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MonkeyNotes-Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Chapter 56

Summary

Dorothea has met Caleb Garth in connection with the workersí cottages on Chettamís land. They both respect each other and naturally, Dorothea asks Caleb to manage the three farms attached to Lowick manor. During this period preliminary work for putting down railway lines is being carried out in the area. Many landowners look on the railway as a sinister threat. Conservatives like Solomon Featherstone, brother of the late Peter, are determined to resist its construction. Solomon, therefore, incites the villagers of Frick, a small village in the path of the railway line, to fight it.

One day Caleb is measuring a piece of Dorotheaís land adjoining Frick. He encounters four railway employees working on a nearby plot. While they are all carrying on with their work, about seven farm laborers attack the railway men. Caleb and his assistant go to their rescue. Fred, who is riding past, joins in with zest. Finally, Caleb argues with the villagers and convinces them not to oppose the railway work. Calebís assistant is hurt and has to be sent home. So Caleb continues to work with Fredís help. Finding Fred enthusiastic about it, Caleb probes his intentions a little. He gives him an earnest lecture on the need to love oneís work and not to watch the clock while doing it. Fred confides his love for Mary and his determination establish himself in a profession other that the clergy, to be worthy of her. Caleb then decides to take him as his assistant.

That evening he asks for Susanís counsel, but it is clear to her his mind is made up. She gives in, although sad at the loss of Farebrother as a suitor for Mary, and tense about the reaction of the Vincys. Next day, Fred starts and has an immediate set back regarding his illegible handwriting and his dislike for deskwork. But his mind is made up. He informs his parents about his decision, and they reluctantly accept. Mrs. Vincy is convinced that Mary is inevitably going to marry Fred. The Vincys are unhappy about both their elder children, as Rosamond has lost her baby, and Lydgate is getting deeper into debt.


Notes

The reformation of Fred Vincy is under way, and his future is shown to be bright. Caleb a favorite character of George Eliotís is a sort of counterpoint to the blind idealism of both Dorothea and Lydgate. Their ambitions have been boundless, but they lack self-awareness and realism and are doomed to disappointment. Caleb is a man of the soil. He is modest and unworldly about money and status. Yet he deeply loves his work and wishes to do good in a practical and modest way. His marriage too, has been based in love and understanding, unlike those of Lydgate and Dorothea. Hence, while the author is angry at the forces that act to waste their tremendous talents, she also seems to feel it is only modest aims that are rewarded with success.

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