Literature Study GuidesMiddlemarchBook 4 Chapters 40 42 Summary

Middlemarch | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Book 4, Chapters 40–42: Three Love Problems

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Book 4, Chapters 40–42: Three Love Problems from George Eliot's novel Middlemarch.

Middlemarch | Book 4, Chapters 40–42 : Three Love Problems | Summary



Chapter 40

Caleb Garth is asked to take over the management of Mr. Brooke's and Sir James's estates, and the Garth family is overjoyed. This new work will bring significant income, and Mary will not have to leave home to teach school. Mr. Farebrother calls on the Garths to tell them that Fred is going back to university and is miserable about not being able to pay the money he owes. Mr. Garth asks the vicar to pass on the news of his change of fortune. The Garths also tell him about Featherstone's desire to burn the second will but ask him not to mention it to Fred. After Farebrother takes his leave of the family, he thinks about his own romantic feelings for Mary but consoles himself with the idea that he is too poor to marry. Caleb tells his wife he could hire Fred and teach him the work of land management. She thinks such a suggestion would not be well received by the Vincys. They both agree he should wait to propose this idea to Fred.

Chapter 41

Joshua Rigg Featherstone, now living at Stone Court, is visited by his alcoholic stepfather, John Raffles. Raffles wants money, supposedly for Rigg's mother. Rigg reminds Raffles of how he abused him as a child and tells him that he should never set foot on his property again. He will not give his mother any money beyond her monthly allowance, since it will only be stolen by her immoral husband. Riggs gives Raffles a sovereign and puts brandy in his flask to get rid of him. To steady his flask in its leather holder, Raffles uses a piece of paper that happens to be a letter addressed to Rigg from Mr. Bulstrode. The reader finds out later that Raffles and Bulstrode have a connection that will bring Raffles back to Middlemarch.

Chapter 42

Brooding upon the idea that he may not be able to complete his life's work, Casaubon calls for a conference with Lydgate. He also broods on the relationship between Dorothea and Ladislaw; if he were to die, Ladislaw would likely convince Dorothea to marry him. Thus, he determines he must do something to prevent such a marriage from taking place. When Lydgate arrives Casaubon asks for an honest assessment of his condition, and the doctor repeats what he has already told Dorothea—that he might live several more years. After the doctor leaves Dorothea surmises what the conversation was about and attempts to comfort her husband, but he turns away from her pity in his egotistical pride. Dorothea gets angrier than she has ever been, but when her husband speaks kindly to her at the end of the day, she is thankful that she "narrowly escaped hurting a lamed creature. She put her hand into her husband's and they went along the broad corridor together."


The Garths' good fortune allows the senior Garths to feel more generous toward Fred. Mary sends no word back to Fred but feels badly about his loss of money even though she could not have acted differently on the night Featherstone died. The Garths ask Mr. Farebrother not to tell Fred about his uncle's intention to burn the second will because the pain of knowing he was meant to have money will be greater than the pain of thinking Featherstone cut him off as an heir. Farebrother shows himself to be a generous man because he takes Fred's messages to the Garths, even though he has his suspicions that there is more between Mary and Fred than a childhood friendship. He believes he could not marry Mary anyway, since he already has three women depending on him and his meager salary.

A shady character is introduced into the story in the person of Mr. Raffles, a manipulating and cynical drunk who is Rigg's stepfather. The narrator hints that he has some connection to Bulstrode as well as Riggs but doesn't reveal what it is.

Dorothea and Casaubon continue to struggle for peace in their married life. The narrator makes it clear that equally weighing on Casuabon's mind—along with finishing the Key to All Mythologies—is his wife's growing intimacy with Ladislaw. He is obsessed with their friendship and imagines Ladislaw thwarting him even after he (Casaubon) is dead and buried. When Lydgate delivers the news that Casaubon may have very little time left, his prickly pride allows him no comfort from his wife, whom he believes judges him harshly and puts up with him as a type of condescension. Dorothea is hurt by his rebuff, but she has some sense of his inner turmoil. Thus, she forgives him easily when he relents a little at the end of the day and takes her hand in an effort to connect.

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