Middlemarch Summary by George Eliot


Read this article to know about Middlemarch summary by George Eliot. Middlemarch is a novel that deals with the lives of the residents of Middlemarch, a fictitious town. The story mainly consists of three or four plots of unequal importance:

  1. Dorothea Brooke’s life
  2. Tertius Lydgate’s career;
  3. the courtship of Mary Garth by Fred Vincy;
  4. and the Bulstrode’s disgrace


Dorothea’s Idealism

The two main plots of Dorothea and Lydgate develop concurrently, although Bulstrode’s becomes more significant in the later chapters. Dorothea Brooke an orphan, who lives with her younger sister, Celia, under the guardianship of Mr Brooke, her uncle.

Dorothea is a passionate girl, who desires to improve the condition of tenant farmers by renovating their houses. though her uncle hates this idea.

Sir James Chettam, a young man of her age falls in love with her but she is instead attracted to Edward Casaubon, an old folk of 45. Casaubon proposes Dorothea for marriage and the latter accepts the proposal at once, though her sister tries to stop her.

Meanwhile, Chettam is encouraged to woo Celia, who ultimately develops an interest in her. Fred and Rosamond Vincy, the eldest children of town mayor who could not finish university.

Fred is the presumed heir of his childless uncle Mr Featherstone, an unpleasant, though rich, man. Fred is in love with Marry Grath (niece of Featherstone) and wants to marry her.

Shattering of Dorothea’s Idealism

On their honeymoon in Rome, Dorothea finds for the first time that her marriage did not prove as she wished to be when she finds that her husband has no interest in loving her and remains busy in his intellectual pursuits, which were among her reasons for marrying him. Meanwhile, she befriends Will Ladislaw, Casaubon’s cousin who is jobless and whom he supports financially.

Fred is Indebted & Distress for Garths

Fred falls into debt and finds himself unable to repay the money. Having asked Mary’s father, to co-sign the debt, he now tells Garth he must forfeit it.

As a result, Mrs Garth’s savings, which represent four years worth of income she held in reserve for the education of her youngest son, and Mary’s savings are completely wiped out. Mr Garth asks Mary not to marry Fred.

A New Doctor Arrives

Fred becomes ill and is cured by Mr Lydgate, the newest doctor in Middlemarch. Rosamond (sister of Fred), who is well educated and attractive, decides to marry Lydgate and uses Fred’s sickness as an opportunity to get close to the doctor.

In the beginning, he views their relationship as pure flirtation. However, Lydgate retards back from Rosamond after knowing that people think that they are engaged. However, after seeing her a final time, he gives up the idea to abandon her and the two are engaged.

Death of Casaubon & Recovery of Fred

At roughly the same time, Casaubon, returned from Rome, suffers a heart attack. Lydgate is brought in to deal with him and informs Dorothea that, in all likelihood, Casaubon only has around fifteen years left if he takes it easy and ceases his studies.

Meanwhile, as Fred recovers, Mr Featherstone becomes ill. On his deathbed, he reveals that he has two wills and tries to get Mary to help him destroy one. Unwilling to be mixed up in the business of his will, she refuses, and Featherstone dies with the two wills still intact.

In poor health, Casaubon attempts to extract from Dorothea a promise that, should he die, she will “avoid doing what I should deprecate, and apply yourself to do what I should desire”.

He dies before she can reply, and she later learns of a provision in his will that, if she marries Ladislaw, she will lose her inheritance. Lydgate’s efforts to please Rosamond soon leave him deeply in debt, and he is forced to seek help from Bulstrode.

He is partly sustained through this by his friendship with Camden Farebrother. Meanwhile, Rosamond’s brother, Fred, is reluctantly destined for the Church. However, he is in love with Mary Garth, who will not accept him until he abandons the Church and settles on a more suitable career.

Death of Mr Featherstone

Earlier Mr Featherstone decided to make Fred his heir, but later he rescinded this will. Yet on his deathbed, Featherstone, asks Mary to destroy the second will but she refuses and asks Featherstone to wait till morning so that a new will could be drawn up, but he dies the very night.

Being bankrupt, Fred takes a loan guaranteed by Mary’s father. When Fred fails to repay the loan, Caleb’s finances are compromised. Being humiliated he resolves to train as a land agent under the forgiving Caleb.

Bulstrode is Exposed

John Raffles, who is well aware of Bulstrode’s past, comes to Middlemarch and starts blackmailing him. In his youth, the churchgoing Bulstrode earned by foul means and he inherited by marrying a wealthy widow who was older than him.

Bulstrode’s fears public exposure as a hypocrite. As a result, he hastens the death of Raffles who is morally sick, but the story of his past has already spread throughout the land.

Bulstrode’s disgrace affects Lydgate as well, as knowledge of the financier’s loan to the doctor becomes known, and he is assumed to be the companion of Bulstrode in all his deeds.

Dorothea and Farebrother still have faith in him, but Lydgate and Rosamond are nevertheless encouraged by the public criticism to leave Middlemarch. The only comfort to disgraced Bulstrode is that his wife stands by him as he too faces exile.

A Secret Love

Casaubon’s will leads to the suspicion that Ladislaw and Dorothea are in love. Ladislaw is secretly in love with Dorothea but he doesn’t express it, as he does not want to involve her in scandal or to cause her disinheritance.

Ladislaw works as a newspaper editor for Mr Brooke. However, when Brooke’s election campaign fails, he decides to leave the town and goes to Dorothea to say his farewell. But Dorothea has also fallen in love with him though she had contrary views about him earlier.

She renounces Casaubon’s fortune and announces that she will marry Ladislaw, shocking her family again. At the same time, Fred, who has been successful in his new career, marries Mary.

Final Destiny

The “Finale” describes the destiny of the main characters. Fred and Mary marry and live happily with their three sons. Lydgate works outside of Middlemarch but fails to fulfil his desires and dies at the age of 50, leaving behind Rosamond and four children.

After his death, Rosamond marries a wealthy physician. Ladislaw engages in public reform, and Dorothea lives happily as a wife and mother to of two children. Their son eventually inherits Arthur Brooke’s estate.