Literature Study GuidesMiddlemarchBook 8 Chapters 76 79 Summary

Middlemarch | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Middlemarch | Book 8, Chapters 76–79 : Sunset and Sunrise | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 76

Dorothea asks Lydgate to Lowick to discuss the management of the fever hospital now that Bulstrode is leaving town. He tells her he can no longer manage the hospital either, since he must also leave. She then broaches the subject of recent gossip, saying "You have never done anything vile. You would not do anything dishonorable." He is moved by her avowal and tells her what happened. She promises to spread the truth among the people she knows without further compromising Bulstrode. He also shares a bit of his marital trouble and gladly gives her permission to speak to his wife. As Lydgate rides away he thinks that Dorothea has "what I never saw in any woman before—a fountain of friendship towards men," and he wonders again whether she has any sexual feelings toward Ladislaw. On her side, Dorothea writes a check to Lydgate for 1,000 pounds so that he can repay Bulstrode and determines to bring it with her when she calls on Rosamund.

Chapter 77

Dorothea has now heard about Ladislaw's connection to Bulstrode's first wife and the ugly things being said about his heritage, but it has no effect on her feelings. She talks to Farebrother about Lydgate, and he is joyful to hear his friend is blameless. When Dorothea pays her call to Rosamund, the housemaid inadvertently opens the drawing room door on a tableau of Rosamund and Will, in which she is teary-eyed and he is clasping her hands and speaking to her "in a low-toned fervor." Dorothea is arrested by the scene, drops off her letter to Lydgate, and quickly withdraws. She drives on to Freshitt and the Grange to spread Lydgate's side of the story about Bulstrode and Raffles.

Chapter 78

Will is appalled by Dorothea's sudden arrival and departure, knowing how the scene between himself and Rosamund was misconstrued. Rosamund is gratified by what happened and thinks she can soothe Ladislaw. Instead, he turns on her savagely. When she tells him to go after Dorothea, he says, "Do you think she would turn to look at me, or value any word I ever uttered to her again as more than a dirty feather? Do you suppose she would like me any better for sacrificing you?" Rosamund "was almost losing the sense of her identity" under the torrent of Will's words. When Lydgate gets home he finds his wife ill in bed and assumes that her emotional state has something to do with Dorothea's visit.

Chapter 79

Ladislaw has no choice but to call on Lydgate in the evening without telling him he'd been at his house earlier in the day. Rosamund remains ill in her room, and Lydgate catches Ladislaw up on the gossip, including what touches on him. Ladislaw says nothing of Bulstrode's offer of money, and Lydgate mentions how Dorothea was the only person to come forward for him. He tells Will he plans to settle in London. Will feels inexpressibly sad for Lydgate, knowing that he is facing down dwindling hopes of his life and ambition.

Analysis

When Lydgate tells Dorothea he is leaving, she seizes the opportunity to tell him she thinks well of him, and he is entirely grateful to finally hear some kind words from a woman. Her softness opens his heart, and he feels relieved to tell her his side of the story when she asks him. Lydgate's interactions with Dorothea are a corrective and an epiphany. For the first time he consciously admits that there is another way to be a woman that he has both ignored and discounted, and he sees the benefit of interacting with a serious-minded person of the opposite gender. He admires Dorothea's compassion and generosity and acknowledges that it is something rare, but he wonders if she can also feel something else for a man—which leads him to thoughts of his friend Ladislaw. Lydgate knows that Ladislaw has strong feelings for Dorothea, but he is not sure if they are reciprocated.

As she has faith in Lydgate's goodness, Dorothea continues to believe in Will, despite the nasty gossip that is swirling around his name. The assurance of his goodness as well as his unrequited love for her has given her strength. No wonder she is bowled over when she witnesses the scene between him and Rosamund. Gossip about Will and Rosamund was brought to her attention before Ladislaw left town, and here seems to be proof that he is having an illicit relationship with the doctor's wife. Dorothea feels scalded, as if all her good feeling has been trampled on, and she also feels jealousy. And, of course, she feels betrayed. Nonetheless, after leaving Lydgate's house she continues to work to clear the doctor's name.

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