this is his opportunity to set things right again. However, this represents a big step forward for the pair, and hopefully marks the beginning of cordial relations for them.

Ironically, Casaubon's kindness seems to be a prelude to asking her if she will obey him, even in death. His will in this area is not kind, and Dorothea knows it; she is aware that it probably has something to do with Will, and shall be unpleasant. Though Dorothea still defers to her husband, she is aware that he is a flawed being as well. The theme of faithfulness is one which Dorothea's story has been guided and shaped by; however, she has to decide whether she can bear to be faithful to a man she does not love after he has left, especially if his wishes might be marked by suspicion and ill-will. Dorothea tries not to admit to herself that his wishes might be darker than just completing his work; however, this idea is swimming around in her mind, and creating a great sense of dread in her.

The Key becomes a symbol to Dorothea as well; her other thought is that his wish will have something to do with completing his life's work. Dorothea begins to see the Key as enslavement in cryptic, unpleasant things; she wishes to learn, but she sees this task as being buried under mounds of paper, being prisoner to things that she does not understand. The Key seems to also be a symbol of her marriage; both are troublesome to Dorothea, threaten her with the loss of her freedom, and are impossible for her to gain any knowledge over.

Although Dorothea wants, in some capacity, to deny her husband, she also fears what her denial might do to him; he has her in a corner on this issue, and she feels that all she can do is accept, however little she wishes to. But, as it turns out, Casaubon's request for her promise foreshadowed his coming death; there is great irony in the fact that he died before he could receive an answer to the one question which had plagued him for some time. It might prove good to Dorothea, however, as she will not have to live knowing that she had made a promise one way or another; her conscience has been spared, and now she only has to wait and see what the request actually was.

Chapter 49:


Sir James and Mr. Brooke are supposedly discussing Casaubon's last wish; they decide that whatever was in the will should be hidden from Dorothea until she is strong enough to hear of it, and until then she should be with her sister and her new baby. Sir James wants Will sent out of the country, which means that he had something to do with Casaubon's last wish; Mr. Brooke refuses to act so hastily, since Will has done very good work for him. They reveal that Casaubon added a codicil to his will, saying that if Dorothea marries Will, she will forfeit the land and money that Casaubon has left to her. The whole thing looks very bad, as if there was something sordid going on between Will and Dorothea. Sir James and Mr. Brooke come to the conclusion that if they sent Will away, it would make the situation look worse, and that they could not make him go unless he wanted to. Sir James is bent upon protecting Dorothea now however, as he could not do with her first marriage; she will be sent to Freshitt to live with Sir James and her sister for a while, and then more will be decided later.


At this point, Sir James is embodying the theme of prejudice, which is prevalent in Middlemarch when it comes to outsiders like Will. It is not that Sir James knows Will personally, or has much grounds to dislike Will. Since Casaubon's will speaks ill of him, Will is of inferior social standing, and much public opinion is against him, Sir James assumes that Will is reprehensible, and is no good for his sister-in-law, Dorothea. This stance is ironic, given Sir James' misgivings about Casaubon; he does not consider what Dorothea, whom he cares about, might feel in the matter, nor what Will is really like.

Uncharacteristically, Mr. Brooke is more right-on about this situation than Sir James; he has far more information on which to make a decision, and knows the people concerned more personally. It seems that Sir James and Mr. Brooke are almost switching places in this one debate, still representing opposing positions. However, Mr. Brooke would be more expected to act on prejudice, and Sir James to be reasonable, according to their behavior up until this point.

Casaubon's will becomes a symbol and an embodiment of his bitterness, suspicion, and spite; it is as if he was not content on making Will and Dorothea miserable enough when he lived, that he had to leave a secret document that amounted to slander on both of their characters. This is the last impediment to Dorothea that Casaubon has left; at least she is free of him, her misery when she was around him, and her lonely imprisonment at Lowick. Hopefully, she will be able to shed the perverse, martyr-like, self-sacrificing qualities that led her to Casaubon in the first place, and be able to shed his miserable influence, and finally be happy.

