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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 39

Summary

Sir James speaks to Dorothea about Brooke, and takes her to Tipton, hoping she will influence her uncle. She enters in the evening to find Brooke and Will in the library. She begins with her usual directness, saying she is glad that he has decided to employ Garth to reorganize his farms. She expresses her constant revulsion. When returning from seeing the miserable tenants she says, "all that dirt and coarse ugliness like a pain within me, and the simpering pictures in the drawing room seemed to me like a wicked attempt to find delight in what is false." She insists with passion that they have no right to urge wider changes for good until they have tried to alter the evils at home.

Brooke is embarrassed and is happy to escape on hearing that a tenant’s child has killed a leveret on his land. He departs. Will is struck by admiration for Dorothea’s obvious sincerity, but is eager to talk of personal matters. He tells her Casaubon has forbidden him to visit Lowick Manor. She is sad about this, but he is disappointed with her response, which he feels arises from mere kindness. He openly regrets that he will not meet her and that she is under "a dreadful imprisonment." She tries to comfort him saying she believes that when action is not possible by simply desiring what is good one strengthens its influence against evil.

Meanwhile, Mr. Brooke has gone to his tenant Dagley’s farm about the child’s poaching. He intends to deal mildly in the matter. To his astonishment, Dagley reacts very aggressively. The farmer has just returned from Middlemarch market where he has had a few drinks. Fired up by the political talk against Brooke in town, the drink, and his own suppressed complaints against his landlord, he heckles Brooke and virtually causes him to flee!


Notes

George Eliot shows that the failed romance of Chettam with Dorothea has turned into a genuinely cordial friendship with both aiding each other in times of need. On the other hand, Will is frustrated to feel that Dorothea feels only friendship and nothing more for him. Here, the novelist handles the relationship somewhat unrealistically. Will is shown to want more than friendship, yet not cherish any notions of adultery. This coupled with the mushy sentimentality in dealing with them as in "They ere looking at each other like two fond children who were talking confidentially of birds" has been called a failure in the novelist’s technique.

However, the vivid scene of Dagley and his farm-seemingly picturesque but run down and sordid in fact - compensates for that. It owes much to George Eliot’s personal experience in childhood, and to her deep feeling for the common man. The farm scene is both funny and very satisfying, as Brooke’s pretentious to benevolence and reform take a tumble!

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