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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 20

Summary

Dorothea is quite unaware of being observed by the two men. She is wrapped up in her own misery. In Rome, a courier hired by Mr. Casaubon, who has been busy with his research, has efficiently showed her around. Inevitably, Dorothea’s idealistic hopes of marriage with him are cracking. Simultaneously, her excessively intense, emotional nature is overwhelmed by the huge mass of ancient art, which she cannot understand. She is disturbed by the degradation and poverty around her, and can’t reconcile the existence of both. She feels completely alone because on this most intimate of journeys, her honeymoon, she has no one to share her experiences with, or to reassure her about them. Casaubon for his is equally lonely and disturbed, finding his research far more difficult and frustrating than before. Their blindness about each other brings them to an angry confrontation when Dorothea urges him to begin writing his dissertation. She is impatient to help; he sees in this a youthful threat to his insecure ego. Both back down, but they are further apart. It is in this mood that she goes to the Vatican and is seen by Will and Naumann.


Notes

Dorothea’s disillusionment is inevitable. The author, right from the start has foreshadowed it, yet Dorothea is different from most heroines and it is the different quality of her disappointment that the reader is shown here. Up to this point, George Eliot had been a skeptical observer of Casaubon. Now she begins to delve into his human aspirations, his restricted outlook on life and also his own unhappiness in his work and his unequal marriage. She views with sympathy the sadness of failure on both sides.

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