Literature Study GuidesMiddlemarchBook 7 Chapters 69 71 Summary

Middlemarch | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Middlemarch | Book 7, Chapters 69–71 : Two Temptations | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 69

Mr. Garth visits Bulstrode at the bank for two reasons. First, he tells him that he has found a sick stranger on the road named Raffles, whom he has taken to Stone Court. Second, he gives up the job at Stone Court. When Bulstrode questions him, he admits that his decision is based on what Raffles has told him. He also reassures Bulstrode that he will never repeat any of it. Upon arriving at Stone Court, he immediately calls in Lydgate, who determines that Raffles's condition is serious but not fatal. He puts the patient on bedrest and forbids alcohol, according to a new method of treatment for alcohol poisoning.

Chapter 70

Bulstrode follows Lydgate's instructions, even when the patient calls for liquor, all the while thinking that Providence might ordain that he die. He is sorry that he hasn't loaned Lydgate the money, now thinking he does not want the doctor as an enemy and would even like "to create in him a sense of personal obligation." By midday the patient is worse. Lydgate prescribes moderate doses of opium to be carefully administered and then stopped, stressing that alcohol and opium can kill the patient. Before Lydgate leaves Bulstrode tells him he's had a change of heart and writes a check for 1,000 pounds. Lydgate is very grateful.

Bulstrode keeps watch over Raffles and begins administering the opium. When he gets too tired to stay up, he calls the housekeeper, repeating Lydgate's instructions about the opium dosing, although he forgets to tell Mrs. Abel that the dosing stops. When she knocks on his door to ask if she can give the patient brandy, Bulstrode hesitates and then gives her the key to the wine cooler. He also doesn't tell her to stop the opium dosing. When Lydgate comes back in the morning, the patient dies. This surprises him, and he wants to ask if his orders were followed but doesn't know how to put the question without insulting Bulstrode.

Chapter 71

Several people begin to congregate in the yard of the Green Dragon to hear Bambridge's story about Bulstrode's checkered past and Ladislaw's parentage, as told to him by Raffles. The undertaker adds that Raffles has recently died at Stone Court, attended by Dr. Lydgate. The story leaps across the gossip grapevine. Lawyer Hawley determines that no action can be taken legally, neither in the case of how Bulstrode came by his fortune nor in the particulars of Raffles's death. The next piece of gossip that circulates is about Lydgate's loan. Hawley puts the facts of Lydgate's treatment of Raffles before Toller and Wrench, but they can find nothing wrong, since Mrs. Abel went ahead and administered what was customary—alcohol and opium. Nonetheless, the circumstances of the case put Lydgate in a bad light.

After one case of cholera surfaces in the town, a town hall meeting is called to determine whether another piece of ground outside of town needs to be secured for a burial in the event of more cases. When Bulstrode gets up to speak, Hawley asks for his resignation from all public positions unless he can clear his name. Bulstrode protests and accuses his accusers of being unchristian men. Bulstrode's minister steps into the argument and asks him to leave the room. Bulstrode begins to totter, and Lydgate kindly leads him out of the room and takes him home, further linking himself with the fallen banker. Later, when Dorothea hears the story from her uncle who was at the meeting, she argues for finding out the truth and clearing Lydgate's name.

Analysis

Bulstrode goes to Stone Court to do his Christian duty toward the man who has become his nemesis. He both hopes to do what is morally right, even as he hopes to contain Raffles. He also hopes that Raffles will conveniently die so that he may be saved from disgrace. The acceptable treatment for alcoholism or delirium tremens, which are the withdrawal symptoms that people in advanced stages of alcoholism experience, is dosing the patient with alcohol and opium. But Lydgate is following a different treatment protocol he has read about and found to be effective—withholding alcohol and narcotics and giving the patient very small doses of opium as necessary. Lydgate has followed this treatment in the past with favorable results. This is the basis for his instruction to Bulstrode. At that point Bulstrode is not planning to hasten Raffles's demise. He fears what he might say in his fitful state, and he also has a presentiment that it would be to his advantage if Lydgate felt positively inclined toward him, which is why he gives him the money. When Mrs. Abel asks Bulstrode about giving the patient brandy, he clearly disobeys Lydgate's orders and deliberately withholds information about the opium for the purposes of hastening the patient's death. It is fair to say that Bulstrode committed an act of passive murder. Certainly he can justify to himself that what he allowed Mrs. Abel to do was standard treatment for an alcoholic, but he has enough faith in Lydgate's skill to know that if anyone can save the patient, Lydgate can.

In Chapter 71 the author portrays how gossip in a small town spreads like a cancer and how people revel in the misfortune of others. The gossip will effectively ruin both Bulstrode and Lydgate, although Lydgate has done nothing wrong. No matter. Lydgate feels the force of people's condemnation, as they accuse him of taking money as a bribe and somehow tampering with the treatment of Raffles. His act of kindness toward Bulstrode only puts him further under suspicion as their names become inextricably linked. Poor Lydgate, who thought he could stand head and shoulders above the crowd, had become the victim of a collective character assassination. There is beauty in community, as the author shows in this novel, but there is also ugliness, as the mob mentality works to tear people apart and cut them down to size.

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