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The online laboratory for NAI Seniors's study of George Eliot's Middlemarch.

Middlemarch Marathon Hour 5: Chapter 11-12

By 10:59 AM ,

This hour we are reading chapters 11 and 12. Commercial provided by your very own reading buddy, Ro Mason! Chapters to be read by the podcast. Please leave responses and thoughts on this hour's reading through a comment to this post!


Now George Eliot veers away from Dorothea’s story to introduce two new couples: Lydgate and Rosamund, Fred and Mary. Eliot has to slog a bit to bring the young people and the older people who affect their destinies, particularly Peter Featherstone and Bulstrode, into the story. She has to present what is known as backstory, facts we have to know to understand the action, such as Fred’s background as an unsuccessful student and small-time gambler, or Bulstrode’s connection to Fred through marriage to Fred’s aunt.
These chapters are setting in motion a new series of events that will turn into what is technically known as a subplot, that is, a secondary story tied into the primary story by common relationships between the characters in each of the two stories and designed to reflect upon and deepen the primary story about Dorothea.
Even if these chapters seem a bit slow, they have many good scenes: Rosamund imagining that Lydgate is hers, Mary Garth jealous of Rosamund, and most dramatic, old Featherstone delighting in tormenting Fred, who deserves it.
Note the contrasts Eliot enjoys: the selfish old man enjoying the power of his money, contrasted with the needy young man willing to do whatever he can to get that money; the gorgeous vision of Rosamund in contrast to the solid ordinariness of Mary Garth; Lydgate the would-be rational man contrasted to Rosamund, the calculating girl. Much of the wisdom of George Eliot is revealed in her ability to show how selfish motives blind characters so that they don’t understand what they are doing and wildly misjudge the motives of others.
Parting quotes: Rosamund of Lydgate: “…a man of talent, also, whom it would be especially delightful to enslave . . .”
And Lydgate of Rosamund: “She is grace itself; she is perfectly lovely and accomplished . . .”
Ever make any mistakes like that yourself?

About Ro Mason:
Ro Mason pursued the PhD in English literature but caught only the MA. In retirement, she loves to read and write. Look up her book Cousin Jack under her name "Rowena Mason" on Amazon.

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  1. You guys are so engaged! What an accomplishment to sustain a marathon reading Middlemarch among the community of fellow students, teachers, and interested Dickens Project participants. I hope you enjoyed the event and give a big shout out to your teacher Jacqueline, who took a big step into this unknown outcome. Bravo to all the helpers and supporting readers. Julie

  2. Adamaris Marty Yulimar and LillySeptember 18, 2016 at 2:17 PM

    I liked how Lydgate, a man of learned science, described the difference between Dorothea and Rosamund. Lydgate said, "[Dorothea] did not look at things from the proper feminine angle. The society of such women was about as relaxing as going from your work to teach the second form, instead of reclining in a paradise with sweet laughs for bird-notes..." Lydgate cannot see himself married to a woman with knowledge but instead someone who can sing. It made me contrast Rosamund's education and Dorothea's. Rosamund was educated in how to speak, sing and act while Dorothea is passionate in continuing to learn. - Adamaris Group 5 P.1

  3. I enjoyed the contrasts made between the old mans admiriation for the power of his new found money and the young man who was desperate and ready to do anything for that money by Geroge Eliot in these chapters,because it allowed me to understand why she let selfish needs and wants disfigure the characters ethical morals. I also found it interesting how the introduction of two new couples (Fred & Mary, Lydgate & Rosamond) sort of set the rest of the chapter up, these new characters added the...spice I was looking for, from jeously to the purposeful affliction of pain.- Yasmine Carrera: Period 2, Group 6

  4. Lydgate, in fact, was already conscious of being fascinated by a woman strikingly different from Miss Brooke: he did not in the least suppose that he had lost his balance and fallen in love but he had said of that particular woman,'she is Grace itself; she is perfectly lovely and accomplished.That is what a woman ought to be: she ought to produce the effect of Exquisite music. - I found it interesting how Mr.Lydgate has a very unique idea of how a woman should be. Mr.Lydgate explains how he's found a different girl and made him feel different in variety of ways he can't explain. She's a piece of art and is perfectly made, her body language is so unique it's like seeing music in front of yours eyes.-Michael Group 4 P.1

  5. I enjoyed when they build Lydgate's background and his love toward Rosamond. "Lydgate was young, poor,ambitious." He is a new doctor who is half in love with Miss Vincy who is the mayors daughter but Lydgate feels he is not economically fit to marry right away. Miss Vincy a woman who is considered an ideal woman because a woman should not be knowledgeable, opinionated, or make decisions; Rosamond Vincy who is pleasant, shallow, pretty, and vain is exactly all this the the ideal woman for society at the time. Lydgate is pretending tobe in a higher which he is not in.-Period 2,Group 2

