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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 41

Summary

Both Bulstrode and Rigg have asked Caleb to value the land attached to stone court. Some letters have passed between the first two on the same subject.

Rigg is an unattractive looking man, a quality stressed by the disappointed heirs of Old Featherstone. Yet he was a sober, calm person with no known vices. Being from the city, he looked on the Middlemarchers as "simple, absurd people" and they in turn viewed him as sinister.

The scene described in this chapter takes place in Rigg’s parlor at Stone Court. He stands with his back towards an elderly, seedy-looking, whiskered man. The seedy man, called John Raffles, is Rigg's despised stepfather. He has come to Middlemarch to try and cadge some money off Rigg, in the name of his elderly mother. Rigg is unmoved, refuses to pay him anything and says his mother will get only a weekly allowance from him. Finally, he gets rid of Raffles by giving him a bottle of brandy and one gold sovereign. While leaving, Raffles picks up a paper lying on the floor and uses it to fix the loose cover of his brandy-flask. The paper bears Bulstrode’s signature.


Notes

Rigg is a sort of skeleton from Featherstone’s cupboard, being his illegitimate son. Now he, in turn, becomes instrumental in revealing other skeletons. By sheer coincidence, the letter picked up by Raffles becomes the instrument of Bulstrode's downfall. The impious and cynical Featherstone has enjoyed revealing his past and shocking the neighbors. This chapter foreshadows how Bulstrode’s past rises up and threatens his respectable present. The scene also gives us a tiny glimpse of the painful childhood of an illegitimate son, here represented by Rigg.

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