Luckily, after losing at the Green Dragon, Lydgate feels no more desire to gamble. But, he is still in danger of losing his furniture because of his debt, and decides that he must apply to Bulstrode for money. Lydgate delays; and soon, Bulstrode has called on him to see to some health concerns of his. Bulstrode is feeling unwell probably because of the Raffles situation; but he also wants to speak of Lydgate about withdrawing his support from the hospital and moving away. Mrs. Casaubon, he says, would take his place as major supporter, though it would be best to merge the old Infirmary with the new hospital. Lydgate objects, because he knows that the people who run the Infirmary dislike him. Then, he takes the plunge, and tells Bulstrode that he needs a thousand pounds to discharge his debts and keep himself going; Bulstrode says that it would be better to declare bankruptcy, which Lydgate resents. Lydgate is still left with no way out, and his debt to the town tradespeople is very nearly due.
Lydgate is finally getting over his one major stumbling blockhis pridein order to do something about his debt. But pride, as the predominant theme of Lydgate's story and character, will not be so easy to overcome; how will Lydgate feel afterward if he has gotten the money? The debt has become a symbol of correction, for its sole purpose seems to be to rid Lydgate of his excessive pride, and get him to be more practical and straightforward. But, the irony is that Lydgate must apply to the one man he does not want to be any more beholden to; people wrongly consider Lydgate and Bulstrode closely allied, though they are not too much related. Another irony is that Bulstrode was one of the major causes that Lydgate's practice was much diminished; but, Lydgate chose to work with Bulstrode on the new hospital, so he certainly doesn't count as a victim in this case.
Lydgate does dismiss his pride, to the extent that he admits his situation to Bulstrode; however, it is still weighing him down, as he refuses stubbornly to allow the new hospital and the infirmary to merge, and also to declare bankruptcy, when that is what he should do. If Lydgate could focus on doing the right things to help his situation, maybe he could get through it and be fine. But then, there is the issue of Rosamond, who has also been like deadweight to him; he wants to make her happy, but when the only way to do so is to surround her with expensive things, he will surely fail.
Raffles comes again to Bulstrode's, and Bulstrode must let him stay at the house for fear that he might go into the town and tell people about Bulstrode's story. Bulstrode tries his best to conceal who the man is and what he is doing there from his wife, but he still causes alarm throughout the household; his wife may not know exactly who Raffles is, but surely she has some idea that he is a friend from Bulstrode's less honest past. Bulstrode tells Raffles that he may get money from Bulstrode as long as he does not come back to Middlemarch; he takes Raffles to a nearby town, gives him money, and tells him to leave. He knows this might not be a permanent solution, but it is the best that Bulstrode can come up with at this given time.
Bulstrode tries to dispose of all his businesses and such, including the bank; he also gives Caleb Garth the management of Stone Court in his absence. Caleb, in turn, sees that it could be a good opportunity for Fred to learn more about the business, and gain his own experience; Mrs. Garth is a bit wary, but Caleb is decided. Fred is also allowed to live at Stone Court while he manages it, and hopefully will be able to afford to wed Mary sometime soon.
It seems that there is a growing paradox inherent in Bulstrode's situation; the more he is secretive and underhanded about his past, the worse he will look when the whole truth comes out. Mrs. Bulstrode, though she does not know the whole truth, already knows enough from her husband's behavior to have some idea of what he is up to. Also, his attempts to cover things up and move away will probably look even more suspicious than if he had stayed. Either way, the harm to his marriage will be irreparable; and his feeble attempts to save himself cannot really stop what is coming.
Will Bulstrode be able to avoid the workings of fate? It seems that no character in the novel can escape without learning some lesson; even those who are mildly flawed, like Lydgate, find themselves in very trying situations. It is doubtful, considering the great trials that a good person like Dorothea has had to undergo, that Bulstrode, with sins greater than almost anyone else's in the novel, could escape unscathed. Once again, fate is a major theme in the novel, and correction of flaws seems to be another related one; many of the characters in this novel have been placed in situations where it is certain that their faults will be tried, and hopefully, ironed out.
