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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 21

Summary

Dorothea returns from the Vatican and breaks down weeping as soon as she is alone. Just then Will arrives to pay a courtesy call. She composes herself and meets him. Will is stunned to discover her alone on her honeymoon. He was filled "with a sort of comic disgust" to think of Casaubon," groping after his moldy futility alone, while his new bride languishes at home. He becomes sympathetic and she responds with warm friendliness. She finds she can talk freely about her confused response to Roman splendor, without being snubbed.

Will sharply criticizes Casaubonís neglect of the German scholars, whose research he feels is vital for the latterís research. Dorothea defends Casaubon. Her loyalty to Mr. Casaubon makes her even more appealing to Will. He is torn between disgust of Mr. Casaubon and guilt at being ungrateful to his benefactor. They are talking animatedly when Casaubon enters. He is obviously not happy at the scene before him and is formally polite to Will. He dismisses him with an invitation to dinner next day.

Will leaves, and Dorothea tries to make peace after the mornings argument. Casaubon accepts her attempts, without warmth.


Notes

The growing sympathy between the two young people is focussed on, coupled with Casaubonís jealousy. Willís dabbling in art and culture may show him to be less serious about life but it shows to advantage against the artistic and historical heritage of Rome. This relationship is shown as one of friendship and common interests and intensity of response. The author ignores the sexual undertones. It is to some extent brought out in the imagery. "The first impression on seeing Will was one of sunny brightness" and "when he turned his head quickly his hair seemed to shake out light... Mr. Casaubon, on the contrary, stood rayless." Even Casaubonís jealousy is not fiery it needs very little fire; it is hardly a passion, but blight bred in the cloudy, damp despondency of uneasy egoism.

It is also through Will that Dorotheaís own misgivings about the value of Casaubonís research are confirmed. Thus, she begins to relate to Casaubon in an altered way from this point on. There is tenderness and loyalty, but her expectations of him decrease.

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