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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 81

Summary

Dorothea arrives looking depressed at Lydgate’s and is met by him. He gives her a letter acknowledging her loan and thanking her. He then fetches a listless Rosamond to meet her. Rosamond is filled with dread after the painful incident of the previous day, but she cannot avoid meeting Dorothea. Both are uneasy and unhappy but Dorothea overcomes her doubts and launches into the reason for her call. She speaks with enthusiasm of Lydgate and narrates the facts, which he hesitated to tell his wife. Her sympathy breaks through Rosamond’s touchy reserve, and she breaks down, weeping. Dorothea touches hesitantly on how false attachments could ruin trust in a marriage. Her emotional drive is suddenly reflected in Rosamond’s own mind, and she informs Dorothea that what she suspected is not true. She reveals the truth of the incident the day before, feeling she is freeing herself of guilt towards the other two. After these revelations both are exhausted. When Lydgate returns, they part silently but with sympathy. After that Rosamond comments on Dorothea’s goodness and beauty, complaining that she will make Lydgate discontented with herself. He is grateful for this mark of interest, and consoles himself with it.


Notes

This is a dramatic scene, showing the capacity of both women to rise above their own nature and reach out to another. In Rosamond’s case, the writer makes it clear it is more imitative a reflection of Dorothea’s moral dynamism. Yet it indicates a feminist feeling in George Eliot where both characters, seeing each other as "the other woman," are still able to empathize with each other. Thus one vital obstacle to Dorothea’s union with Will is removed by a very unexpected source. The chapter also indicates the social isolation, in which well-to-do women lived, where class barriers kept them away from each other even within a small provincial town, until some urgent need brings them together.

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