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Will comes to dinner, and is both respectful and entertaining. He speaks seldom to Dorothea and offers to show them an artistís studio, as they are to return home shortly. He takes them to Naumann's studio, explaining that he was "one of the chief renovators of Christian art" and that he was his teacher. Naumann has been eagerly awaiting them, anxious to paint Dorothea. She begins to enjoy art under the easy-going guidance of Will and Naumann. Will shows her his work but is humorous about it. Casaubon is not much interested, until Naumann asks permission to paint him as St. Thomas Aquinas in a group scene. Casaubon is extremely flattered, and promptly agrees. Dorothea is happy at this attention being paid to him. She doesnít suspect any flattery. Under the guise of giving Casaubon a rest, Naumann requests "the beautiful bride" to let him fill up the time by trying to make a slight sketch of her." Will is charmed by her simplicity and unaffected attitude while sitting for the sketch. He is jealous of Naumann, who adjusts her pose. Naumann cleverly keeps Dorotheaís sketch and sells the one of Casaubon to him, thus achieving both his aims.
Will wants to worship Dorothea from afar, he also wants her to notice him. Hence, he visits her next day when Casaubon is bound to be away. They discuss her gifts for her sister, and she confides in him about her intellectual weaknesses. He loses control and blurts out that "you want to make your life a martyrdom" and that she will "go and be shut up in that stone prison at Lowick." Dorothea is so touched by his concern that she overlooks his bluntness. She then turns to his earlier reference to the defects in Casaubonís approach to research. Will explains to her the folly of ignoring modern European scholarship on a subject and referring to ancient authors. She is shocked that Casaubonís ardent labor should be in vain. She is also angry with Will for making her aware of this. She extracts a promise that he will not abort it again. She tries to push him towards a definite vocation, and he declares he will not anymore take financial help from Casaubon. Will takes his leave, meeting Casaubon on his way out.
Dorothea eagerly informs Casaubon about Willís decision to be independent. He answers with disinterest, saying he had a duty towards him, but Will was not otherwise an object of interest to me."
This chapter develops the Will-Dorothea relationship further along with Casaubonís jealousy. George Eliotís critics have charged her with creating an unconvincingly "sexless" relationship. But her understanding of it is consistent with her depiction of Dorotheaís idealism, commitment and loyalty to her husband, and even to her blindness to her own needs.
The author also shows the good influence Dorothea has on Will, who wishes to be independent in future of Casaubonís charity, yet she brings out human complexity by revealing Willís feeling that by not accepting an allowance, "it would clearly be permissible to hate him the more."
Here, ends the chapter "Book II: Old and Young." This section has dealt with varied relationships between the generations including that of Fred and Mary with Featherstone; Fred and Rosamond with their parents; Lydgate with Bulstrode, and Dorothea and will with Casaubon. In the process the backgrounds surrounding the three main love stories and the texture of public life in Middlemarch are exposed.