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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 80

Summary

Dorothea keeps herself busy with visits to the school she has set up, to her gardener, and then to dinner at the Farebrothers. A small incident there brings up Farebrother’s aunt’s devoted friendship with Ladislaw. Listening to talk about him, Dorothea can not longer control herself. She rushes home, and breaks down in the privacy of her bedroom. The secret joy, which had comforted her through all her recent loneliness, is lost. She realizes now that she had loved Ladislaw all along. She is unable to separate his image as "the bright creature, which she trusted" from the faithless wrecker of marriages she now sees him as. After a night of torment, she composes herself and asks her maid for a fresh set of clothes, not her usual deep mourning. Her maid is gratified, but to Dorothea the new clothes represent an attempt to forget her earlier joy and live for others. She has decided not to assume the worst about Rosamond. She will fulfill her promise to Lydgate and try to comfort Rosamond.


Notes

Through all the lonely suffering imposed by her marriage, Dorothea’s deepest emotional hunger has remained unsatisfied. Now when she sees Ladislaw’s "betrayal," her own jealousy compels her to admit to loving him. The incident forces her to grow up emotionally, in a different way from Rosamond. It also makes her rise above herself to the selflessness she has within her. In a famous passage describing the sight of working people moving about in the fields outside her window, the author describes how "she felt the largeness of the world, and the manifold makings of men to labor and endurance. She was a part of that involuntary, palpitating life and could neither look out on it from her luxurious shelter as a mere spectator, nor hide her eyes in selfish complaining." This insight is a more significant factor for Dorothea than her disappointed love. Hence, she can overcome it and go back to visit Rosamond. She does not let circumstances control her but overcomes them. Lydgate does not have the same quality.

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