The only positive that seems to be inherent in Bulstrode's situation is that it will give Fred a chance to prove himself, with the management of Stone Court. Either Fred is going to fail miserably, or succeed admirably; and his performance with the Stone Court assignment will probably determine whether he ends up with Mary or not. Hopefully, Fred has heeded Farebrother's lesson well, and has succeeded in reforming himself into a more industrious, responsible person. It seems that Fred has done well so far, and perhaps marriage to Mary will be enough incentive to keep him going.
Mr. Garth comes to Bulstrode, to tell him that he found Raffles, very ill, near Stone Court; Raffles asks for a doctor, but also told Mr. Garth some things about Bulstrode. On account of these things, Caleb Garth says that he can no longer manage any of Bulstrode's property, and must give up the appointment to manage Stone Court as well. However, Caleb says, he will not spread around anything that he heard. Bulstrode then believes that all has happened with the aid of providence, and that Raffles might die, and leave him in peace.
Lydgate sees Raffles, and determines that though the case is grave, yet Raffles will probably survive. He decides that it must be a case of an alcohol-caused disease, and that Raffles must be an odd charity case for Bulstrode. There seems to be no escape from ruin for Lydgate; the furniture is about to be taken for his debts, and his relationship with Rosamond is in shreds because of it. Lydgate cannot stand Rosamond's repeated crying, and blaming him for her unhappiness. Now, he wishes he had married a woman of a like mind and spirit, so that their union might have survived this setback; instead, he is chained to Rosamond, when the union can no longer make either of them happy.
It seems that Bulstrode's downfall has already begun, though Caleb Garth is certainly too honorable to act as a catalyst. The juxtaposition of Caleb Garth and Bulstrode only serves to make Bulstrode look blacker, more manipulative; Caleb Garth looks all the more honorable in comparison. That Bulstrode tries to tell Caleb Garth that what Raffles might have said is untrue, and not to believe him over a neighbor, speaks even more poorly of Bulstrode's character. But, it is lucky for Caleb Garth that he refuses to get entangled with someone whose personal effects are so much in doubt.
That Raffles would dare come back to Middlemarch, and also spread the truth about Bulstrode, means that he is after more than just money. This event marks, and foreshadows, the end for Bulstrode. By this time, Raffles has become a symbol of disgrace and doom for him, rather than a person; thoughts about Raffles coming and his statements bringing Bulstrode down haunt him constantly. Raffles personifies all of Bulstrode's fears at this moment, and is sure to cause disgrace at any time. Caleb Garth becomes also a symbol, of providence; Bulstrode believes that Raffles was meant to run into Mr. Garth, and tell his story only to the one person who would not repeat it. Caleb will certainly do nothing to hasten Bulstrode's fall, but Raffles is still not neutralized as a potent threat.
Bulstrode's thoughts that he still might be saved, and Raffles' illness and his meeting with Caleb Garth arranged so that he might suffer no longer. This view is sure to prove an irony, the last hopeful wish of a fallen man. Also ironic is Lydgate's view that Bulstrode's friend Raffles is someone to whom he has chosen to show charity and kindness, to the neglect of "deserving" people like Lydgate. Bulstrode is not generous enough to show interest where there is no benefit to him; Lydgate assumes too kindly of Bulstrode, but also tries to blame his own troubles on him.
Lydgate finally repents of marrying Rosamond, as it is certain that there marriage will never be a happy one, unless he manages somehow to get rich. He finally sees that a man should marry someone whom he has things in common with, who he gets along with well and who is good company and conversation always. But, there is of course irony in this, as it is too late for Lydgate's wisdom to be of any use. His tone, when he speaks to Rosamond, becomes bitter and resentful; hers does the same. Everything around them seems unpleasant, as the thought of living without money upsets Rosamond more than anything, and Rosamond's blame and materialism in turn upsets Lydgate.
Bulstrode is with Raffles, tending to him according to Lydgate's orders, though wishing at the same time that Raffles would just die and leave him in peace. Bulstrode still thinks that fate is on his side, that Raffles will die and he will be free; he is not sorry for anything he has done, but is more intent on getting away with everything. Bulstrode decides that maybe another "good" deed will save him; he decides to give Lydgate the money he needs, thinking that this action will clear his conscience, and in case Raffles says something unpalatable, Lydgate will be obligated not to repeat it.
