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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 2

Summary

The same evening there are guests at dinner at Tipton Grange. They are Sir James Chettam, a handsome young landlord, and Mr. Edward Casaubon a middle-aged clergyman from the neighboring parish of Lowick. Chettam is deeply impressed by Dorothea’s beauty and character. He is half in love with her and tries to make himself agreeable. Unfortunately, Dorothea is oblivious to his interest. She believes he is interested in Celia and his frequent visits are due to her sister. She vaguely believes the only suitable marriage for herself is one of dedicated service to some great man resembling Hooker, the famous thinker, or Milton, the great poet, after he went blind. Thus, all Chettam’s efforts to impress her are politely rebuffed. She pays attention only to Mr. Casaubon. The clergyman is pale and spare with iron-grey hair and deep eye sockets. His appearance reminds Dorothea of Locks, the great philosopher. While to Celia, who promptly Notes "his two white moles with hairs on them," he is very ugly.

At the dinner table the talkative host, Mr. Brooke and Chettam are discussing Davy’s book on "Agricultural Chemistry." Chettam declares his intention of modernizing one of his farms according to the new methods in Davy’s book. Brooke denounces "fancy farming" to Dorothea’s great disapproval. Her uncle brushes her views aside as "young ladies don’t understand political economy, you know."

Bored with the same old talk of property, Dorothea is willing to be impressed by Casaubon, with his air of reserve and scholarship. She feels he is a man with whom "there could be some spiritual communion." They get involved in a serious discussion on a church controversy about the Vandois clergy. Meanwhile, Chettam is not at all jealous of "a dried book worm towards fifty" and chats with Celia. Celia herself has been observing events closely. She concludes that her sister quite despises Chettam and would never marry him.


Notes

The dinner party, by bringing together Chettam and Casaubon, highlights the contrast between them. This in turn illuminates Dorothea’s motivation. She is shown to be free of any conceit or coquettish airs. Though the hostess she makes no attempt to attract attention or shine before the men. Blissfully unaware of Chettam’s interest in her, she believes he is attracted to her sister. The novelist thus suggests certain blindness in her, as she sees only what she wants to see. This foreshadows her more serious errors in the future.

Brooke in his light-hearted, slovenly way acts as a foil to the other two men, each serious about his own work.

Sir James Chettam is handled with light irony, as one who seeks in Dorothea, a wife, "who could help her husband out with reasons, and would also have the property qualification for doing so."

The chapter sets the stage for a deepening relationship between Casaubon and Dorothea, the end of Chettam’s hopes, and the hint of a possible involvement between him and Celia.

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