Middlemarch

George Eliot
Summary

Book II: Chapters 13-16

Summary Book II: Chapters 13-16

Farebrother arrives and invites Lydgate to visit him. Lydgate observes Farebrother's skill at card games. Later, he wonders whether Farebrother cares for the money he wins at cards. His thoughts turn to Rosamond. He admires her, but he doesn't plan to marry for some years. He doesn't know that Rosamond has other ideas. She thinks he has important, aristocratic relations. She believes she will live in aristocratic style as his wife.

Commentary

Lydgate is an orphan and a newcomer to Middlemarch. The orphan is a metaphor for the changing social structure. Before industrialization, familial connections largely determined social status. Family honor largely determined the range of social possibilities for the individual, including marriage and profession. As an orphan, Lydgate is less fettered by familial concerns.

Lydgate is an early example of an important, and distinctly modern, character type: the self-made man. He represents the growing importance of modern scientific thought, further strengthening his position as herald of modernity. He comes to Middlemarch as a reformer of outdated medical practice, which further marks him as a representative of social change. Moreover, he dislikes his aristocratic relations, and he chose the medical profession against their wishes. A fierce individualism characterizes Lydgate's personality. He disdains petty social politics. For him, the hospital represents a purely professional project, not a social or political entanglement.

Bulstrode was once a newcomer to Middlemarch as well, but method of integration into the community is directly opposed to Lydgate's. Bulstrode took great pains to insert himself deeply into the web of Middlemarch society. He married Walter Vincy's sister and allied himself with an old, influential family. Moreover, Bulstrode is no stranger to the game of petty local politics. He regularly pulls the strands in the web of social relations in any direction he wants.

As an important, wealthy banker, Bulstrode possesses a powerful view into the private lives of his fellow Middlemarch citizens through their finances. Unlike Lydgate, he doesn't make a strict distinction between his professional and private interests. He loans money professionally through his bank as well as privately through his personal wealth. This allows him to place other people in the position of strong obligation to him personally and professionally. Therefore, he can manipulate other people. Bulstrode is a strict Evangelical Christian. He uses his power to impel other people to live according to his moral system as well as to support his political agenda.

Bulstrode's influence allows Lydgate to have the facilities and professional autonomy that he needs to conduct his research. By virtue of Bulstrode's power, Lydgate possesses the right to make the ultimate decision in the treatment of patients. Bulstrode intends to use Lydgate's professional and personal obligation to him in order to control Lydgate's vote in the clerical dispute. Lydgate does not realize that the new opportunities for social mobility carry disadvantages as well as advantages. He achieves one form of personal independence as a self-made man, but he must deal with matters of professional obligation. His fierce individualism alienates other Middlemarch medical men. Because he is not careful to familiarize himself with the web of Middlemarch social relations, he inadvertently insults the coroner.