Middlemarch

Middlemarch

by

George Eliot

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Middlemarch: Book 4, Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mr. Vincy’s view of the world has been drastically transformed by the reading of Featherstone’s will. He furiously tells Fred that he’d better retake his college exam and pass this time. Mrs. Vincy tells her husband not to be so harsh to Fred; while both parents agree that Fred has been “robbed,” Mr. Vincy thinks it has not helped that their son is so spoiled. Mrs. Vincy tries to appease her husband by mentioning Lydgate’s high-ranking relatives, but Mr. Vincy curses relatives in general, adding: “I don’t want a son-in-law who has got nothing but his relations to recommend him.”
It is now clear how much of the Vincys’ carefree attitude toward life was based on their belief that Fred was soon going to inherit a large amount of property from Featherstone. Now that this has not happened, they are forced to take a hard look at their previous assumptions and indulgences. For the first time, Mr. Vincy sees how misguided it was to spoil Fred and Rosamond.
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Mr. Vincy declares that he withdraws his approval of Rosamond’s engagement, and the next day Mrs. Vincy informs her daughter of the news. Rosamond is adamant that the engagement will go ahead despite her family’s change in circumstances. She notes that Fred’s lack of inheritance is not her problem, and that her brother should start working. Meanwhile, Mr. Vincy makes it clear that he will not provide any money for the young couple. It becomes clear that the couple must marry within one year and preferably sooner. This messes up Lydgate’s plan, but he decides he must accept it. Farebrother assures Lydgate that being married will probably help his career rather than hinder it.
It is easy to see both sides in Rosamond’s conflict with her parents. From Rosamond’s perspective, it is true that Fred’s loss of fortune isn’t her fault, and that she shouldn’t have to pay for her brother’s lack of job. It is also cruel of Mr. Vincy to rescind his approval of her engagement after he already gave it. At the same time, Mr. and Mrs. Vincy’s desire for Rosamond to take Lydgate’s financial situation seriously is also sympathetic. Right now Rosamond is in naïve denial. 
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One evening, Lydgate notices that Rosamond has been crying, and after some prompting she explains that Mr. Vincy and Fred have been fighting and that Mr. Vincy no longer supports their engagement. Lydgate assures her that it is too late for Mr. Vincy to oppose it, and that they could perhaps solve the problem by getting married right away, waiting to buy Rosamond’s wedding clothes after the fact. Rosamond finds this idea puzzling and somewhat unappealing, as she has been fantasizing about the clothes she will wear to meet Lydgate’s relatives.
Rosamond’s reaction to Lydgate’s solution suggests that she is being foolish and naïve about the wedding, more caught up in fantasy than reality. (Note that the phrase “wedding clothes” doesn’t refer to the bridal dress but to the clothes Rosamond will where on social occasions surrounding the wedding, such as visits to Lydgate’s relatives.)
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Lydgate suggests they marry in six weeks, and while Rosamond doesn’t believe this is enough time, she says she can try to hurry the preparations. They kiss, both feeling ecstatically in love. The rushed preparations for the wedding mean that Lydgate ends up spending more money than he would have otherwise. When Rosamond approaches Mr. Vincy, he once again expresses disapproval on the grounds that Lydgate is poor. He says that between Fred’s bad luck and parliament on the brink of being dissolved, it feels like the world is ending. 
Mr. Vincy’s proclamations might be needlessly dramatic, but Rosamond and Lydgate’s rushed marriage does have a mild air of disaster. Considering the existing concern over Lydgate’s finances, his extra spending on the wedding is ominous. However, both he and Rosamond are unaware of this due to the intensity of their love.
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Rosamond objects that these things have nothing to do with her marriage. She says that Lydgate’s high rank means that he will surely end up wealthy and powerful, and adds that marrying him is her only chance of happiness on earth. Mr. Vincy softens, saying Lydgate must write to him and ask for his permission. Once Lydgate has done so, Vincy demands that Lydgate get life insurance, which Lydgate agrees to do.
Rosamond is essentially making the same mistake about Lydgate that her family did about Fred: believing that he will become wealthy in the future, even though there is no assurance of this happening. In both cases, this blind faith is a recipe for disappointment.
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Soon after, Rosamond tells Lydgate how much she looks forward to meeting his family members; Lydgate does not share her enthusiasm, saying: “my cousins are bores.” Rosamond is embarrassed by the idea of Lydgate’s relatives visiting Middlemarch and meeting her own family, and thus hopes that Lydgate will eventually get a position somewhere else in the country.
Rosamond continues to fixate on an idea of the future that does not seem to be shared by Lydgate. She is desperate to leave Middlemarch and her past behind, but Lydgate has only just arrived and his ambitions will make him more and more entrenched in the community.
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