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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 52

Summary

Mr. Farebrother and his family are filled with joy, as Dorothea has appointed him rector of Lowick. The increased salary and good house that goes with it are very welcome to them. Farebrother happily gives up his whist, which gave him some qualms about his winnings. He jovially tells his sister she should now marry, while she returns the suggestion to him and adds that Mary Garth would be his best choice. Unfortunately, Fred, having got his college degree, returns at this point. He approaches Farebrother to plead his cause with Mary. Fred feels he has little option but to become a clergyman. Since Mary has been dead against this, he wants to find out her present opinion and if she is ready to wait for him to settle down. Poor Farebrother accepts the painful task and sincerely puts Fredís case before Mary. She opposes the question of joining the clergy totally, but she makes it clear she loves him and will wait for him. Farebrother thus gets his won answer indirectly, and Mary becomes aware of his emotional involvement. Farebrother tactfully explains that she need not feel guilt over not destroying Featherstoneís second will. Since it had been approved formally, the first will must have been contested by the heirs of the second. Thus Farebrother proves to be a self-sacrificing idealist, and sustains serious blow, while having the comfort of an improved income.


Notes

While he is a minor character in the novel, Farebrother is drawn, together with "his old ladies," in vivid detail. He represents the humane face of religion as distinct from Bulstrode, Casaubon and Tyke - each one rigid and sanctimonious in his own way. Farebrother speaks with "plain, easy eloquence" and is loved by the farmers and simple people of his parish. He has human failings - like his addiction for whist at which he wins money to fund his interest in Natural History. But this, and his sacrifice of his love for Mary, only make him seem more one of the people and tolerant of their weaknesses. The novel is studded with such minor characters, which give it richness and depth.

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