Middlemarch

Middlemarch

by

George Eliot

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Middlemarch: Book 1, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The chapter opens with Casaubon’s letter to Dorothea. It is comically stiff and convoluted, devoid of any romance or affection whatsoever. He tells her that becoming her husband would feel like “the highest of providential gifts.” He concludes by saying that in his old age, loneliness will be even more difficult now that he has had a glimmer of hope of companionship.
Casaubon’s social awkwardness makes him a somewhat unlikeable character. At the same time, his earnest expression of loneliness and appeal to Dorothea make him appear more sympathetic.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Reading the letter, Dorothea bursts into tears and drops to the floor. She is overwhelmed with happiness that the life she has been craving now seems available to her. After dinner, Dorothea writes Casaubon a response in her room. She is so nervous that her hand is shaking and she has to rewrite the letter three times. In her short message, she tells him: “I can look forward to no better happiness than that which would be one with yours.” Later, she gives the letter to Mr. Brooke, asking that he send it in the morning.
Again, while we may be moved by Dorothea’s earnest intensity of feeling, there is also something undeniably comic about her dramatic reaction to Casaubon’s stiff, awkward letter. Dorothea is clearly in the midst of a romantic whirlwind—yet how much of this is simply the product of her own imagination?
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Mr. Brooke checks that Dorothea is certain she doesn’t want to marry Sir James instead. He tells her that he wants her to make her own decision, even though he knows Sir James will be disappointed and that Mrs. Cadwallader will likely be upset with him for failing to deliver a union between James and Dorothea. The next day, a letter arrives from Casaubon saying he will come to dinner at Tipton that night. Celia notices Dorothea’s reaction to this news and is horrified to realize that her sister seems to want to marry Casaubon.
Again, while Dorothea theoretically has control over whom she wants to marry, the involvement of her family and even members of the community such as Mrs. Cadwallader make the decision-making process more complicated.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Community and Class Theme Icon
Celia says that she hopes someone else is coming to dinner so she doesn’t have to listen to Casaubon eat his soup. Hurt, Dorothea tells Celia not to say things like that; when Celia continues, Dorothea angrily tells her that she is engaged to Casaubon. Celia turns pale and sits down in shock. She then begins to cry. Dorothea assures her it’s all right, although in reality she is hurt. She knows that everyone else in the community will feel the same way about her marriage as Celia does. That night, Dorothea speaks freely and enthusiastically with Casaubon. He is overjoyed, as is she. They decide that the wedding will be in six weeks.
Dorothea and Celia are very different, and thus Celia’s opposition to Dorothea’s marriage could be interpreted as a simple clash between their ideals. It would not be good for Dorothea to marry someone who Celia thinks is a perfect match. At the same time, the intensity of Celia’s sadness is foreboding. She may not be the same as Dorothea, but she knows her well, and thus might be right in predicting that Dorothea will not be happy with Casaubon.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Community and Class Theme Icon
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