Serial Reading Guide for Middlemarch: Book Six (chs. 54 – 62)
Page numbers are indicated for the Norton Critical Edition (2000).
1. Note that in the conversation between Will and Dorothea (at 336, ch 54), the narrator alternates internal point of view, giving “two sides” to the same conversation, and the narration carefully distinguishes what the characters think and what they choose to say. Compare the miscommunication due to what is left unspoken to the Bulstrode theme of public versus “private” sin. Eliot seems to be suggesting that expression, in both cases, is preferable to suppression.
2. What’s with all the “shocks,” electrical and otherwise, that seem to radiate outward and connect people in this book? There are interesting examples at 336, 337, 338, 339 (if you count Mrs. Cadwallader “startling” Lady Chettam), and 384 (chs. 54-55, 61).
3. Progress and railways—will their effect be to divide (“cutting up”) or connect? (ch 56).
4. Consider a new thematic development that may be emerging: the issue of people having claims on other people. When is this a good thing, leading to altruism, interdependence, and responsibility, and when is it negative, as with any of the “dead hand” demands? (note in particular 348-49, ch.56).
5. Mrs. Garth often knits things together . . . (354, 355, ch. 57).
6. Oh Rosamond, not to be turned back and “treated like a child” like St. Theresa was in the prelude (361, ch. 58). And note Lydgate’s thoughts on causes and effects (362).
7. Compare the nature of the communication between Lydgate and Rosamond with that of Will and Dorothea (ch 58 and elsewhere).
8. Chapter 61: Here it comes, the Bulstrode backstory!