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Middlemarch | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Middlemarch | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


In Middlemarch why does Mr. Hawley say Lydgate is allowed to collect money for his consultations?

On behalf of Dr. Sprague, Mr. Hawley has looked into the matter of whether Lydgate can ask for money for consultations. Historically, surgeons and apothecaries did not give certain types of advice to patients. However, as these two specialties combined over time into the family practitioner, the men were doing more and more of the work of the so-called physician, in addition, to prescribing and dispensing drugs. Surgeons and apothecaries were allowed to charge only for medicine, and surgeons were allowed to treat only external conditions (such as broken bones), not internal conditions. Eventually, the matter of whether general practitioners could charge for consultation was brought to the courts, and the surgeon-apothecaries won this right. Therefore, Lydgate is not breaking the law.

In Middlemarch how does Will Ladislaw defy social conventions?

Will Ladislaw does not respect class boundaries. He does not identify himself with the upper classes, even though he is related by blood to Casaubon and is being educated as a gentleman. He decides to help Mr. Brooke run for office on the Reform platform, which is opposed by his cousin, as well as others with a similar class interest. He is criticized for being an outsider, the son of a foreigner, and, later, the grandson of a pawnbroker. None of this bothers him; he is only concerned with maintaining the good opinion of Dorothea. He also exhibits eccentric and charming behaviors: he lies on the rug when he visits at his friends' homes; he befriends a band of children who go around with him; and he shepherds Miss Noble around town as she hands out sweets to the poor.

In Middlemarch how are Lydgate's and Dorothea's marital difficulties similar?

Both Lydgate and Dorothea enter blindly into marriage and project onto their intended spouses their own wishes and desires. Dorothea tells her sister that Casaubon looks like John Locke; she tells Casaubon that she would like to read for him, as Milton's daughters did. Locke and Milton were brilliant writers and thinkers, but Casaubon is a mediocre scholar. Lydgate is blinded by Rosamund's beauty, thinking that she "is what a woman ought to be: she ought to produce the effect of exquisite music." He never thinks before marriage what might be lurking beneath her veneer of ladylike accomplishment. Both Lydgate and Dorothea become angry at their spouses after marriage but ultimately acquiesce to their demands and sacrifice their own happinesses. Dorothea sacrifices her life to the Key to All Mythologies for as long as Casaubon is alive, while Lydgate becomes a well-to-do doctor by taking on rich patients, putting aside his aspirations to be a medical reformer.

In Middlemarch does Dorothea agree with the religious views of Rev. Farebrother?

Dorothea is more austere in her interpretation of Christianity than Rev. Farebrother is, but they share an emphasis on the message of Christian forgiveness. Farebrother's natural disposition and understanding of human nature make him nonjudgmental. Dorothea has been tempered in the fire of her difficult marriage, and her natural empathy has been enlarged so that she is not likely to take well to Rev. Tyke's view of Apostolicism, or religious zeal. In discussing Farebrother's candidacy for Lowick parish, Lydgate says Mr. Tyke's doctrine "is a sort of pinching hard to make people uncomfortably aware of him." Dorothea says, "It is surely better to pardon too much, than to condemn too much."

Which two examples from Middlemarch best illustrate how Farebrother shows himself to be a noble friend?

Farebrother proves himself to be a noble friend to both Lydgate and Fred Vincy. He defends Lydgate to the other medical men, and when he finds out Lydgate is in financial distress, he tries to broach the subject and offer help although he is rebuffed. Farebrother acts as the intermediary while Fred is courting Mary, even though he himself is in love with her. He does a second good turn for Fred by getting him out of the billiard parlor and threatening him that if he doesn't put Mary's interests ahead of his own frivolity, he might find himself out in the cold. He could have waited for Fred to stumble and fall so he could take his place, but he acts as a friend instead.

In Middlemarch what role does money play in forming Farebrother's character?

Farebrother earns a very small salary as a pastor at St. Botolph's, on which he supports himself, his mother, his maiden sister, and his aunt. His hobby as a naturalist requires money for books. To make up the shortfall, he plays whist for money. When Dorothea gives him the additional parish of Lowick, with a much better salary, he can better afford to provide for his family, and he has a hope of marrying. His lack of money has forced him to do something he considers to be beneath his dignity as a clergyman—gambling. His own difficulties have made him more sensitive to those of others, and he understands how a lack of money can make a man do desperate things, which he explains to Dorothea when she tells him that Lydgate's character should speak for itself.

How does the author use Mrs. Cadwallader as comic relief in Middlemarch?

Mrs. Cadwallader is portrayed as a likable busybody who has an opinion about everything. She is not afraid to say what other people are thinking, and she has a great deal of wit. The author uses her to lighten the mood in a mostly serious novel. For example, after chapters about the death of Casaubon and the troubles brought to Mr. Bulstrode by Raffles, Chapter 54 opens with a scene in which Mrs. Cadwallader and Celia are trying to convince Dorothea that she ought to stay in Freshitt Hall. Mrs. Cadwallader says: "You will certainly go mad in that house alone ... We have all got to exert ourselves a little to keep sane ... To be sure, for younger sons and women who have no money, it is a sort of provision to go mad: they are taken care of then. But you must not run into that. ... Sitting alone in that library ... you may fancy yourself ruling the weather; you must get a few people round you who wouldn't believe you if you told them." This kind of witty observation brings a smile or even a guffaw to the reader to elevate the mood.

In Middlemarch how does Mr. Garth exemplify the ideal relationship between a person and his work?

Mr. Garth is an exemplar of someone who successfully pursues a vocation. Garth is poor because he is generous to a fault (for example, he easily loans Fred money) and doesn't ask people to pay enough for the work he does. However, he is rich in satisfaction in his chosen field, which he calls "business." Garth is an early version of a civil engineer: he assesses property and surveys it, and he manages land and farms. Mr. Garth loves and respects his work and knows the value of it—all of which give him the satisfaction that goes hand-in-hand with vocation. He is in demand because the quality of his work is high, and eventually he gets enough clients to improve his financial standing.

In Middlemarch how does love save Fred Vincy?

Fred Vincy is in danger of becoming either a hypocritical clergyman or a immoral loafer. He has been spoiled his whole life and for years thought he would get a large inheritance. His love for Mary makes him want to be a better man. When she tells him she will not marry him unless he makes something of himself—which does not include going into the Church—he determines to find some honest work. Her father, Caleb Garth, gives Fred the chance to learn his business, and in this way, Fred follows Garth into land management and raises a family with Mary. Caleb Garth's offer and Mary's love save him from the fate of becoming a useless person.

In Middlemarch how do Fred's interactions with Mrs. Garth help him become less egotistical?

When Mrs. Garth tells Fred she has to give Mr. Garth the 92 pounds she has been saving for her son's apprenticeship to cover his debt, Fred feels for the first time how his irresponsible actions hurt the people he claims to love. Not surprising, Mrs. Garth is disappointed when Mary chooses Fred over Farebrother because she doesn't believe he has the power to reform. She lets him know that Farebrother is in love with Mary because "[i]t was a little too provoking ... that this blooming youngster should flourish on the disappointments of sadder and wiser people ... and never [know] it." Thus, through her criticisms, Mrs. Garth helps Fred move away from his own center of self to become worthy of the Garth family.

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