George Eliot

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Middlemarch: Book 8, Chapter 78 Summary & Analysis

After Dorothea leaves the drawing room, Will and Rosamond stand very still; Rosamond puts her hand on his arm, but Will shouts: “Don’t touch me!” He walks to the other side of the room. Rosamond says he should go and tell Dorothea he prefers her. Will rants in reply, saying: “I never had a preference for her, any more than I have a preference for breathing.” Rosamond is deeply hurt by this outburst. She feels that her life is totally ruined. Will leaves, and when Rosamond tries to stand up she faints. Later, Lydgate finds her in bed still in her clothes. He embraces her while she sobs. 
Again, Will’s dramatic words in this scene can be read in quite different ways. The absolute and total nature of his devotion to Dorothea may strike some as highly romantic. His love for her is so intense that he appears to experience it more as a form of suffering than joy. Others may find this overblown, and even question whether Will really loves Dorothea if he sees his love for her as a painful burden.
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