Book II: Old and Young

1. We learn a lot about Dr. Lydgate in Chapter 15. Is Lydgate another example of a ‘later-born Theresa’? How is his story like or unlike Dorothea’s? What do we learn about him from the incident with Laure?

2. Chapter 15 contains some pointed remarks about the role we (yes, you and I) play in people’s failures. Indeed, the narrator of Middlemarch uses the first-person plural pretty often throughout the novel. How does it affect you to be drawn into the novel in this way? How do you think this strategy serves the larger purposes of the novel?

3. What parallels do you notice between Lydgate and Rosamond’s courtship and Dorothea and Casaubon’s?

4. When Lydgate casts his vote in Chapter 18, it’s a pivotal moment in his relationship with Bulstrode and with the town of Middlemarch — and perhaps also in our understanding of his character and situation. What does Lydgate (and what do we) learn from this episode? Do you think Lydgate made the right decision? Do you think there is a right decision?

5. How does Dorothea’s view of Mr. Casaubon change during their honeymoon? What are the consequences — moral or otherwise — of her new perspective?


6. Chapters 19-21 are great examples of Eliot’s manipulation of chronology in the novel. Here’s a fun experiment: list the following events first in the order that we are told about them, then in the order that they “actually” happen:

 i.     Dorothea and Casaubon go to Rome for their honeymoon

ii.     Dorothea cries in her apartment in Rome

iii.     Naumann points Dorothea out to Will

iv.     Naumann sees Dorothea in the Vatican

v.     Dorothea goes to the Vatican

vi.     Will visits Dorothea in her apartment

vii.     Dorothea quarrels with Casaubon

Why mess with chronology this way? What structural problem is Eliot trying to solve? How does the treatment of time in the novel compare to the treatment of point of view?

7. We meet yet more people in Book II — and meet some people again. What do you think about Mr. Bulstrode? Reverend Farebrother? Will Ladislaw? Have your reactions to any characters changed substantially since Book I? If so, have they changed, or have you?

Middlemarch Discussion Questions Book II (PDF)

3 thoughts on “Book II: Old and Young

    • Rohan Maitzen says:

      You are very welcome!

      As for notes or answers, in the further resources section of the site there are links to various things people (including me) have written about the novel, but otherwise the idea here is just to prompt discussion.


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