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George Eliot attempts to satisfy the readers’ curiosity about her characters and "what befell them in their after-years."
Fred and Mary prosper and have three sons. Fred makes a name as a practical and theoretical farmer, and write books on farming methods. Mary too writes books of stories originally meant for her children. Their neighbors are incredulous at these hidden talents! Fred never forgets his debt of gratitude to the Rev. Farebrother.
Lydgate's is a story of wasted talent and the whittling down of noble intentions. He dies at fifty, after building up a fashionable and rich practice, specializing in sort the disease of the rich. He leaves his wife and children very comfortably off and she shortly marries a rich man who gratifies her every whim.
Dorothea and Will live in harmony and busy activity, with himself as a local political and journalist. She continues to be described in Middlemarch as an unstable woman who married first a clergyman old enough to be her father and a year after his death, his cousin, young enough to be his son! But she strove always to improve conditions for those around her.
In this massive and compelling novel, one is emotionally drawn into the lives of not only the main protagonists, but several minor characters, as well. The average Victorian reader would participate even more, writing in and demanding one ending or the other. Hence, the author uses the Prelude and the Finale to give her own perspective on the thronging events and characters in the book. This is also true to the tradition of the nineteenth century novel, where morals had to be stated firmly, and underlined and open-ended stories were not approved of.
Thus George Eliot wishes us to see that the Dorothea who aspired to be a St. Theresa, led a life which "spent itself in channels which had no great name in the earth." Yet she asserts, "the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistorical acts." Thus, the good or bad acts of ordinary people assume a cumulative importance, which she emphasizes. Yet, the novelist stresses, an imperfect social state is greatly responsible for turning what could be great rivers into petty streams.
Providence supports him; therefore he is on the right path. All his unsavory acts, such as the plot to cheat Ladislaw’s mother of her inheritance, are conveniently brushed aside. This again makes him the victim of lifelong blackmail. Having built up a bogus image, he dare not challenge the black mailer. Not even his wife knows any of the precise facts of his life.
George Eliot uses this facet of Bulstrode to focus on the genuine humanity of many others - Dorothea, Lydgate, Farebrother, and Caleb Garth, who offer warmth and aid to others with no strings. Bulstrode alone uses his money to buy silence or co- operation.
In spite of this, he is not a "villain" in the narrow sense, more a case of ht e drive towards fulfillment gone wrong. He has genuine dynamism and belief in the need for better medical treatment in the provinces. He is prepared to put his money behind this belief. He is also a faithful family man. Even his attitude to Raffles is not one of a Machiavellian out to eliminate trouble, but more one of a sinner come face to face with his crime, and trying to evade it. His hypocrisy is challenged when both Ladislaw and Lydgate refuse his money, and Caleb opts out of his employment. Eventually, there is only repentance and disgrace for Bulstrode, with the redeeming factor of his wife’s devotion.