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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 12

Summary

Next day, the young Vincys visit the ailing Peter Featherstone at his farmhouse, Stone Court. This is not just a social visit. They are the niece and nephew of the rich Featherstone’s dead wife. Featherstone is a childless, old man of substantial wealth. This attracts the Vincys and a host of his own wealthy siblings, whom he detests. However, Featherstone enjoys the power his health gives him over the whole brood and manipulates them constantly. Mary Garth, a niece of his first wife, works as his housekeeper.

Fred and Rosamond arrive to find their uncle’s sister, Mrs. Waule, already in attendance. Peter dislikes his sister’s sham piety and constant tale bearing. He prefers the handsome, stylish Vincys to her "clod-hopper" son. He turns happily to his new visitors. After a while he sends the women out, and accuses Fred of borrowing money against land he hopes to inherit from him. (Featherstone) Fred is embarrassed. Though not guilty of the charge, he has spoken loosely of his hopes of his uncle’s estate. Featherstone rejects his denial and demands a written contradiction from another uncle of Fred Bulstrode, the banker. He claims Bulstrode is the source of the rumor. Fred is angry and frustrated. He has hoped for a gift of money to pay back one of his many debts. Now, he is disappointed. Also, he has little hope of any support from Bulstrode, who disapproves of him.

Meanwhile, Mary and Rosamond, who are childhood acquaintances, have been talking. Mary’s short, plain, brown appearance is underlined by Rosamond’s delicate beauty. Mary is described as intelligent, honest and fair, with "a streak of satiric bitterness." She warns Fred’s sister that Mrs. Waule has been attacking his reputation. Rosamond pumps her for news of Lydgate, who is her uncle’s doctor. They also argue about the possibility of Fred’s proposing to Mary. Mary bluntly says she would never accept anyone so indolent, but that it is unlikely to happen.

They rejoin the men. Peter asks Rosamond to sing, which she does. Lydgate enters first. He is pleasantly surprised to see her there. He appreciates her quiet, demure manner. Both of them leave feeling increasingly attracted to each other. Lydgate is the first man Rosamond has met who satisfies her romantic requirements - a stranger with a distinguished air; a man of rank and talent George Eliot comments with irony that "she judged of her own symptoms as those of awakening love."

The Vincys leave - with Rosamond preoccupied, and Fred worried about his uncle’s demand. Fred decides to ask his fathers help in getting Bulstrode’s letter.


Note

This chapter concludes "Book I: Miss Brooke" most of the major threads of the plot, as also the social forces at work, have been laid out. This chapter brings in the start of the two stories to be developed later. It reveals Fred’s irresponsible attitude towards money and Mary’s opposition to him. Apart from the satirical cameo of Mrs. Waule, none of the others are "flat" characters. Each one is a complex human being, including the pathetic and lonely Featherstone. The role played by money in society is also explored here.

Although this first section is entitled "Miss Brooke," it deals with much more than Dorothea’s story.

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