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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 6

Summary

The slow but inevitable progress of Dorotheaís approaching marriage is broken here with a lively diversion. The penny pinching, outspoken Mrs. Cadwallader, without whom "the countryside would be somewhat duller," makes her entry. Married to the rector of Tipton parish, she is known to be "descended from unknown earls," a fact she never lets anyone forget. She visits Brookeís house, suspecting a "story" behind Casaubonís frequent visits. Mr. Brooke fears her acid tongue and stalls telling her of the engagement, but Celia informs her of it. Full of disapproval, the village busybody dashes off to Freshitt, Chettamís estate, to inform him of the dashing of his hopes. While he is licking his wounds, Mrs. Cadwallader breezily advises him to forget Dorothea, and consider Celia as a far better match. She hints that Celia is already interested in him. Sir James is left feeling unhappy but soothed by two facts: that he hasnít actually proposed and been rejected; and that Celia will be at the Grange and he could pay her more attention.


Notes

Mrs. Cadwallader is a very minor character, but a marvelous cameo of a provincial busybody. She is a typical older woman who with no other outlet, trades on her husbandís position and her own family background, to organize the lives of her neighbors. With her sharp tongue and her curiosity she becomes "the diplomatist of Tipton and Freshitt, and for anything to happen in spite of her was an offensive irregularity." Thus, she comes to represent the power of public opinion among the gentry in the area.

The author also reveals that Chettamís attachment to Dorothea is not love, but a mixture of convenience and attraction. His disappointment switches smoothly to simple disapproval at the union of a young, vibrant girl with one who is "no better than a mummy!" George Eliot as a keen social observer is in her element here. Her irony has been compared to Jane Austinís.

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