Middlemarch

Middlemarch

by

George Eliot

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Middlemarch: Book 1, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is customary for brides to view their marital homes before the wedding and express any wishes about what they would like to be changed. The narrator observes that “a woman dictates before marriage in order that she may have an appetite for submission afterwards.” Thus Dorothea, Celia, and Mr. Brooke make a trip to Casaubon’s home, Lowick Manor. It is a grand, elegant house, but without children running around and flowers in the windows it is rather dreary. Horrified, Celia thinks about how much nicer it would be to live in Sir James’s home, Freshitt Hall.
Here there are hints of a parallel between Casaubon and his house, Lowick Manor. Both are impressive and appealing in principle, but in reality are somewhat grim and depressing. On the other hand, perhaps Dorothea’s presence in Lowick will make both the house and its owner more lively and pleasant.
Themes
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Dorothea, however, is enchanted by Lowick’s quiet darkness, and is filled with joy as she walks around the house. She is grateful for Casaubon’s efforts to make the house appealing to her, but suggests no changes. When he asks which room she’d like to have as her boudoir, Dorothea replies that she would rather he make all the decisions for her. Celia and Mr. Brooke urge her to make some kind of choice, but she refuses.
Dorothea’s refusal even to make the simple decision of which room will serve as her boudoir (private living room for women) suggests that her “appetite for submission” is in overdrive. It seems unlikely that her willingness to completely relinquish her own agency will be able to last very long.
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The group stops to examine portraits of Casaubon’s family members. Casaubon comments that his mother’s sister “made an unfortunate marriage” and that he barely knew her. In the garden, Casaubon tells Dorothea that she will like the nearby village, as the houses there are like the cottages she is designing. In a private moment, Celia whispers to Dorothea that she saw a young man with curly brown hair walking up the steps. Dorothea guesses that this man might be the son of the curate, Mr. Tucker.
Casaubon’s mention of Dorothea’s cottages further confirms the impression that he is making a real effort to make her happy, and that their marriage may therefore not be the disaster everyone is predicting. Make sure to keep in mind Casaubon’s aunt with the unfortunate marriage—she will play an important role later in the novel. 
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Walking with them, Mr. Tucker explains that all who live in the local village are reasonably well off and respectable. Later, Casaubon observes that Dorothea seems subdued. She admits that she wishes that the local people needed more help, so that she could make herself useful. Casaubon assures her that she will be sufficiently fulfilled by her role as “mistress of Lowick.” At this moment they see the young man Celia pointed out. Casaubon explains that the man, who is drawing in a sketchbook, is his second cousin. He approaches and Casaubon introduces him as Will Ladislaw
Dorothea’s lament that the local people are essentially not living in worse conditions shows that, despite her noble ideals, she is also somewhat self-centered and naïve. Her desperation to make an impact on the world leads her to come to some rather foolish conclusions. Once again, we might wonder if these foolish conclusions include her decision to marry Casaubon. 
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Mr. Brooke points to Will’s sketchbook and comments that he is an artist, but Will replies that there is nothing worth seeing in its pages. Dorothea says that she has never been able to understand art. Will thinks that Dorothea must be awful (considering that she is marrying Casaubon) and that her comment about not understanding art was probably a thinly-veiled judgment. At the same time, he is enchanted by the sound of Dorothea’s voice, which is strikingly passionate.
Dorothea’s earnestness and idealism are perhaps part of the reason why she struggles to connect to art. Due to the nature of the society she has grown up in, she has come to see aesthetic pursuits as frivolous and inconsequential. Unfamiliar with her open, sincere nature, Will misinterprets her as judgmental.
Themes
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Will laughs and leaves. Casaubon explains that Will attended Rugby (a boarding school) and then made the strange choice of going to university in Heidelberg, Germany. Now he wants to travel again. Casaubon concludes that Will is opposed to accuracy and “thoroughness.” Casaubon has tried to show Will the importance of patience via his work on The Key to All Mythologies, but it has not worked. He says he will support Will for a year, and Dorothea says that this is kind of him, adding that people should be patient with one another. Later, Celia comments that Dorothea’s engagement appears to have given her a newfound appreciation for patience.
Although we still know fairly little about Will at this stage in the novel, he seems to have a romantic, nonconformist nature. This is shown by his unconventional decisions, love of travel, and Casaubon’s accusations that he is opposed to “thoroughness.” Rather than patiently dedicating himself to a single project, Will is free-spirited and restless, suggesting a passionate nature.
Themes
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