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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 5

Summary

Casaubonís letter mentions his decision to remain single, until he finds in her a "rare combination of elements, both solid and attractive, adapted to supply aid in graver labors and to cast a charm over vacant hours." He offers her the "faithful consecration" of the rest of his life Dorothea trembles with feeling. The letter is o expression of romantic love and she doesnít expect it. Her attitude is that of a disciple "about to enter a higher grade of initiation.

Dorothea replies promptly. She declares that she looks forward to no better happiness than that which would be one with yours." Even her uncle is astounded at her eagerness. He accounts for it by saying she takes after him in her love of scholarship. But he fears that Chettam will be very hurt, and Mrs. Cadwallader, a vicarís wife and the representative of public opinion, will blame him.

So far neither has told Celia about the proposal, beyond the news that Casaubon is expected at dinner. On hearing Celiaís digs about Casaubon, Dorothea breaks the news. Celiaís response mirrors her astonishment and her fears for her sisterís happiness.

Casaubon arrives to a warm welcome and is himself very happy about Dorotheaís "capability of an ardent self sacrificing affection." For her part, Dorothea declares: "I am very ignorant... I will not trouble you too much; only when you are inclined to listen to me." Thus, she reveals that she is open, childlike and completely lacking intelligent self-interest.


Notes

This is the happiest period in Dorotheaís relationship with Casaubon. Both are thrilled at the vista of a harmonious and inspiring relationship which both imagine will carry them to a new kind of fulfillment. Neither really knows the other.

Their letters reflect their openness and sincerity. Casaubon clearly sees Dorothea only as a helpmate and docile assistant in his work, not realizing the needs of a young, intense, headstrong girl. Dorothea, with even less worldly experience than he is, imagines she only needs a guide and philosopher. She metaphorically "kisses his unfashionable shoe ties as if he were a Protestant pope." George Eliot is ironic in her imagery, describing Casaubonís "frigid rhetoric" as being "as sincere as the bark of a dog, or the cawing of an amorous rook!" The dual impression one gets of Casaubon is of someone both natural and emotionally sterile.

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