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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 36

Summary

The Vincy family is hit hard by the terms of the will. Mr. Vincy orders Fred to return to university the following month and pass his exams. Mrs. Vincy pours out indulgent motherly affection on Fred, but it doesn’t console him. Fred dreamt of living in perfect ease, with the best of horses, of paying back Caleb Garth’s loan and asking Mary to marry him. All those fantasies are shattered. Mr. Vincy already depressed by poor market conditions declares that he can’t afford a son-in -law, who makes enemies instead of money. He says he will instruct Rosamond to break off the engagement or postpone the marriage indefinitely. Rosamond shrewdly drops Lydgate a hint. He promptly sets a wedding date after six weeks, innocently believing they can do without frills. Rosamond then tries to arrange the frills in haste; and bullies her father into submission. Lydgate finds his research taking a back seat to meeting his beloved and shopping for household furniture. He consoles himself that marriage will change this by cutting down excessive socializing at the Vincys. He is madly in love with the "accomplished creature who venerated his high musings and momentous labors and would never interfere with them." Rosamond even persuades him to take her to visit his "noble" relatives while on their honeymoon.


Notes

This chapter shows Lydgate getting deeply entangled in a marriage, which will destroy his entire intellectual ambitions. George Eliot has been criticized for focusing all her hostility on the character of Rosamond. The fact that she doesn’t view Rosamond with even the sympathy she gives to Casaubon or Chettams is not entirely true. What this chapter dwells on is how the conservative, smug self-indulgent side of Lydgate is gradually getting the upper hand over his youthful idealism. Rosamond, with all her pettiness and lack of real warmth, is unable to be different. Lydgate is different but "he was no radical in relation to anything but medical reform" and his "spots of commonness" ultimately take over.

Elsewhere, the novelist uses the image of a web to symbolize Lydgate’s researches into cell structure in the body. Here she repeats the idea of a web of young love "made of spontaneous beliefs and indefinable joys, yearnings of one life towards another." This second web seems to trap him despite all his earlier doubts about entering into it.

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