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Middlemarch | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Middlemarch | Discussion Questions 41 - 50


In Middlemarch how does Lydgate show strength of character after he is disgraced?

Lydgate is ruined in Middlemarch because of his relationship with Bulstrode—and that ruination began when he first agreed to work with him on the fever hospital. Lydgate does nothing wrong in the context of the death of Raffles. He finds out much later that the landlady was questioned and that she gave the patient alcohol and too much opium. But rather than throw the weight of blame on Bulstrode so that he himself can escape suspicion, he says nothing about the fact that his orders had been overridden. None of the doctors could find fault with the treatment given to Raffles—since to give a patient with advanced alcoholism liquor and opium was the treatment of the day—so that works in Bulstrode's favor. Lydgate determines to "not turn away from this crushed fellow-mortal whose aid he had used, and make a pitiful effort to get acquittal for himself by howling against another."

In Middlemarch why does Rosamund tell Ladislaw she has feelings for him?

Now that Rosamund's marriage romance has turned into a marital nightmare, she feels bored and empty. Lydgate's aristocratic relatives have turned their backs on her and Lydgate since she asked for money. She feels let down by her husband and is constantly fighting with him as she tries to assert her dominance to get back what she lost. As a beautiful woman, she enjoys the fantasy that she will always hold a preeminent position in every man's heart. If she were to establish in Will Ladislaw's heart an overt desire for her by confessing her own feelings, it would create a drama in her life that would distract her from her boredom and distress.

How is reform is used as a motif in the novel Middlemarch?

Reform is used as a motif that runs through the novel, beginning with the story of Saint Theresa, whose fame rests in "the reform of a religious order," and ending with a Finale that says "[a] new Theresa will hardly have the opportunity of reforming a conventual life." In between the Prelude and the Finale is a story set against the backdrop of political events leading up to the Reform Bill of 1832, which expanded rights to more members of the middle class. Some of the characters such as Ladislaw and Mr. Brooke, are involved in politicking for reform, and Ladislaw goes into Parliament according to the Finale. Further, Lydgate wants to carry out medical reform, although he was not able to, and Dorothea wishes to reform the world at large, making it a kinder and more loving place. The motif of reform symbolizes people's desire to lead heroic lives—to go on a quests, to make names for themselves, and to bring back gifts to humanity.

In the novel Middlemarch why does Lydgate consider himself to be a failure?

Lydgate considers himself a failure because he had meant to live an epic life. Instead, he got bogged down in the petty details of a middle-class existence that killed his genius and inspiration. He became a successful doctor to the rich and left his family well provided for with a heavy insurance policy when he died at the age of 50. In the Finale the narrator tells the reader that the Lydgates did not have a happy marriage, and when Rosamund married again—to an old, rich doctor—she felt it was her "reward" for enduring a difficult first marriage to Lydgate.

In Middlemarch why is Sir James outraged by Dorothea's engagement to Ladislaw?

Sir James is outraged because he has developed a hatred of Ladislaw over time, thinking that Casaubon had some reason to suspect him. He is a member of the upper class, and he considers Ladislaw's checkered parentage to be unsuitable for his upper-class sister-in-law. Further, Ladislaw has no money. Perhaps most of all, Sir James has idealized Dorothea, whom he says at one point should be a queen, and he would like her to remain single. Perhaps he also is jealous of Ladislaw because he is young and handsome, not old and ugly, and he succeeded with Dorothea where Sir James had failed.

In Middlemarch how does Celia demonstrate her love for her sister Dorothea?

Celia visits Dorothea and attempts to dissuade her from marrying Ladislaw but soon gives it up when she realizes Dorothea has made up her mind. When Sir James cuts Dorothea and Ladislaw off, she goes along with it only until Dorothea has a baby and then insists that the family heal the breach. Because of the love between the sisters, the two men who dislike each other learn to get along. Celia's love for her sister is especially evident at the end of the novel when Dorothea chooses for a second time to marry a man whom everyone else opposes.

Why might the novel Middlemarch be characterized as a tragedy?

Middlemarch is a tragedy because the two protagonists who wish to live heroic lives fail in their aspirations. In the case of Dorothea, she wishes to reach a state of great wisdom and do something important for humanity. Lydgate also wishes to help humanity by spearheading a great medical reform and making an important scientific discovery. Dorothea instead makes a bad first marriage and a good second marriage but is unable to extend her reach beyond the family circle. Lydgate makes a bad marriage and ends up having to change his career path to satisfy his wife. In the Prelude, the narrator indicates that it is no longer possible to live an epic life, perhaps because the world no longer has a coherent vision. In the Finale, the narrator concludes that those with a "finely touched spirit ... lived faithfully a hidden life," and in that way they made the world a better place for everybody. While that may be a good thing, it doesn't seem to be enough, and it remains tragic that the two protagonists are cut down to size by external circumstances, as well as by their own shortsightedness.

Why does Sir James advise Brooke to leave the entail intact on his property in Middlemarch?

Sir James is initially angry at Dorothea for marrying Ladislaw, and both Mr. Brooke and Sir James feel that Ladislaw's background and "blood" are not up to their high standards. According to English law, when property is entailed, it passes on to the eldest male relative of the next generation. In the case of two females, the land would pass to the oldest son of the oldest girl. Thus, the heir should be Dorothea's son. Sir James and Celia also have a son. Mr. Brooke has said he will cut off the entail to the Ladislaws, but after the two sisters bring the family together, Sir James advises him against it because he is not a greedy man and knows it would hurt his wife. Leaving the entail intact allows for a complete reconciliation of the two families.

In Middlemarch would the burning of the second will have made a difference to Fred?

If the second will had been burned, it would still have been in force because it was the last will written. It is likely that the second lawyer would have had a copy. Thus, Farebrother explains to Mary Garth that if she had helped Featherstone burn the will, the first will would have been contested. He gives her this information before he brings up his mission, which is to find out where Fred stands in her heart. He wants to make sure that she is not motivated by feelings of misguided guilt in any decision she makes about a possible future with Fred.

In Middlemarch why is it ironic that Fred ends up as the tenant at Stone Court?

Irony occurs when events do not match expectation. Fred gets the tenancy of Stone Court through his Aunt Bulstrode. The fact that Mr. Bulstrode bought the place from Joshua Rigg Featherstone is also ironic, since Peter Featherstone hated Bulstrode. He expected his son to stay on his land, but he sold it quickly at the first opportunity. Further, even if Featherstone had gotten his wish so that the second will was enforced, the property still would not have passed to Fred. The fact that Fred is able to live at Stone Court and eventually buy all the stock and furniture is ironic because he expected to inherit the property for so long and then was disappointed when the will was read. Nonetheless, he wound up at Stone Court through the intervention of Caleb Garth and Mrs. Bulstrode.

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