Middlemarch

Middlemarch

by

George Eliot

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Middlemarch: Book 2, Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At dinner the next day, Dorothea is impressed by the charming way Will converses with Casaubon. Casaubon similarly feels proud of Dorothea, who he feels speaks better than most women. Will invites them to visit some artists’ studios before they leave, and they agree. He takes them to Naumann’s studio, explaining that he has been studying as Naumann’s pupil while in Rome. While Will shows them around and compliments Naumann’s work, Dorothea feels that she is beginning to understand art a little better.
Dorothea is evidently a remarkably intelligent woman, yet she has suffered within a society that doesn’t believe women should receive a substantial education and which doesn’t take the views of women seriously. Casaubon may be proud of her intelligence, but he has not demonstrated that he is willing to help Dorothea find intellectual stimulation.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Naumann tells Casaubon that he would love to use him as a model for a picture of St. Thomas Aquinas, and Casaubon is surprised and thrilled—though not half as thrilled as Dorothea, who feels that this confirms that Casaubon is indeed the great man she imagined. Naumann then asks if Dorothea would also consider sitting for him, and she eagerly agrees. Watching her pose, Will is overcome with desire for her. Later that night, Naumann mocks Casaubon and comments excessively on Dorothea’s beauty, which annoys Will. He eventually insists that Naumann stop talking about Dorothea.
The two comparisons that have been made between Casaubon and major figures in intellectual history—John Locke and Thomas Aquinas—perhaps indicate that he is a similarly great man himself. Importantly, however, in both cases the comparisons were based purely on looks. Casaubon might look like a great man, but what does that matter if his intellect and work do not match up?
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Will desperately tries to see Dorothea alone before she leaves Rome. He visits her in the middle of the day, when he knows Casaubon will be at the library. Dorothea asks him to look at some cameos she has purchased as a gift for Celia. She says she finds it hard to enjoy things, such as great art, when she knows that not everyone has access to them. She then clarifies that she is not “a sad, melancholy creature,” although she is subject to passionate changes in mood. Will says she is too young to think that way. He then exclaims that she will be “buried alive” in Lowick Manor, which he calls a “prison.”
Both Will and Dorothea have a habit of speaking in an open, honest manner, and this sets them apart from the restrained, veiled mode of speech used by most other characters in the novel. The passion and earnestness they share helps foster the chemistry between them, but at the same time it is dangerous, as it risks revealing truths that may be too difficult to bear.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Will is worried that he might have insulted her, but his kind tone ensures that Dorothea is not offended. Dorothea asks him if Casaubon’s ignorance of German really dooms his scholarship to irrelevance. Will explains that the topic Casaubon has chosen to write about is developing at great speed, and Casaubon cannot know about the latest advances without reading German. Dorothea gets upset, and Will apologizes, although he notes that he was only telling her the truth. He says that he is determined not to be a failure himself, and for this reason will shortly go back to England, give up the allowance Casaubon has provided for him, and devote himself to work.
Up until this point, we might have assumed that Casaubon’s patient dedication to his scholarship was proof that he was producing a great work. However, patience and dedication are not the only ingredients of important scholarship. Crucially, Casaubon lacks the skill necessary for his work to be significant. He is stuck in the past, ignoring the reality of progress and advancements in knowledge. 
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Progress and Reform Theme Icon
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Will goes to leave, saying he thinks Dorothea doesn’t like him. Dorothea insists: “I like you very much.” She says she looks forward to seeing what he will do for a career. She asks him to promise that he won’t mention the problem with Casaubon’s scholarship to anyone else. Will promises and leaves, meeting Casaubon on the way out. When Casaubon comes to meet Dorothea, she tells him about Will’s plan to go to England and work his way to financial independence. Casaubon comments coldly that he gave Will an allowance out of a sense of duty, but is uninterested in him as a person. 
It is not yet clear whether Casaubon is jealous of Will or whether he simply thinks it is improper for Will and Dorothea to spend time alone together because Dorothea is married. We get the sense that he should be jealous of Will, considering the qualities Will possesses that Casaubon doesn’t: youth, passion, and urgent ambition. Importantly, these are qualities that Dorothea also has.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Community and Class Theme Icon
Money and Greed Theme Icon