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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 76

Summary

Dorothea summons Lydgate to Lowick, apparently in connection with Bulstrode’s withdrawal of support from the new hospital. Now that she has an opportunity she is determined to back Lydgate fully and find out the facts from him. She does not allow her own inexperience or the talk of his personal reserve to come in her way. She is also sympathetic to him, as she fear his marriage may be as unsatisfactory as her own has been.

Dorothea announces her intention to take on all of Bulstrode’s commitments to the new hospital. At this Lydgate warns her he may be obliged to leave the town. This gives Dorothea an opening and she overwhelms him with her sympathy and faith in him. He gives up his reserve for the first person, who has offered him unconditional loyalty since the scandal broke, and gets relief form telling her of the unvarnished facts and doubts. Dorothea accepts his account. She is sure that Farebrother, Chettam, Brooke will accept his innocence in the matter. She maintains her offer to the new hospital and offers him financial support while he needs it. Lydgate refuses the last, saying he is unworthy of it. But he still hesitates to commit himself to staying on, on account of his wife’s welfare. Dorothea then insists she will meet his wife and reassure her about her support for him.

Lydgate leaves, feeling Dorothea "has a heart large enough for the Virgin Mary. She seems to have what I never saw in any woman before-a fountain of friendship toward men."

Dorothea decides, on his departure to relieve him of his debt to Bulstrode. She writes out a check for one thousand pounds.


Notes

Lydgate has come a long way from his initial assessment of Dorothea as "a good creature---but a little too earnest" to his likening her now to the Madonna. The value of suffering in testing human mettle as well as in deepening our sympathies for fellow humans is a continuing motif in George Eliot’s novels. It is also an indication if his misery that he abandons his pride in unburdening himself to her. This incident is also a big step in Dorothea’s emancipation since her widowhood. She takes this step against the advice of her family, confident only if her own sincerity and that of a man she does not know intimately. But it launches her into independent action and self-assertion.

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