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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 48

Summary

Distressed by Casaubonís total rejection of Will, Dorothea is restless all day. She feels worn out by "the perpetual effort demanded by her married life." As his illness gets worse, Casaubon relies on her assistance more, and she feels she is "in a virtual tomb, where there was the apparatus of a ghastly labor producing what would never see the light." After resting, Casaubon begins his work again after dinner and asks for her help, so that she "will have an intelligent participation in my purpose." Even in his jealous obsessive state, her husband believes in her devotion and integrity and that they were "a peculiar possession for himself, and he wanted to engross them." After a short nap, he is uneasy, and they begin reading again. After some more work, he lies down. Then he asks her to promise that if he dies, she will do what he wishes and avoid what he dislikes. Dorothea is filled with dread. She is already crushed by the burden of assisting in his work. She believes he will ask her to continue with it alone after his death, and is horrified at the task. She asks him to give her time to consider until the next day.

After agonizing over his request, Dorothea wakes up to find Casaubon is up and awaits her in the library. She buys some more time. He then moves to the garden, where she is to join him and answer his question. When she does go, she finds him seated in the summerhouse, dead. That day she is prostrate and delirious and has to be attended by Lydgate.


Notes

In spite of Dorotheaís devoted efforts, the marriage has failed, and now draws to a bitter end. Casaubonís death parallels that of Featherstone - both die unhappy, lonely and unloved. But Casaubonís bitterness is no less than Featherstoneís love for intrigue. The steadily increasing hatred and frustration he feels and his request to his wife foreshadows some dramatic consequences to follow. His bitterness also has the effect of alienating Dorothea completely, so that only pity prompts her devoted service at the end. Only Lydgate, her male counterpart is a witness to her agony of suffering after Casaubonís unhappy end.

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