Raffles dies only a few days after coming to Bulstrode; Lydgate is there when he dies, and does not think to say that perhaps neglect led somehow to the man's death. Lydgate knows he is obligated to Bulstrode, and he is uneasy about this fact, because of Bulstrode's visitor and his demise. However, there is nothing else that he can do, since to renounce Bulstrode's help would mean ruin. Farebrother senses that Lydgate is still in a desperate condition, though his money woes are over. Lydgate admits as much, though he is now in a better position to continue his career and marriage.
The revelation that Bulstrode is not at all penitent just about says that he will not escape from punishment for what he has done. Bulstrode has tempted fate, through his pride, arrogance, and unwillingness to admit to himself or anyone else that wrong has been done. He has not learned any lessons yet, but he will have to before his story is done. Even now his conscience is getting heavy, which is a sign that perhaps redemption is possible. But, that he buys Lydgate's future silence with the thousand-pound loan means that Bulstrode still refuses to reform, even under threat of ruin. He still only acts with a show of benevolence when it is in his best interests, which shows that he has not really changed at all.
Bulstrode's behavior upon Raffles' death also shows a great want for change. He never thinks to himself that his days of dishonesty are done, or that he will reform now that he has been spared. Indeed, Bulstrode will have to keep up the charade with his family, in trying to move them elsewhere, and in explaining falsely who the dead man is, and why he was there. Bulstrode seems determined as ever to profit from his good fortune, at the expense of others' misfortune; but surely, fate has surprises in store for him yet.
The main question that comes out of this chapter, is whether Lydgate will manage to recover from his debt using the loan from Bulstrode, or whether Rosamond will continue to drive them into debt once more. Hopefully, Lydgate has had all the warning he needs about lacking money, and the desperation that comes with it. However, entangling himself with Bulstrode in such a compromising way can hardly come to good, and may damage Lydgate's practice and reputation even further.
It seems that Bulstrode has not effectively thwarted ruin; for Bambridge has heard how Bulstrode gained his fortune, and is ready to tell the lot of men at the Green Dragon. The story begins at this point to spread around Middlemarch, with mention of Will Ladislaw's family and how they were robbed by him too. When Bambridge mentions that the man's name was Raffles, someone present remembers that the funeral of Raffles was only the other day, that he died at Stone Court while Bulstrode was there. This looks very bad for Bulstrode; Caleb Garth confesses that he ceased all business with Bulstrode last week, which is taken as another proof of Bulstrode's wrong behavior. Also, gossip about Lydgate suddenly being able to pay his debt, but without aid from Rosamond's family, becomes public knowledge. When it is found out that he was attending on Raffles while he died, and that the money came from Bulstrode, it appears that Lydgate took a bribe so that he wouldn't tell of any foul play that happened.
All of Middlemarch is buzzing with the gossip, and people wonder whether Bulstrode can be legally stripped of his money for gaining it through illegal and immoral means. People guess that Lydgate poisoned Raffles, with the money as a bribe; all kinds of things are flying around, and have been spread all through Middlemarch before Lydgate and Bulstrode are even aware of it. Bulstrode is accused at a medical meeting, and again tries to defend himself through his services to the town. But Middlemarch opinion is against him, and believes Lydgate to be an accomplice. However, Dorothea would not see Lydgate slandered if such things proved untrue, and is determined to get the truth about the whole thing.
Once again, the workings of Middlemarch are laid bare, and shown in greater detail and clearness than in previous chapters. Eliot shows how a few words from one person can set an inquisition going against a member of the society; again, rumors and stories are credited as fact, and there are things that are true and untrue in the reports against Bulstrode. People's conjecture is also credited with having the force of truth, as people figure that Bulstrode must have bribed Lydgate, and then start to believe this as fervently as if it were proven fact. Without the aid of a judge and jury, Middlemarch has already condemned Bulstrode and Lydgate; and even if they can come up with some kind of defense, it seems that their names will be blackened forever in that region.
