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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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The Garths and Fred Vincy

Although presented in low key, the Garth family stands for the solid values of honesty, hard work, and modesty. Caleb, in particular: "his virtual divinities were good practical schemes accurate work and the faithful completion of under-takings: his prince of darkness was a slack workman." Caleb loves to talk of "business" which for him just means new and fruitful ways of managing the farmland. On the financial side, he lacks shrewdness and they struggle to make ends meet. Yet there is a deep bond, not only of warmth and affection, but also of respect between him and Susan. Calebís support for the new railway, his keen interest in Dorotheaís plans for laborers houses, all mark him, like Lydgate and Ladislaw as one representing social change. His employers respect him, and while he deals justify with them, he is not a servile feudal retainer. Calebís honesty conquers temptation, when he bluntly refuses Bulstrodeís employment on finding out the facts from Raffles. Yet he refuses to judge Bulstrode, feeling it is not for him to do so Caleb and Susan love their children deeply and are careful to pass on their values. Caleb has warmth for a scamp like Fred Vincy as well recognizing his good qualities - affection and kindness, he wants to give Fred a chance to cast off his pampered upbringing and make good. Susan is a less idealized person. Her slight smugness, her preference for her sons and her natural resentment of Fredís selfishness, make her very human.


Mary Garth is an "ordinary sinner; she was brown; her curly dark hair was rough and stubborn; her stature was low; and it would not be true to declare, in satisfactory antithesis, that she had all the virtues." She has "honesty, truth-telling fairness" and shrewdness "with a streak of satiric bitterness." Of the young women in the novel, she has the least options in life. In the logic of the period, Rosamond, having beauty, can marry "Will" Mary having none has to work. Hence, she takes on the distasteful task of housekeeper to the mean, manipulative Peter Featherstone. Though her uncle by marriage, he treats her like a servant. Mary bears his and his familyís ill treatment with outward tolerance. She too is subjected to temptation, when the dying Featherstone begs her to destroy one of his wills. But this goes against her principles and she stands firm, refusing his bribe. She knows of the handsome Fred Vincyís constant love for her, but refuses to accept him until he "has made something of himself." Her refusal to feel flattered by his love, her constant battling with him over his poor values and selfishness presents a new type of relationship. It is opposed to the lack of frankness and mutual respect in both Dorothea-Casaubon and the Lydgate-Rosamond marriages.

Fred is the pampered male equivalent of his sister Rosamond. He is saved by his capacity for affection, his irreverence for snobbery, and his desire to change. His love for Mary has been unchanging since childhood. It defies the difference in their class background in direct reversal of Rosamondís passion for social climbing. In a dramatic sequence, Fredís selfishness is highlighted for him when he deprives Susan of her money for her sonís education, by rashly making Caleb stand surety for a loan. Elsewhere, he is shaken by Lydgate's falling into a debt trap and by Farebrotherís friendly threat to compete for Maryís love. Fred is initially weak, but his acceptance of his mistakes and capacity for change and hard work take him on the path to fulfillment, along, with Mary. It is they who have the truly "happy ending" in the novel.

Nicholas Bulstrode

Bulstrodeís story is that of an ardent religious seeker with a strong streak of materialism, who ultimately succumbs to his negative impulses. Starting out as an idealist member of a Dissenting sect, who wants to become a missionary, he ends up a manipulative banker, full of sham piety. Using his financial clout to control various traders and professionals in the town, he then poses as a morally pure and superior being and looks down on them.

The portrayal of Bulstrode is in a way a depiction of a type of religious approach, which is really crass materialism. He convinces himself that all he does is for Godís greater glory. When he accumulates profits, he believes it to be so.

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