The narrator notes that after learning about the lives of young people, readers are likely to be curious about what became of them. They note the frequency with which marriages can become disappointments after wonderful beginnings. Fred and Mary’s marriage is not a disappointment. Fred impresses the community by becoming a “theoretic and practical farmer” who is widely admired in the agricultural industry, yet whose success is perhaps secretly the work of Mary. Mary publishes a children’s book, for which people give Fred credit. Thanks to Farebrother’s mentorship, Fred becomes a mature, serious, and respectable man.
The “Finale” contains a brief summary of the “good enough” endings Eliot constructs for her characters. One common aspect of all of these endings is that the female characters all remain oppressed on the basis of their gender. In this case, Mary’s success as a children’s book author is tempered by the fact that she gives credit for her work to Fred. This reflects the grim reality for women in the nineteenth century.
Fred and Mary have three sons. They are never wealthy, but they are able to buy the furniture at Stone Court, where they possibly still live at the time of writing. Lydgate dies at the age of 50, leaving Rosamond and their children well provided for through his life insurance. Before his death he works in London and Europe and writes a treatise on gout; his expertise in this area makes the family wealthy. Despite this, Lydgate always sees himself as a failure who never managed to realize his original ambitions. Throughout their marriage Rosamond continues to frustrate him, although as they get older his opposition to her desires steadily wanes.
The difference between Fred and Mary’s marriage and Lydgate and Rosamond’s marriage is clearly an issue of compatibility: Rosamond and Lydgate never knew or loved each other like Fred and Mary did. However, Lydgate’s trajectory also shows that expectations make an enormous difference when it comes to success and failure. Lydgate’s life was not a failure from the outside, but his lofty ambitions made him see it that way.
After Lydgate dies of diphtheria, Rosamond marries an older, wealthier doctor, who is fond of her and Lydgate’s four children. She calls this second marriage her “reward.” As for Dorothea, she never regrets giving up her fortune to marry Will, who becomes a prominent political figure and Member of Parliament. Many people think it is a shame that Dorothea ends up “merely” a wife and mother, although it is not clear what else she could have done. Mr. Brooke writes to Will and Dorothea often.
Despite the momentary revelation Rosamond had during her conversation with Dorothea at the end of the book, fundamentally Rosamond never changes as a person. She remains shallow and resentful of Lydgate. This suggests that people are capable of changing in minor ways, but that overall their personalities remain consistent.
One day Celia receives a letter saying that, after a dangerous pregnancy, Dorothea has given birth to a son. She is upset that Sir James won’t let her see her sister, but James immediately says he will take her the next day if she wants. Celia’s love for Dorothea means that Sir James eventually gets over his resentment of Will and disapproval of Dorothea’s second marriage. The couples begin seeing each other at regular intervals, and their children become close. Mr. Brooke lives a long time; Dorothea’s son inherits Tipton Grange. The narrator concludes that Dorothea’s life is far from perfect, but that her unique spirit had a profound, if “hidden,” impact on the world.
The fortunes of the Brooke sisters, their husbands, and their uncle are ultimately the best in the book. The fact that Celia and Dorothea’s love for one another means that their husbands overcome the enormous divide between their lifestyles reflects the novel’s general theme of political and social change. The country continues to transform, thanks in part to the lives of people like Dorothea, who despite not being important or famous still make a big difference to the world.