Lydgate's pride, at this point, has almost been too harshly punished; he is certainly innocent of wrongdoing, and can be excused for not making the same inquiry of Bulstrode on such a difficult case. But will Lydgate be condemned, along with Bulstrode? The outcome is still somewhat unclear, and though it is possible that Lydgate may indeed be exonerated by Dorothea's kind help, it is likely that his practice will be reduced to nothing, and he will continue to struggle for a living.
Dorothea is set on proving Lydgate innocent, though this may prove difficult. Farebrother would certainly like to help, but he knows from the alteration and desperation in Lydgate's character of late, that is it completely likely that Lydgate did take the bribe, to save himself. Farebrother does not blame Lydgate, but at the same time knows how good people may be tempted, and fail. Sir James is definitely against Dorothea having anything to do with this issue; but Dorothea is still determined to do a good turn for Lydgate, especially after he helped her so much when her husband died. Dorothea is not the sort of person to allow a friend to be wronged, unless he is really guilty of what he is accused of.
Here, gender relations are at work, as Dorothea struggles to get support for her plan. Gender roles are the main consideration in the men's refusal to let Dorothea go to Lydgate's aid; as a woman, she is necessarily too weak minded and unwise to be entrusted with such a great undertaking, which might have undesirable consequences. It is unfair that Dorothea's noble plan is dismissed outright, because of her gender and the misconceptions of women that help to sabotage her. This is one of the defining themes, and trials of Dorothea's life; to be herself, and do what she wishes, despite the limitations and ideas that belie her intelligence and strength as a woman. Celia may have a more conventional view, that women must submit to men unless they know that the men are wrong, but it is necessary for Dorothea to find her own ways, or risk losing herself as she did when she was married to Casaubon.
Lydgate is now faced with the heavy task of exonerating himself, for he stands accused among everyone in Middlemarch. He wants to be able to stand up and say that he did not take a bribe from Bulstrode, and had no complicity in Raffles' death. However, his conscience troubles him, since he wonders if he would have acted differently in the situation had Bulstrode not given him the money. Lydgate determines not to run from the town's opinion, but to bear it with all possible strength; nothing he can do can clear his name now that public opinion is set against him, so he will have to weather it as best he can.
Lydgate shows that he is no longer a stranger to the workings of Middlemarch politics and society; but it is ironic and unjust that he be outcast for someone else's wrongs, and his wishes to do his duties. This situation might provide the final push to Lydgate, in his desire to be gone from the place; if his reputation is truly destroyed in the neighborhood, then his practice will become nonexistent.
Bulstrode's check has become a symbol of uneasiness for him; but he cannot decide whether it represents some failings on the part of his conscience and scruples, or the unfortunate entanglement of money in this situation. But, Lydgate's pride has not been checked by having to ask for aid from Bulstrode; indeed, it comes back in a rush to him. Lydgate's pride could still be his undoing, since it is his pride, more than any other consideration, which informs his decision. If Lydgate's pride steers him wrong once more, he and Rosamond may very well have to leave Middlemarch for good.
Now that Bulstrode and Lydgate have already been judged and condemned, it is the time for the wives of Middlemarch to assess and judge how Mrs. Bulstrode and Rosamond might be to blame as well. Mrs. Bulstrode is acquitted of her husband's wrongdoing, because she is a good person, and all wrongs were done before they were even married. Rosamond is also pardoned for the most part, because she is also one of the Vincys, and has married an "interloper," as the townswomen say.
It takes Mrs. Bulstrode a while to find out what has happened with regard to her husband; she knows that he came home ill from the meeting, and seems much disturbed, but Lydgate will certainly not tell her why. Only through visiting her friends does she find out what has happened; her brother tells her everything, and she goes home, troubled at the knowledge. But though a light has been shed on her husband's character, she finds that there is no way for her to forsake him. She determines to try and live with him, and eventually to forgive him, though it will certainly be a long and painful time.
Without a trial or a judge, Bulstrode and Lydgate were found guilty, and shunned; now, the women of Middlemarch are convened to see if their wives deserve equal punishment. This is one of the quirks of small-town life, but it also reveals some of the less admirable tendencies of human nature; to judge others without mercy, be unwilling to forgive because of one's envy or other less honorable feelings, and to gossip viciously about others. At the same time, one person in a small town can inflict many wrongs, and do a great deal of damage; their measure is a mixture of necessary concern, and of vicious judgment too.