Chapter 50:


Dorothea is at Freshitt, but not a week has passed before she is interested in the will, and what she will do with Lowick. She insists on going to Lowick, to look after the papers; after Mr. Brooke tells her she cannot, Celia finally tells her about the codicil, and tries to soothe her. Dorothea realizes how her life is changing, and wants to be with Will even more.

Dorothea still has the problem of what to do with Lowick, and the vacant position at the church; she thinks of giving it to Mr. Tyke, but Lydgate recommends Farebrother, and says to ask Will about his character. Dorothea decides to give him a try, and wonders how Will is faring through all of this.


In this chapter, Celia and Dorothea are juxtaposed not only through their personalities, but through their dress as well. Celia is lighthearted, dressed in white, very happy, and does not see why Dorothea should mourn a husband of such a foul temperament, who made her so unhappy. Dorothea is in black, and far too sorrowful for the situation she is in; she is her usual tragic self, touched with melancholy, a foil in character and looks to her sensible sister.

How ironic that everyone who knows of the codicil thinks that Dorothea and Will have no connection at all; they assume this because of social status and general dislike of Will, but do not consider for one moment why the codicil was written. It is painful for Dorothea to hear her sister say that she would never marry Will anyway; Dorothea knows how untrue this is, and to hear a man who just might be her soul-mate talked of so casually is a blow to her. Dorothea is finally allowed, however, to think of Will without considering her husband's dislike; she admits her longing for Will, and thinks for the first time that they could be lovers, which seems to comfort her.

Despite her husband's death, Dorothea remains very much unchanged; she is hard-pressed to flout her husband's last wish, still is interested in social improvements, and stays concerned in the matter of Will's rightful inheritance. Little about Dorothea seems to change, other than her daily company and employment; she is less cut off from people than she used to be, and no longer has to toil at academics, but otherwise her position is very much the same as always. Perhaps Dorothea's continuing regard for Will, and her wishes to be with him, foreshadow that they might get together sometime soon.

Chapter 51:


Will is upset, because Mr. Brooke is no longer inviting him to the Grange, and he feels that maybe he is being avoided out of concern for Dorothea. Still, he has heard nothing about the will yet. Will believes that he and Dorothea are divided forever; still, he cannot leave Middlemarch, because he needs to help Mr. Brooke get ready for the coming election. Mr. Brooke is running for the Independent party, and needs Will's help if he is able to have a chance.

However, Mr. Brooke's main speech goes terribly; he is mocked and egged, hung in effigy, and is disgusted so much by the whole thing that he quits the election. He also decides to quit the paper too, and urges Will to do the same. However, Will has been thinking on his future; he will become a political writer, raise himself up, if he knows that Dorothea would marry him after he achieved these things. He decides to seek some sign from her, and in the meantime, stay at the paper. He has some idea that Mr. Brooke and others are trying to get rid of him for Dorothea's sake, but will not go unless she doesn't care for him.


A bit more about English politics is revealed here; unlike in the U.S., there are any number of parties in Parliament, and more than two candidates for one position as well. Political voting is not as polarized in Middlemarch as it often is in the States; people do vote for different parties, according to which candidates they like. But, some also do vote straight-ticket, for the whatever representative of the party which they prefer.

Mr. Brooke and Will have the difficult task of convincing people to vote for reform, when the outcome of this vote is uncertain. People in Middlemarch, as elsewhere, "vote their pocketbooks," meaning that Mr. Brooke and his platform of change will be a hard sell with people like Mr. Mawmsey, who can ill-afford reform if it means less money for them. Mr. Brooke's thinking on such issues seems to be getting a little more lucid, at last; however, Will sees that Mr. Brooke can remember nothing complicated, unless it is all he has in his mind.

As in the U.S. also, politics are often dirty, decided by ridicule, rumors, etc., rather than facts and truths. Politics seems to be the opposite of science, especially in the hands of simple Middlemarch citizens; Mr. Brooke proves unable to put a positive spin on his situation, and so must drop out of the game. Will, however, knows that he has some aptitude for writing politically, though in support of a candidate like Mr. Brooke, nothing he could do would help. It seems that Will has been completely transformed by his love for Dorothea; he has settled into a job, and would even embark upon a celebrated career, if it meant winning her. Dorothea's influence has been more powerful than she can guess, and hopefully, she will be able to talk to Will, and let him know what is going on in her life.

