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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 40

Summary

The Garth family is gathered together over breakfast. Mary gloomily decides to accept a teaching job at a school, though she doesn’t enjoy teaching. The whole family offers lively opinions on the subject though Caleb is sad that they can’t afford to keep her at home. Soon after, Caleb receives an offer from Chettam of the job of managing his farms at Freshitt, along with Brooke’s at Tipton. Caleb is delighted and so is Susan, his wife. They promptly tell Mary to refuse the job offer. The usually tongue-tied Caleb is eloquent with the satisfaction of having "a chance of getting a bit of the country into good fettle and putting men into the right way with their farming.... I’d sooner have it than a fortune."

The Garths soon had a visitor - Mr. Farebrother, the vicar, with a message from Fred. Fred is going away to college and wishes him to say his goodbye and apologize for not having repaid his debt to Caleb. Caleb brushes this aside, saying times have changed. He also confides in the Vicar about the problem of the two wills just before Featherstone’s death. Though he is approving about Mary’s action he wants to help Fed to compensate or the loss of his legacy. Farebrother meets Mary and her sister in the orchard. It is obvious that he cares for Mary but believes that it is unrequited and also that he cannot afford to marry. He suspects that she loves Fred in spite of her caustic criticism of him.

Later, Caleb comes up with a plan for Fred. He foresees that he will need help in managing Freshitt and Tipton, and neither of his two grown up sons is interested in the work. He thinks of training Fred for it and believes it will remold his character and reform him. Susan cautions him against the Vincys' disapproval, but he is obstinate. The author clearly indicates the strength of character of Caleb and Susan, coupled with their devoted love. The Garths are the one truly happy family in the book.


Notes

This chapter presents a somewhat idealized picture of the Garth family, which has been dubbed by some critics the "moral center" of the book. Caleb and Susan Garth are intelligent hard working and affectionate. Their decisions are all thrashed out openly before being finally taken. While the other townspeople look down on them as people who work for their bread," they are confident and self-respecting precisely for the same reason. These values are shown being passed on to their children as well. Caleb is also a social focus of the novel as he represents a new type of professional, an expert in farm management, and not a feudal retainer. He has given up Brooke’s job earlier as he would not allow the owner to interfere in work. Ultimately, Chettam and Brooke employ him on his terms. Caleb rejoices in work for its own sake, calling it "a gift of god."

The chapter also shows how Mary and Fred’s not so secret love is based on intimate knowledge of each other’s faults, not on blind wishful thinking as with Rosamond and Lydgate, and Dorothea and Casaubon.

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