Although Harriet Bulstrode really deserves none of the disgrace that she must be going through, the women are right in assuming that Rosamond needs a lesson. Lydgate has been too soft to correct her in matters of spending, materialism, and vanity; she desperately needs to be brought low, and reform her character. Vanity has been Rosamond's stumbling block for too long, and it has been too important a theme in her story and her actions; it is time she was through with it, and start to be more pleasant about having very little.
Mrs. Bulstrode proves all the positive appraisals about her character true; she resolves to be faithful to her husband and not desert him, but at the same time, is deeply grieved by what has happened. Mrs. Bulstrode is a very good, sensible woman, much more so than Rosamond could ever hope to be; she certainly does not deserve the lot she is in, nor did her husband deserve a wife like her. However, Mrs. Bulstrode shows her honor by choosing to keep to the vows she made at marriage; she is a much stronger woman than most, and deserves to be commended in how she handled this difficult situation.
It seems that Rosamond refuses to learn any lessons from her situation; to appease her vanity, she starts to think of Will Ladislaw, and imagines that he must love her instead of Dorothea, because she is so beautiful and charming. She continues to blame her husband for her unhappiness, not her rabid materialism; everything is someone else's fault, and she is still a creature who is perfectly innocent of blame. She gets a letter from Will, saying that he will be paying a visit sometime soon; Rosamond is cheered up by this, and decides to send out invitations for a dinner party. Of course, all invitations are denied, and Rosamond is still ignorant as to the reason why; she goes to visit her parents, and they tell her the terrible news. When she goes home, she tells her husband that she has heard about everything; she then reiterates that they must go to London, to lessen her suffering. He cannot stand to hear this, and storms out, without taking the time to correct her or explain anything.
It is a shame that Rosamond prefers to blame her husband for every fault she finds in marriage. To be more honest, Rosamond is just not suited to the necessities of marriage; even when she had all the material things she needed, still things were not to her liking. Rosamond lacks the ability to compromise with Lydgate on anything; either she gets her way and things are great, or she is denied, and she thinks him a terrible, hateful man. She thinks that it is his duty to make her happy, and always to be cheerful and pleasant himself; she gives no thought to how she might ease his worry, or make things better for him. She is unable to communicate, except to make demands, manipulate him into something, or to say something proper and charming to someone else; she is completely empty-headed, which means she can only serve as an ornament, and can do nothing that a real wife or woman could.
Rosamond's vanity has become like an addiction, almost like a drug; if her husband cannot satisfy her enough, or some charming young man, like Will or Captain Lydgate, cannot fill her needs, she will delude herself to the point where she believes that she is sated. Rosamond is a girl desperate for affection, attention, and approval; but what she really needs is correction, discipline, and impetus to change herself dramatically. What an irony, that the very quality that attracted Lydgate to Rosamond, and kept her bound to him during the courtship, is now proving to be their undoing.
With all that Lydgate and Rosamond have been through, it would have been hoped that they break through their communication barriers, and come to some understanding. Only Lydgate knows enough to know how to do this; but already, he regards his wife as a lost cause, and prefers that he suffer through her ignorance than take the easier step of talking to her about what is happening.
Lydgate and Rosamond's marriage seems oddly similar to the union of Casaubon and Dorothea. Lydgate's role is parallel to Dorothea's; both of them had the task of trying to soothe their spouse and make their spouse happy, though no amount of Herculean effort on their part ever seemed to suffice. Casaubon and Rosamond are parallel as spouses because they believe that it is their spouse's only job to please them. Both have very unreasonable expectations about what their spouse should do, and sacrifice, in order to satisfy their desires, which are sometimes very petty. Both of them believe in restrictive ideas of roles that each partner should play in marriage; but although they excuse themselves from their own marital duties, they believe that their partner should do twice as much in return.
