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BOOK V: THE DEAD Hand
Dorothea is certain that her husband has gone through a crisis. How much he knows about his illness is not clear to her. She decides to meet Lydgate and find out she drives to Lydgate’s new house in Lowick Gate to meet him away from her husband. There, Rosamond is occupying herself by learning some songs from Will Ladislaw, in her husband’s absence. Rosamond is excited at seeing one of those "county divinities not mixing with Middlemarch mortality" for the first time. Will is dismayed at being seen alone with another woman. Dorothea greets them with her usual warmth and asks for Lydgate. She agrees he should be sent for. Then suddenly changes her mind and hastily departs for the new hospital herself. Will is left feeling deprived and uneasy. He too leaves in a sulky mood. In fact, Dorothea has left on becoming conscious that this is a meeting with Will, she dare not mention to Casaubon. She is also uneasy about Will’s presence, alone with Lydgate’s new bride, both apparently singing together.
When Lydgate returns, Rosamond is curious to know his opinion of Dorothea, especially of her appearance. She also complains about his preoccupation with work in the hospital and at home. Lydgate affectionately tries to convince her of the need to be "something better than a Middlemarch doctor does." Their marriage is still too new for the discussion to be very heated.
Lydgate is happy at Dorothea’s interest in the hospital and feels that she will give a handsome donation towards its work.
The primary focus of this chapter is the meeting of Dorothea and Rosamond, with the striking contrast between them as personalities. Dorothea’s "simply parted hair and candid eyes," her unfashionable white woolen dress and her hard-won maturity are set off against Rosamond’s studied beauty, her "pale blue dress of a fit and fashion, so perfect that no dressmaker could look at it without emotion" her "infantine blondness," which stands for immaturity. The contrast is also between Rosamond’s absorption in the appearance and social standing of Mrs. Casaubon, one of the local gentry, and Dorothea worry about her husband. Even Will appears shabby with his sulking and his attempts to snub Rosamond because of his own disappointment.
The Lydgates are still basking in newly married contentment, but hints of future discontent are clear.