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Literature Study GuidesMiddlemarchBook 8 Chapters 80 83 Summary

Middlemarch | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Book 8, Chapters 80–83: Sunset and Sunrise

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Book 8, Chapters 80–83: Sunset and Sunrise from George Eliot's novel Middlemarch.

Middlemarch | Book 8, Chapters 80–83 : Sunset and Sunrise | Summary



Chapter 80

Dorothea gives way to her grief, suffering a literal dark night of the soul. The next day she resolves to put her own sorrow and jealousy aside and follow through on her visit to Rosamund. She hopes to make a positive difference in the relationship between husband and wife.

Chapter 81

When Dorothea reaches Lydgate's house Rosamund reluctantly receives her. She feels at a distinct disadvantage, thinking Dorothea has come to show off her superior position. Dorothea's manner is exactly the opposite, and she begins by vindicating Lydgate. She stresses Lydgate's love for Rosamund and how he wishes to do whatever is necessary to make her happy. She also cautions Rosamund about loving someone other than her husband. Rosamund is overcome by Dorothea's emotion; carried away by the other woman's feeling, she tells her that she misread what she saw. "He was telling me how he loved another woman," she says, "that I might know he could never love me." She is happy to get the confession off her chest so that Ladislaw has nothing to reproach her with. Dorothea speaks again about Lydgate's love for his wife, and the two women part with a deep understanding between them.

Chapter 82

Ladislaw admits to himself that his real reason for returning to Middlemarch is to see Dorothea again. He is tempted to simply go back to London without seeing the Lydgates again, but he feels the obligation of his friendship. During his last visit to the Lydgates, Rosamund has a chance to pass him a note that says she has told Mrs. Casaubon the truth about what passed between them.

Chapter 83

Dorothea is visited by Miss Noble, who has been sent as an emissary from Ladislaw. "There was nothing that she longed for at the moment except to see Will," the narrator says. When they meet again they discuss Ladislaw's parentage, and he tells her that he refused money from Bulstrode because he was sure she would not think well of him if he did so. They confess their love for each other, and he renounces her yet again, on the grounds of his poverty. "Oh, I cannot bear it—my heart will break," she says. "I don't mind about poverty—I hate my wealth." He embraces her, and she tells him that she has some money they can live on, a fact of which he was not aware.


Dorothea suffers with her grief over losing both Will's love and her shining image of him, but in the morning she goes to Rosamund to finish the task she started. While she initially meant to speak to her about her husband's innocence, her words spill over into an interpretation of what she saw, and she warns Rosamund about her affection for another man with a fullness of heart that comes from her own experience, which she now sees in a different light. Dorothea is acknowledging for the first time to herself—and for the sake of Rosamund—that Mr. Casaubon did have cause to be jealous after all. Certainly she was not aware of the depth of her feelings for Will when she was married, but perhaps she had some measure of responsibility in the corrosion of her marriage. Rosamund is moved by the fullness of Dorothea's emotion and gets carried away by it. She does not have any true feeling for Ladislaw; he is merely another diversion. In the presence of Dorothea's overwhelming emotion and her desire to help Rosamund, she cannot help but set the record straight. She also feels comforted that Dorothea has not put herself on a pedestal, and for the first time, perhaps, she experiences some commiseration with a fellow being. The force of Rosamund's temporary "conversion" is a testament to Dorothea's spiritual power, and the author means the reader to feel it that way.

Ladislaw thinks about running away from the situation that has been created at Lydgate's house, but he does the manly thing and returns to the scene of his emotional outburst. He is not exactly sorry for it, but he feels an obligation to both Lydgate and Rosamund and hopes to make the best of their ongoing relationship. He feels for his friend as he narrates his diminished prospects, and he feels sad to also think of his own. His visit pays off when Rosamund lets him know that he has nothing to blame her for.

When Will and Dorothea are finally able to clear the air and admit openly their mutual feelings, the difficulty of money remains an obstacle. Ladislaw doesn't see how he can, in good conscience, ask Dorothea to share his penury. Certainly he has prospects for a political career, but he may suffer some real deprivation before he establishes himself. This is the basis of his renunciation. It remains for Dorothea to reassure him that she doesn't mind a little hardship, and she delivers the good news to him that she has some money on which they can get by. Unlike Rosamund, she will not expect Will to compromise his principles to keep her in fine clothes; rather, she will support him in the public work he has chosen to do.

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