Middlemarch

Middlemarch

by

George Eliot

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Middlemarch: Book 5, Chapter 50 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After staying at Freshitt for week, Dorothea starts asking “dangerous questions.” She speaks to Mr. Brooke about who will take over as the clergyman for Lowick; Brooke assures her there is no rush in worrying about it, but suggests Mr. Tyke. Dorothea asks to see Casaubon’s will as there may be instructions regarding the appointment of a successor in there. Brooke assures her that there aren’t and that she shouldn’t be thinking about the will yet. He hastily exits. Celia remains absorbed in the behavior of her baby, and when she sees Dorothea crying she tells her not to be sad.
Just as Casaubon prevented Dorothea from getting involved with any serious matters in life, now after his death she is also hindered from even knowing about his will, let alone making any decisions. We can see how plainly frustrating this situation would be, especially for someone as filled with her own strong opinions as Dorothea.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Celia eventually admits that Casaubon has done something terrible and that she must warn Dorothea about it. She reveals that Casaubon stipulated that all the property Dorothea will inherit from him would be taken away if she were to marry Ladislaw. Both Celia and Sir James are convinced there is no chance of Dorothea marrying Will. Dorothea is shocked and feels like her whole world has been turned upside down. She feels both horrified by Casaubon’s secret feelings of jealousy and a “a sudden strange yearning of heart towards Will Ladislaw.” She has never (consciously) thought about him in this way before.
Dorothea’s “sudden strange yearning” reveals how misguided Casaubon was in banning her from marrying Ladislaw. Because people are naturally drawn to whatever they are not allowed to access, forbidding a union between Dorothea and Ladislaw actually implants the idea of that union in Dorothea’s mind! If Casaubon had not been so paranoid, he would have seen that Dorothea was too loyal to consciously consider it alone.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Money and Greed Theme Icon
Lydgate enters and checks Dorothea’s pulse. While speaking with him, Dorothea starts violently sobbing. Lydgate is convinced that Dorothea has made herself ill by repressing her desire for freedom. He recommends that Dorothea should be allowed to view the will if she wants to, and after Celia confesses that she told her sister about Casaubon’s stipulation, Sir James finally agrees to drive her to Lowick. Dorothea says she would like to continue staying at Freshitt, and also to spend time with Mr. Brooke at Tipton, but Sir James advises against visiting Tipton as he knows Ladislaw will be there.
The strength of Dorothea’s personality is so intense that it is literally irrepressible—her attempts to deny her true feelings have caused her to develop a physical illness. This conveys the importance of honoring one’s own feelings and not trying to suppress them in order to conform to society’s expectations.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Community and Class Theme Icon
At Lowick, Dorothea finds Casaubon’s instructions for her to finish The Key to All Mythologies, which she now regards as a “tomb.” Now that he is dead, Dorothea no longer feels inclined to act according to his wishes out of sympathy. She wants Will to have half of Casaubon’s property, in order to right the wrong done to Julia. However, she doesn’t know if it will be possible to do this now. She speaks with Lydgate, who recommends Farebrother instead of Tyke as Casaubon’s successor. Dorothea says she’d be happy to hear Farebrother preach in order to help her decision. Lydgate mentions that Farebrother and his family adore Will, oblivious of how charged Dorothea’s relationship with Will now is.
The trajectory of Dorothea’s marriage shows the ease with which a person’s dreams and ambitions can turn into a prison or “tomb” in reality. This passage also highlights Casaubon’s cruelty through the control he seeks to exercise over Dorothea even after his death. Not only has he forbidden her from marrying Will, but he also expects her to continue the work that he himself didn’t finish despite working on it for decades.
Themes
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Ambition and Disappointment Theme Icon
Money and Greed Theme Icon
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