Book IV: Three Love Problems

1. What are the three love problems? What elements do they share, and how are they different?

2. Featherstone’s funeral is a great set piece, not just for the wonderful dark comedy of it but for the way it brings some of the novel’s diverse plot lines together. What does this criss-crossing of stories and characters reveal — about the class structure of the community and the novel, for instance?

3. It takes much longer for Rosamond and Lydgate’s marriage to actually happen than it did for Dorothea and Casaubon’s. As a result, we (and they) have more time to think about everything. What do their marriage preparations show about Rosamond and Lydgate? Are they well suited? What do you think are the biggest threats to their marital happiness? Dorothea saw marriage to Mr. Casaubon as a way of realizing her dreamed-of vocation. How do Rosamond and Lydgate think of marriage?

4. There’s a lot of attention to money in Book IV, from Fred’s disappointed expectations to to Lydgate’s profligate spending to Dorothea’s anxiety about her prospective inheritance. We also meet some of the poorest characters in the novel, the Dagleys. What is money good for in the novel? What are the moral effects of wealth or poverty?

5. Will is becoming a more prominent character in this book. What kind of a character is he turning out to be? How does he see Dorothea? How does she see him? What kind of contrast does he offer to Mr. Casaubon? (It’s interesting to compare the metaphorical language used for each of them.) Does he seem like a good alternative to Mr. Casaubon, or do you have reservations about him?

6. Chapter 42 could be seen as the culmination of the effort begun in Chapter 29 to win our sympathy for Mr. Casaubon — or at least to see things from his point of view. How do you feel about Dorothea’s struggles at the end of the chapter, and about their resolution?

Middlemarch Discussion Questions Book IV (PDF)

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