George Eliot

Book III: Chapters 28-33

Summary Book III: Chapters 28-33

Rosamond regards Lydgate as a character from a romance novel come to life. Lydgate himself, despite his rational scientific zeal, is attracted to this role. His gallant behavior towards the actress, Laure, who killed her husband on stage, implies that he enjoys playing the romantic hero. However, the discovery that the actress actually intended to kill her husband shattered his romantic fantasy. He resolves to avoid such romantic entanglements afterwards, but he nevertheless plays the romantic gallant when he sees Rosamond's tears, forgetting the practical matter of his meager income. Like many characters in Middlemarch, Lydgate deceives himself.

Lydgate's disdain for the effect money has on people's action is not exactly unfounded. Featherstone's relatives surround the dying man like vultures around a carcass. His manipulation breeds more manipulation as the relatives watch one another suspiciously. The way he uses his wealth brings out the worst in himself and others. As a sick, old, unloved man, he would be completely impotent if it weren't for the power his money gives him. However, his unscrupulous deception renders him helpless in the end. Mary Garth will not take his bribe money. She knows the danger of tainted money, and she refuses to compromise her reputation by participating in his crowning act of manipulation. In the midst of dozens of suspicious relatives, she couldn't take the risk of taking his money even if she wanted it. She also achieves a somewhat poetic form of revenge. Featherstone's continual manipulation of Fred is partly to blame for Fred's gambling debt. Therefore, Featherstone is partly to blame for her family's financial troubles. Featherstone dies impotent, clasping his money. At the very last, it signifies his helplessness rather than his power.