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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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BOOK III: WAITING FOR DEATH

Chapter 23

Summary

This chapter deals with the lightweight, childish Fred who is liked by everyone for his affectionate nature. Fredís father is a typical character, one who is a hard-working businessman and mayor. Having achieved some prosperity in the town he and his easy-going wife have pampered their children and raised them to be "gentlefolk." In Fredís case, it means he has learned expensive habits, but no trade. In Rosamondís, it means she has to use her beauty to capture a "gentleman" for a husband. Peter Featherstone, the rich relative, aggravates Fredís case. Featherstone, having no children, has encouraged Fred to believe he is his favorite and may inherit his fortune. All over Middlemarch, Fredís position is high as he is considered Featherstoneí heir.

With this hope coupled with his natured extravagance, Fred is always living beyond his allowance and forever in debt. Caleb Garth, Maryís father, has secured his latest loan for a hundred and sixty pounds. Fred has always loved the Garths, who are hardworking, simple and cultured. Caleb is a "man of business," i.e. he is a self-taught expert on farm management and is employed by landowners to execute projects on their land. He loves his work and is always underpaid for it. His wife Susan struggles to run her household with her five children. She tutors children in the locality. Mary, the eldest, whom Fred loves, works for Featherstone and runs his house unlike Fred; she is treated as an employee in spite of also being a relative.

Fred having got a gift of a hundred pounds from Featherstone is short of sixty pounds to repay is debt and free Caleb from his obligation. He now thinks of a scheme to sell his horse and get some of he money he needs. He goes to Houndsley Horse Fair for the purpose. With him are Bambridge and Horrock - the latter is a so-called "vet." They confuse him thoroughly with their contradictory estimation of the value of his horse. Ultimately, he ends up selling his horse to a farmer known to Bambridge and buying for him a bad tempered hunter paying an additional thirty pounds. He thinks he can sell this valuable "find" to someone else at a profit.


Notes

George Eliot exposes the typically feckless and lazy outlook of a young gentleman of the time. In addition, Fred doesnít have the least income of the idle gentry, but the values and hopes of their class. Yet the author is partial to him and stresses his innocence and lack of more dangerous vices such as drinking or gambling. His deep love for Mary, a plain and poor girl is seen as a source of his salvation. His familyís desire to climb higher socially is also a culprit in Fredís self indulgence. Like the other chief protagonists, Dorothea, Lydgate and others, Fred is also blind to his folly.

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