Chapter 52:


Farebrother finds out that Dorothea has given him the living at Lowick; he is glad since this will increase his income, and give him more freedom in his living. His sister will now be allowed to marry, as they can afford a dowry, and Farebrother too can afford to have a wife. However, the only woman he wants to marry is Mary Garth; and Fred in newly back from finishing college, and wants nothing more than for Mary to love him. Farebrother, as Fred's confidant in this situation, does a very good job of being impartial, giving fair advice without the prejudice of his own heart. However, it pains Farebrother that the only woman he would like to marry is marked for someone else, who is less stable and responsible than he.

Fred thinks that he might have to go into the clergy, since he can think of no other profession to join. However, he knows that Mary is against this; so, he recruits Farebrother to go and speak to her about all of this, so that he might know what he should do. Farebrother does, and speaks to her plainly, and fairly; Mary says that it would be wrong of Fred to be in the clergy, but she would marry him if he found another stable profession. Mary says that she will remain single for Fred, and loves only him; Farebrother's hopes are finally dashed, of which Mary is sorry, though she has told the truth of her heart.


Fred and Will seemed similar in their flightiness and unwillingness to settle into a profession; now, both of them have been changed by love for the better, and are becoming good, stable workers to impress the women they love. Both of them are trying to prove themselves worthy, and have their love requited. The theme of unrequited love has run through their stories before this point, and has not cheered them any; still, they are both models of young, hopeful lovers, and have decided to try their hardest before they will surrender.

How sad, though, for Farebrother, that unrequited love must be the main theme of his part of the story; he is able to act with honor despite how pained he is that Fred and Mary are to be together, which is admirable. Farebrother's situation is parallel to those of Fred and Will, because he too is tested, and changed, by the force of unrequited love; he becomes more mature, more placid, and a better friend as well because of his pain. However, unlike with Fred or Will, he has no chance of winning the one he loves, since she loves another; but, Farebrother proves his worth and his good character through his admirable dealings with both Fred and Mary.

It is ironic that Farebrother is chosen to try and join Mary and Fred together, when he is the only other man in Middlemarch who loves Mary. Mary, proving the powers of her perception, senses Farebrother's affection for her, and his pain that she must declare her affections for Fred. Now that Mary has said she will accept Fred if he is worthy, Fred must come around; Mary's statement will probably provide enough fuel for Fred to get a profession, and foreshadows their eventual marriage, and the beginning of Fred's industrious years.

Chapter 53:


Stone Court has finally been transferred to Bulstrode, Rigg having relieved himself of the estate and grounds. Bulstrode is not pleased that Farebrother, rather than Tyke, is the new preacher at Lowick, but can do nothing about it. Rigg's fate is not at Middlemarch, and so he departs with little ceremony. Raffles comes to Stone Court, looking for Bulstrode, an old acquaintance; he found out that Bulstrode took his stepson Rigg's place at Stone court by the crumpled paper he took, and so has sought Bulstrode out there. Bulstrode is displeased to see Raffles, and doesn't want anyone to know that he is there, or the real purpose why.

It seems that Bulstrode and Raffles had some shady dealings a while back, that Bulstrode does not want discovered. Bulstrode's family connections are questionable as well, as Raffles knows; Raffles takes advantage and asks Bulstrode for money, on threat of exposing him to general knowledge. Bulstrode pays him off, and Raffles remembers that Bulstrode is related to someone named Ladislaw whom he has not seen in years‹but Raffles does not know who Will is, and also does not tell Bulstrode.


Fate has caught up with Bulstrode, as it is wont to do; and right as he is beginning to enjoy his station and his wealth too, which is the ironic way that fate likes to work. It seems that no one has the right to commit grave sins in his past, or those sins come back and take him down; this is really only fair that people like Bulstrode are destroyed by their treachery, of no one's doing but their own.

