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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 16

Summary

The issue of whether Tyke or Farebrother should be elected chaplain at the old hospital was debated among the notable Middlemarchers. To Bulstrode, it was not a minor matter, but an important link in the web through which he exercises control over the traders, charities and has their gained dominance as a banker. Farebrother’s liberal and popular style of sermon repel his dry piety. Over dinner at the Vincys, all the professional men debate the issue. Lydgate merely observes. But he cannot avoid the other discussion as to whether coroner’s posts, currently held by legal practitioners, should be occupied by medical men. This was a heated controversy of the time. Lydgate speaks against ignorance in both the coroners and the medical witnesses, thus antagonizing both professions.

He then moves from that hostile area to the pleasant company of Rosamond. After some conversation, she plays the piano. She has had a talented master, and "gave forth his large rendering of noble music with the precision of an echo." Lydgate’s attraction increases, and he is astounded to find one so graceful, so talented and so ladylike in the infertile soil of Middlemarch. In fact, the Vincys seemed "the pleasantest family party" that Lydgate has seen since he came to Middlemarch.

At this party, Lydgate also meets Farebrother who seems eager to befriend him. He is started to see Farebrother playing whist for money. Lydgate leaves the party with complacent thoughts of Rosamond. He thinks, "if falling in love had been as all in question, it would have been quite safe with a creature like this Miss Vincy... polished, refined, docile." Quite unaware of Rosamond’ plans, he goes home cheerfully and reads all might some new researches into fevers.


Notes

This chapter traces Lydgate’s attempts to socialize in Middlemarch, while avoiding the public and private spheres' traps laid for the unwary. George Eliot has in this male parallel to Dorothea, shown similar talents and zeal without the fetters which society imposed on young women. Yet both are human beings straggling to achieve great aims, held back by their blindness towards their own and others needs and weaknesses. While deepening the plot, she also fills in details of her large social camas and the general struggles in the society around the main characters.

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