  6. I found it very interesting that in chapter 11 the first three pages were that of a narration from the narrator narrating the events of both fascinations of the mind through Miss Brooke's fascination of the "qualities of the woman who had attracted this young surgeon" and lydgates perception of Rosamind Vincy being "what a woman ought to be". Both minds are opposites in what they fascinate on, but it seems that, in which I question; is the narrator the conscious of Dorthea or is the narrator a witness of these events in Middlemarch? I also like this quote by the narrator in chapter 11 page 95 "But any one watching keenly the stealthy convergence of human lots, sees a slow preparation of effects from one life on another, which tells like a Calulated irony on the indifference or the frozen stare with which we look at our unintrouduced neighbor." This quote, I believe stands for the irony of the similar minds of lydgates and miss Brooke's, but the irony is that they have similar minds and ambitions but they don't find each other fascinating, which allows them to have opposite minds in their attraction. I also feel that that the narrator here is talking as if she had already witnessed or was apart of the event and she is recounting what she had seen. This provides a third person narration, if it is the conscious of Dorothea, I believe, or it can be another character in Middlemarch narrating this event. I think.
    -Salvador E. VillafaƱa-Period 2-Group 2

  7. In chapter 11, Lydgate is referred to as a "young, poor, ambitious surgeon". We like this because in Rosamond Vincy's eyes, he is what she looks for in romance. He is a stranger to her at first, he is not a Middlemarcher and has no connections like her own. We find it somewhat ironic though that Rosamond, being the daughter of Middlemarcher manufacturer, prefers that Lydgate is not a middlemarcher. Lydgate fancies Rosamond as well and compares her to exquisite music and the ideal woman because she follows society's orders without questioning. Adan and Jennifer, Period 1, Group 2.

  8. I liked how Mr.Lydgate's background was given in the opening of the chapter. Especially the way Elliott describes Mr.Lydgate by stating that "[He]... was already... fascinated by a woman strikingly different from Missouri Brooke". Miss Brooke is perceived to be as the boring sister of Celia but the mature one and was ignored by Lydgate. Evidently, Lydgate was fancied by Rosamond Vincy, whom was a woman that was stereotyped as the perfect woman. This shows how Lydgate can be harsh towards a woman that isn't towards his tastes (Miss Brooke) but can be infatuated to those whom he likes as we later see in the chapter. -Sergio Lopez, Group 1, Period 1.

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  10. I find it interesting how both social and gender equality were represented in these chapters. Lydgate compared Rosamond to Dorothea to compare an ideal wife to a not so good one. Due to Dorothea's questioning and excessive knowledge she wasn't thought to be a good candiatate to be a wife. Meanwhile Rosamond had that light education that women were expected to have and therefore was seen as a good ornament for a wealthy man like Lydgate. Here it is emphasized how women were to have litte education that did not surpass that of a man and also how they were poorly thought of. Rosamond was part of the middle class, therefore she had to aspire to marry a wealthy man because marriage was the only way for women to move up the ladder of society.

    -Samantha Suarez, Group 1, Period 2

  11. It was very interesting to see the way women's roles were portrayed in that time period. The struggles that Dorothea was facing were portrayed very well, when we read about her thoughts and ambitions. The way George Elliot showed the ideal woman in that time period by writing through the perspective of many of the different characters, both male and female was very intriguing and helped keep me on my toes when reading.

    Breana, Lavonte, Nathaniel, Victoria, Daniel
    Group #3 Period: 2

  12. I love the way that Lydgate refers to and describes his perspective upon Rosamond Vincy. At the beginning of chapter 11, I like how he makes a comparison of women to music, "That a women ought to be: she ought to produce the effect of exquisite music." Music is a true work of art and with the use of the word "exquisite" , it furthermore shows how fond Lydgate is of Rosamond. I enjoy the way Lydgate is described as being "young, poor, and ambitious" because it allows us as readers to build upon his character more. He possesses a mindset which allows him to never give up and continue on a journey of succes. He is aware and knows exactly what he wants for his near future. He does not want to marry anytime soon until he has planted a stable pathway for himself. I found it interesting how women are described in these chapters. Women are held back and looked down upon due to their gender. Women are underestimated which makes me reflect on today's society and how there are certain perspectives that never seem to change.
    -Natalie Montenegro, Period 1, Group 6

  13. I liked the way gender roles and stereotypes were shown in this chapter. One example being the comparison Lydgate has with Dorothea and Rosamond, being compared to the "ideal wife" and them not being a good one. The ideal women that George Elliot portrayed in these two chapters were very vivid in the sense that we can actually get and idea and picture it in our mind a "perfect" women from that time period. I also enjoyed how Lydgate is described as " young, poor, ambitious" because around that time period men were the ones who were the heads of everything, who had the money, and were the bosses at their job; all the while women are the lesser of the gender and couldn't control anything, she just had to take orders from her husband. But to see that a male gendered character is described as "young, poor, ambitious" is kind of changing the way you think of the gender roles in society during this time period.

    Jocelyn Hernandez, Group 5, Period 2.


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