At last, Bulstrode's great pride and power-mongering are stifled by the fact that someone else has power over him. But will Bulstrode be able to keep his place in Middlemarch society, or will the facts leak out and undo him? It would only be just if Bulstrode, after his pompous behavior in society, his manipulating of people, and his attempts to control Middlemarch politics and policies, was taught a lesson about his behavior. For the moment, Bulstrode may have gained a reprieve, but this does not mean that he is yet free of the lessons fate has to teach him.

Chapter 54:


Dorothea is tired of staying at her sister's, having nothing to do but stare at Celia's baby, whom Celia worships, but Dorothea couldn't be more indifferent to. She longs to get back to Lowick and set things in order; her sister and Sir James do not believe she should go, but she is determined to, because she can stand Celia's no longer. Others also wish that Dorothea go to live with someone, so she should not be lonely, but she refuses. She also refuses to finish Casaubon's work, since her interest in it has been obliterated by his death, and before that his behavior toward her.

Will finally does visit her, to see if she does have some affection to encourage him with. Their meeting is heated, however, with both of them being frustrated by not being able to admit their affection, and then their pride clashing on the subject of their division from each other. Will leaves, with Dorothea trying to show little emotion, especially because Sir James is there, and disapproves of the whole relationship.


At many points in the novel, Celia seems like the more sensible, likeable of the two Brooke girls; however, even Celia has her flaws, and can make her sister look very deep in comparison. Upon her baby's birth, Celia tends to discount everything that is going on around her; she assumes that her sister's interest, like hers, must all be in the baby. She also takes a rather flippant view on Casaubon's death, insisting that her sister cannot feel any grief for it, because he was dull and mean, and that was it. Celia is a good foil and counterbalance to Dorothea, but she can be just as flawed and silly too, although their flaws are quite opposite, and tend not to overlap.

After Dorothea is widowed, conceptions of gender once again intrude upon her life, and try to influence her course of action. Since it was not considered fit for women to live alone, without companions or guardians, she is entreated to move in with an older, widowed woman, or secretly people wish for her to marry again. Of course, Dorothea does not believe that she would be unable to get by without a man's help, or a wiser person's guidance; but still, gender roles play into what is expected of her, and how she is told she must behave.

Dorothea has progressed in the sense that she is rejecting the life that her husband tried to force her into; she no longer has him to try vainly to please, and she begins to shake off his influence, and leave his life's work behind. Dorothea gets angry, in retrospect, at what went on in her marriage; and as she becomes more and more lonely because of Will's absence, Casaubon's memory and wishes lose their hold over her, a little at a time.

Dorothea only becomes her true self again when Will is finally back; but in their present states, nothing good can come of the meeting. Just as they need each other most, and should be speaking of their true feelings for each other, their communication becomes heated. Their separation shall be a major test of their relationship; if they can come to love each other sometime in the future, then they will surely remain together.

Chapter 55:


Dorothea seems more grieved at Will's departure than she was at her husband's death‹and rightly so, for she loved Will more than she ever loved her husband. She goes to Celia, where the company brings up the subject of marriage; it is openly suggested that Dorothea marry again, though that is the last thing Dorothea wishes. Dorothea decides to turn her attention toward public projects again, and will ask Caleb Garth's help in achieving her goals.


Once again, Dorothea is confronted with expectations of her gender; but yet again, she is able to resist, and do her own will rather than others. Dorothea realizes now that her ideas of gender roles, and of the duties of wives, did her no good in her marriage. She is not the kind of woman who can serve, and obey, and stay passive; she must follow her own will, and act freely, and make her own decisions, or else she will be as miserable as she was with Casaubon. Once Dorothea is able to act completely according to her own wishes, it is a good bet that she will be reunited with Will. Will seems to be the one passion that she has left, and she will only be truly happy if she is able to be with him.

Dorothea is finally returning to her old delights; her love for public improvements and helping others has become her chief concern, now that Will is gone. Youth is a resilient thing, that is another theme of this book; and though Dorothea has been widowed, lost her true love, and is besieged with suggestions about what a widow should and should not do, she is only twenty-one. Dorothea has already rebounded from the loss of her husband, and is not letting Will's absence weigh her down too much; Dorothea is of a much stronger, more resolute character than other women are acknowledged to be, and is proving herself to be a truly independent, different kind of woman.