Dorothea wrote a letter to Lydgate, bidding him to come and visit her. Against Mr. Brooke and Sir James' advice, she has decided to try and clear Lydgate, if she can, and also to continue and support the hospital as well. Lydgate begins to tell her the whole truththey are good friends, and often feel that they can confide in each other. He tells her everything about the situation with Bulstrode, the money, and his continuing reservations about having taken it. Dorothea and Lydgate also speak of his troubles in his marriage; Dorothea senses that there is much difficulty communicating in their union, and decides to see Rosamond, and try to reassure her about her husband's worth, if she can. Dorothea would like Lydgate to stay until the negative opinion of him in the town diminishes; she would also like to see the hospital continue, under his able leadership. Lydgate determines to leave, since he has little faith that he would be able to do good at the hospital. But, Dorothea is determined to have him stay and give him aid; she decides to give him a thousand pounds to work at the hospital, and to see Rosamond the next day.
Dorothea has truly matured and changed since her marriage to Casaubon a few years ago; her wish to help others has finally become a reality to her, as she now has the means, and the will, to accomplish whatever she wishes. She is more knowledgeable about how the world works, even about how Middlemarch works; it seems likely that if Lydgate stays and tends to the hospital, that he will be able to thrive sometime in the near future, as she says. Dorothea has a much bigger heart, and a much more epic sense of charity, than do so many other people in Middlemarch; that is why Sir James fears so much for her, because he thinks that she could be taken advantage of by the wrong person. Perhaps she could be, but Dorothea has sense enough to keep to people whom she has an intellectual and emotional connection witha bond that is not easily come by in a place like Middlemarch.
Dorothea and Lydgate are alike in more ways than just in their actions as spouses; they both have a sense that they could make big differences in the world, if they only have drive and care enough. Lydgate and Dorothea want to make things better for people in their community, and Lydgate, through medical discovery, wants to help scientific progress improve lives in a much larger arena. Their lives should be spent in trying to help as many people as they can, as they believe that they both have the capacity to bring great changes and health and happiness to a great number of people.
Rosamond has written a letter to Will, trying to make his visit come more quickly; she is still very unhappy with everything, and Lydgate has tried to avoid her, lest he upset her in some way. Dorothea has been thinking about Will a lot lately, as well; she still cannot help but think that he might be in love with her, though she also defends his honor fervently. Sir James and Mr. Brooke have tried to get her to see that Will is lowly, and the fact that his grandparents were Jewish pawnbrokers, though they were wealthy, means that his character is base. Dorothea, of course, will hear nothing of this; although she is not sure what Will's feelings toward her are, she is resolved to think the best of him.
However, when Dorothea gets to Rosamond's, she enters to find Rosamond crying, and Will clasping her hands. This scene upsets Dorothea, and seems to be proof that Will loves Rosamond, and not her. She rushes out, intent on attending to other errands, but still very upset and bothered by what has happened.
Dorothea is finally becoming herself, in the absence of any oppressive male presence, like Casaubon or Mr. Brooke. She is finally determined to live life on her own terms, and has forsaken all of society's rules about gender and women's limitations, two themes in the novel with which Dorothea struggled for some time. She no longer cares what people think of her unconventionality, or her wish never to be remarried; she knows that she has the ability to manage her own affairs, money, and property, though everyone else might think she needs a husband to do all of that for her.
Dorothea's kind character is shown to best effect in her care for Lydgate and Rosamond in their current situation. She looks past their flaws, to their good points when she appraises them; she gives both of them the benefit of the doubt in every possible way, and looks only to their misfortune. Perhaps she is overly kind and judicious in the way she regards them and resolves to help them. But at least she lacks the nasty, backstabbing tendencies and desire to believe the worst about people that so many other citizens of Middlemarch have.
Dorothea's strong, instinctive reaction upon seeing Will and Rosamond together is another confirmation of her very strong feelings for Will. If she merely regarded him as a friend, which she pretends to do, she would not feel the same shock and jealousy that came immediately to her when she saw them together. She would also not be filled as much with outraged energy that she could rush out and feel that she could do nearly anything. Hopefully, Will is able to sort out Dorothea's mistake, and correct her incorrect conclusions; but it seems that her good opinion of him is damaged, at least for the present.