Literature Study GuidesMiddlemarchBook 7 Chapters 63 65 Summary

Middlemarch | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Middlemarch | Book 7, Chapters 63–65 : Two Temptations | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 63

Mr. Farebrother learns from Mr. Toller, one of Lydgate's rivals, that Lydgate is deeply in debt. He wants to offer Lydgate his support and has the opportunity at a New Year's Day party at the Vincys. He opens the conversation by reminding Lydgate of the good turn he did for him, but this has the opposite of its intended effect, as Lydgate shrinks from the notion of a quid pro quo. Moreover, if he speaks to Farebrother it would mean mentioning specifics, which might mean he wanted something specific, and "at the moment, suicide seemed easier."

Chapter 64

Lydgate needs about 1,000 pounds to free himself "from actual embarrassment" and provide him with breathing room to start over. Secondary to his financial woes is the frustration of knowing he is preoccupying himself with petty concerns and neglecting his important work. The doctor continues to attempt to enlist his wife's help in cutting back on expenses. Lydgate has a plan to sell their lease to the recently engaged Ned Plymdale and move to a less expensive house. Rosamund suggests he ask his uncle for a loan. After this argument, Lydgate thinks, "[s]he will never love me much," which he can bear more than the fear that he will stop loving her. Rosamund then goes to Mr. Trumbull, the rental agent, and stops him from letting their house. She also secretly writes to Lydgate's Uncle Godwin. When Lydgate finds out about the house they have another argument, and Rosamund berates him for deluding her into a false vision of happiness that would result from marrying him. For his part Lydgate realizes that it will be impossible for her to make a sacrifice, and he begins thinking of visiting his uncle and perhaps asking for help.

Chapter 65

Lydgate receives a letter from his Uncle Godwin that scolds him for having his wife apply to him for help and also turns him down flat. Lydgate is mortified and tells her that if she continues to secretly defy him he will not be able to do anything. He asks her for an apology and a promise to not act secretly, but she refuses to give any ground. At one point Rosamund begins to weep, which immediately conquers Lydgate's anger. He begins to make excuses for her in his mind, "but it was inevitable that in that excusing mood he should think of her as if she were an animal of another and feebler species. Nevertheless, she had mastered him."

Analysis

These chapters present a bleak view of an unraveling marriage. Lydgate has carelessly entered into a marriage without thinking much about what it might cost to maintain himself and an ornamental wife. He did not foresee that his practice might fall off, and it didn't occur to him how financial difficulties could put an end to vocational aspirations. Perhaps most tragic is how his wife has emotionally abandoned him and will take no part in repairing their life together.

It is difficult for the reader to feel sympathy for Rosamund, who is a character devoid of a moral center or ability to empathize with another human being. Rosamund skillfully acts as if she is in love with Lydgate during the honeymoon phase. Once life actually begins and obstinacy becomes a dead end, she resorts to tears and the evocation of guilt: "It is so very hard to be disgraced here among all the people we know, and to live in such a miserable way. I wish I had died with the baby." Rosamund will insist on her comfortability, whatever that takes. If Lydgate has to move, beg for money, and put aside his every dream and aspiration to keep her in good clothes and a fancy house, then so be it. She doesn't care. She views him, not as a person, but a mere function to support her happiness.

Lydgate elicits much more sympathy from the reader, although he is hardly blameless. He chooses Rosamund according to his narrow view of what a woman is and should be. Before he marries he thinks the ideal wife will be a charming ornament reflecting her husband's glory. The reader has more sympathy for him, however, because, unlike Rosamund, he has a heart. He thinks about how their hardship is worse for her because she has no life away from home and "wished to excuse everything in her if he could," although that necessarily diminishes her value as a responsible adult.

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