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BOOK IV: THREE LOVE PROBLEMS
This is a very illuminating scene dealing with the funeral of Peter Featherstone. It is held at Lowick Church and presided over by Mr. Cadwallader. Casaubon is ill, but Featherstone has demanded Cadwallader whom he likes. In every way, the funeral has been stage-managed by Featherstone himself, down to demanding that his female relatives walk behind his coffin to the graveside.
The newly married Chettams, Mrs. Cadwallader, Dorothea and her husband watch the funeral from Lowick Manor. Dorothea is deeply interested as she "is constantly wondering what sort of lives other people lead and how they take things." For the others, it is a sort of minor entertainment. Social distinctions are very clear in that. None of the Lowick lady observers know any of the mourners, most of who are townspeople from Middlemarch. Thus, their comments on the various mourners expand our view of the characters.
Two new arrivals at the funeral create ripples of interest. One is a "frog-faced" youngish man, a stranger to Middlemarch. The other is Will Ladislaw. Mr. Brooke, entrusted with the job of putting of Willís visit, instead invited him to Tipton, and Will is staying with him. The company especially Dorothea and Casaubon are startled on hearing about Willís return. The tension in the air is obvious. Mr. Brookeís jumbled explanation makes things worse. It is obvious to Dorothea that her husband thinks she has suggested the invitation to Tipton Grange. Yet her relationship with him is so restricted that she canít explain the truth. Mr. Brooke, blissfully ignorant, goes off to bring in the Thomas Aquinas painting.
The scene is almost dramatic in its effect. Firstly, it brings home the gulf between the gentry and the town bourgeois - the merchants and professionals. Only the professional males - Cadwallader, the priest; Lydgate, the doctor; Brooke the aspiring politician, are able to bridge the gap in the building up of character, an important technique of George Eliot is the varied brush strokes formed by otherís opinions of a character. For instance, here, Mrs. Cadwallader tells us that Vincy is "one of those who suck the life out of the wretched hand-loom weavers in Tipton and Freshitt. That is how his family look so fair and sleek" while Mr. Brooke with his own point of view, calls Vincy a very good fellow - a credit to the manufacturing interest." This tells up about Vincy, but it also tells us something about the two speakers and their social viewpoint.
It underlines Dorotheaís sense of isolation and uselessness. Willís re-entry is a turning point, especially in the jealous mind of Casaubon. George Eliot is firm on one point that the jealousy is baseless and exists because of his own frustration. On Dorotheaís side, she has done or felt nothing to arouse it. She is staunchly committed to her husband and never allows anyone else to come in the way of that.
Another turning point is the appearance of the "frog-faced" man or Joshua Rigg, who will shatter all Fredís hopes.