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Middlemarch

George Eliot

Book VII: Chapters 63-67

Book VI: Chapters 58-62

Book VII: Chapters 68-71

Summary

Farebrother catches Lydgate alone after dinner at the Vincys. He thanks Lydgate for freeing him of his gambling habit by convincing Dorothea to give him the Lowick parish. He says that he is chastened to realize how much a man's good behavior depends on not being in want of money. Lydgate coldly replies that all money seems to come by chance, especially money earned in a profession. Lydgate's fatalistic attitude surprises Farebrother. He intuits that Lydgate is having trouble, so he hints that a man should depend on his friends. Lydgate continues to behave coldly. His distrust wounds Farebrother.

Lydgate is so deeply in debt that he needs at least one thousand pounds. He tells Rosamond that he wishes to move to a smaller, cheaper house. Ned Plymdale and his new wife are looking for a suitable home. They are wealthy, and Lydgate thinks they will take the house as well as most of the furniture. Lydgate plans to employ Trumbell to negotiate the deal with Plymdale. Rosamond pleads that Lydgate write Sir Godwin and ask for money. Lydgate refuses.

Rosamond secretly pays a visit to Trumbell and revokes Lydgate's order. She needles the information out of Lydgate that a thousand pounds is necessary to remain in their present home. She secretly writes Sir Godwin asking for that sum. Lydgate tells her that he plans to instruct Trumbell to advertise their home in the papers, and Rosamond confesses that she revoked his order. Lydgate is furious. He begins thinking about traveling to see his uncle, Sir Godwin, to ask for money.

A letter from Sir Godwin arrives, but it is addressed to Lydgate. When he reads it, Lydgate pales with anger and castigates his wife for her habit of acting secretly. Sir Godwin writes to order Lydgate never again to set his wife to write him when he has something to ask. He has no money to spare, because the rest of the family is continually draining him. Lydgate rails at his wife, but she responds with stubborn silence. Finally, she tells him that he has made her life unpleasant and that marriage has brought hardships upon her. She cries and Lydgate tenderly consoles her.

Lydgate goes to the Green Dragon to speak with Mr. Bambridge about trading his good horse for a cheaper hack. Bambridge is not there, however, so Lydgate plays billiards to pass the time. The spectators begin placing bets. Before long, Lydgate is betting on his own play and winning. Meanwhile, Fred Vincy arrives. Lydgate's frenzied betting startles him. He considers placing some bets, but Lydgate's strange behavior kills the impulse. Lydgate has begun to lose, but he doesn't stop betting.

Fred receives the message that Farebrother is waiting to speak with him downstairs. Hoping to save Lydgate from further loss, Fred asks him to act as a shield because Farebrother is sure to castigate him. Lydgate agrees. After some small talk, Lydgate departs, and Farebrother hints that he will court Mary himself if Fred falls into his former extravagant ways. Fred promises to stay away from the Green Dragon.

Lydgate's financial troubles reach fever pitch. He learns that Rosamond has twice asked her father for money and been refused. She presses him to leave Middlemarch and practice elsewhere. Bulstrode requests his medical services. Lydgate perceives that Bulstrode has suffered a good deal of stress. He advises Bulstrode to relax, and Bulstrode states that he may withdraw his support from the New Hospital and leave Middlemarch. Bulstrode suggests that Lydgate approach Dorothea and ask her to increase her contribution accordingly. Lydgate swallows his pride and asks for a loan. Bulstrode refuses and tells Lydgate that he should declare bankruptcy.

Commentary

Lydgate's bitter response to Farebrother's offer of help directly names a major theme in Middlemarch. Many of the triumphs and misfortunes of the characters in the novel arise because of combination of their determined action and the vicissitudes of chance. Those characters who do not respect the power of random fluctuations of chance to affect their lives suffer for their hubris. They believe that their success and failure depend solely in their self-determined actions. Lydgate believes he can control all the variables in his life, that his conscientious professional merit will win him success in Middlemarch. Bulstrode trusts in his ability to control all the variables of his life by using his money to influence people and events.

However, chance plays a significant role. It is impossible to control everything. Bulstrode cannot control the fact that Featherstone's illegitimate son would be Raffles' stepson. He cannot control the chance event that results in Raffles finding a letter he wrote to Rigg Featherstone. Various minor factors affect major life events in the lives of Rosamond, Lydgate, and Bulstrode. If Fred Vincy had never gotten typhoid fever, Lydgate and Rosamond would never have spent such long periods of time in close proximity. It is difficult to predict what would have happened, but Fred's illness clearly served as a catalyst for their relationship.

Rosamond might have reacted differently had she never suffered her miscarriage. A child might have soothed her restlessness and softened her father's resistance to giving them a loan. By chance, however, she had an accident and lost her child. She doesn't even admit to herself the depth of her depression in response to that event. As Eliot writes, "There was another presence which ever since the early days of her marriage, until four months ago, had been an agreeable excitement, but that was gone: Rosamond would not confess to herself how much that consequent blank had to do with her utter ennui." Oddly enough, her husband is a doctor, but he doesn't detect the signs of her depression. The ignored, unacknowledged pain of the accident-induced miscarriage leaves her emotionally incapable of dealing with Lydgate's sudden revelation of their indebtedness.

"The convergence of human lots" occurs largely by random, uncontrollable events. Lydgate's fall into the temptation of gambling represents the other extreme embodied in Fred Vincy. Unlike Lydgate and Bulstrode, Fred is content to leave his entire future up to chance. His dependence on Featherstone's inheritance leads him into reckless gambling which results in his debt. His expectations are disappointed when, by chance, Featherstone asks Mary Garth to help him burn one of his wills. Mary will not compromise herself, and Fred loses his fortune as a result.

The novel points out the obviously flawed reasoning that leads people to believe the course of their lives can be controlled completely through self-determined action. Bulstrode and Lydgate suffer for their hubris on that count. However, that does not mean that sitting back and letting chance decide everything is any better. Fred illustrates the problems in that approach. His gambling debt is a metaphor for that extreme. Lydgate's despair leads him to interpret all money and all success as chance-gotten. He is deceiving himself again, however; both he and Rosamond made determined decisions that contributed to their indebtedness.

Between the two extremes lies Farebrother. He doesn't leave the course of his life entirely to chance, but neither does he attempt to determine every event in it. Bulstrode thinks he can stack the deck dealt to him, while Lydgate disdains that the notion that the deck even exists. Fred prefers to be a consummate gambler with his life by refusing to take any direct course of action about his life, such as settling on a profession. Farebrother makes educated gambles. His skill as a whist player is well-known, and he generally comes out ahead most of the time. He acknowledges that his lot is the result of a combination of his own determined decisions and the whims of chance.

As a woman, Rosamond cannot obtain a loan officially, so she tries to get one through informal channels. However, the men she asks decline to deal in financial matters with a woman. Although her secret attempts to get a loan may appear selfish and underhanded, Lydgate's stubborn refusal to ask his friends for help is not exactly responsible either. He waits until the last minute to ask Bulstrode, after the debt has grown to a thousand pounds. Rosamond is unable to help, because men do not believe women should be involved in money matters, even though her own support depends on it. Lydgate stubbornly refuses to take her suggestions. They never reach a compromise, so the conflict and resentment escalate on both sides.

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A Blog post on Middlemarch

by DanMitchell23, June 07, 2013

This blog post focuses on the relationships and marriages in Middlemarch...

http://inbetweenthelines1.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/book-review-middlemarch/

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