Two hours later, Dorothea sits in her apartment and weeps while Casaubon remains at the Vatican working. Dorothea is not sure why she is so upset, yet blames herself for her misery. She has seen all the best sights Rome has to offer, which have had an intense, lasting effect on her. It has been six weeks since her wedding, and it is not unusual for new brides to be overwhelmed with despair at this point in their marital journey. Often the first months of marriage are tumultuous and unhappy, but after this point follows a “cheerful peace.”
Disappointment in marriage is a common occurrence in the novel. Considering Dorothea’s ideals and fantasies, it would probably be difficult for her not to be disappointed in some way by everyday marital life. At the same time, the fact that she is so sad while still among the spectacular sights of Rome on her honeymoon is ominous.
Dorothea is confused. Casaubon hasn’t changed; he is just as serious and intelligent as he always has been. Yet the narrator explains that a person will always appear different to their spouse after marriage than before. At the same time, Casaubon is hardly prone to misrepresenting himself. Honeymoons tend to reveal that the “voyage” of marriage is in reality nothing more than “exploring an enclosed basin.” Dorothea has become more and more upset with the dismissive way in which Casaubon talks to her. She increasingly experiences “fits of anger or repulsion.”
The change in Dorothea’s opinion of Casaubon’s nature is based on the suffocating nature of marriage, which emerges through the imagery of the “enclosed basin.” Before marriage, a person is still free to choose among different suitors. However, after marriage it becomes inescapably clear that they are stuck with one person, and in this light the person’s flaws become pronounced.
Casaubon rarely expresses any real feeling about the spectacular sights they go to see in Rome. Now, at the end of their journey, he tells Dorothea that he thinks that the trip will set her up for a life “as a happy wife.” Dorothea says she hopes she can make herself useful back at Lowick, and then asks Casaubon if he plans to finally arrange his notes into the book he has been planning for years. She offers to do whatever it takes to help, and cannot help crying as she says this. Casaubon is infuriated by this; Dorothea doesn’t understand any of his private thoughts and concerns.
Before marriage, Dorothea dreamed of living her life through Casaubon. This was a bad idea in general, because living through another is not a recipe for real fulfillment. However, it was a particularly bad idea to attempt this with Casaubon, considering that he is dispassionate and dull, and prefers isolation to spending time with his wife.
A brief argument ensues, and both Dorothea and Casaubon are shocked by the anger expressed by the other. Earlier, she had accompanied him to the Vatican and, when he went to the library, she wandered around by herself. It was at this point that Naumann and Ladislaw spotted her.
Neither Dorothea nor Casaubon wishes the other harm, yet the intense conflict between their ideas and desires means that they are growing to resent and even hate one another.