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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 70

Summary

Bulstrode goes through Raffles’ pockets to find out where he has been staying. All the evidence points to his having been far form Middlemarch before his illness. Bulstrode strictly follows Lydgate’s instructions and ban on alcohol for the sick man. Raffles raves and abuses him and charges him with taking revenge by starvation, but Bulstrode is resolute. Still he can’t prevent himself from trying to ensure Lydgate’s co-operation. He decides to lend him the thousand pounds refused earlier.

Lydgate advises small doses of opium, and no alcohol. Before he leaves, Bulstrode offers him the money, saying he has reconsidered on account of his wife’s appeal to help her family. Lydgate is overjoyed. He feels his good purposes are not totally doomed, he has the chance to reorganize and start again.

That night Bulstrode is tired and irritated with Raffles and asks Mrs. Abel, his housekeeper, to watch over the patient. He is tempted during the night to give more opium than prescribed, but he fights the temptation. Still later, Mrs. Abel, touched by Raffles’ suffering requests him to let her give him brandy. Bulstrode hesitates for some time. Finally, he gives her the keys to the wine cellar. In the morning, he prays, looks at the comatose condition of Raffles, then conceals the opium vial and brandy bottle. Lydgate arrives in time to hear Raffles’ last breath. He is puzzled about this case which he had not considered fatal, but he feels he could be mistaken.

Farebrother visits Lydgate, having heard of his mounting debts, to find him cheerful as "the torture-screw is off." But Farebrother’s friendly inquiry, about Bulstrode "helpful" loan, only raises more doubts in Lydgate’s own mind about Bulstrode’s motives.


Notes

At one level, the novel is a complex web of the way different individuals face life, and how they allow it to alter their won capacities. In this chapter one has had a masterly building-up of Bulstrode’s hour of temptation - "strange, piteous conflict in the soul of this unhappy man, who had longed for years to be better than he was." A man who, fights temptation hard, but finally gives in.

Another feature is the ironic delight of Lydgate, feeling he can see light at the tunnel’s end, when his torment is only beginning. Caleb and Farebrother, who have successfully resisted their own temptations, retain their sympathy for those who have not.

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