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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 8

Summary

Sir James Chettam reconciles himself quite easily to losing Dorothea. One reason for this is the obvious unattractiveness of his successful rival! His disapproval changes to compassion for one so misguided as Dorothea.

This compassion moves him to approach the local rector, Cadwallader, to intercede with Brooke. Cadwallader, in contrast to his wife, is a placid, good-humored man, whose wife claims she was attracted by his ugliness.

Cadwallader refuses to interfere merely on the ground of age. He considers Casaubon an honorable man, generous to his poorer relatives, and polite to everyone. Nor does he feel that they can be assured Dorothea will be unhappy with him. Cadwallader’s reply is good humored but firm. Sir James sadly gives up his lost cause. He begins to pay more attention to Celia, but does not slacken in his rebuilding of the cottages planned by Dorothea. As a result, his relationship with Dorothea becomes one of "frank kindness and companionship," uncomplicated by any sexual tension.


Notes

This chapter does nothing to advance the action of the novel, but it reminds the reader that its sub-title is "A study of provincial life." Each of the clergymen in the area; Casaubon, Cadwallader, and others are revealed vividly in their appearance, hobbies and characteristic style of speech. Stroke by stroke, a picture of different individuals and classes, in and around Middlemarch, is built up. This slows down the movement of the novel but in the leisurely pace of the age it was written in, seems not to have affected its popularity.

An interesting feature here is the subtle shift in the relationship of Dorothea and Chettam. It is far removed from the stereotyped view of the "cruel fair" and the "disappointed lover." George Eliot’s depiction of an open, friendly bond being possible between a man and a woman, once the sexual tension is removed, is unusual in such a conservative age.

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