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After Viewing Activities by Episode

Episode I | Episode II | Episode III | Episode IV | Episode V | Episode VI

Episode I: Dorothea and Lydgate

Middlemarch was originally two separate stories -- one about Tertius Lydgate and one about Dorothea Brooke. When George Eliot put the two stories together, Lydgate and Dorothea remained the central characters.

Read the following six passages from the novel and, on a separate sheet, answer the questions accompanying each passage.

A description of Dorothea Brooke

Most men thought her bewitching when she was on horseback. She loved the fresh air...she felt that she enjoyed riding in a pagan sensuous way, and always looked forward to renouncing it. (Chapter 1)

  1. Carefully consider Eliot's choice of words. What kind of image does this passage evoke in your mind? Why do you think Dorothea would want to give up something she enjoyed?

A description of Dr. Lydgate

Mr. Lydgate had the medical accident of looking perfectly grave whenever nonsense was talked to him, and his dark steady eyes gave him impressiveness as a listener. (Chapter 10)

  1. Explain the subtle humor in this quote about Lydgate.

Dorothea speaking with Sir James Chettam about tenants

"I think we deserve to be beaten out of our beautiful houses with a scourge of small cords -- all of us who let tenants live in such sties as we see round us. Life in cottages might be happier than ours, if they were real houses fit for human beings......" (Chapter 8)

  1. Write down three adjectives that describe Dorothea's tone in this speech. If you were directing an actor to deliver these lines, how would you tell her to look, move, and speak?

Lydgate to himself about his profession

"I should never have been happy in any profession that did not call forth the highest intellectual strain, and yet keep me in good warm contact with my neighbors." (Chapter 15)

  1. What does this quote tell us about Lydgate?

Dorothea to herself about marrying Causabon

"It would be my duty to study that I might help him the better in his great works. There would be nothing trivial about our lives....And then I should know what to do, when I got older....l don't feel sure about doing good in any way now: everything seems like going on a mission to a people whose language I don't know... (Chapter 3)

  1. What concerns of Dorothea's does this passage reflect? Which words or phrases in the passage best convey the meaning of her thoughts?
  2. What do passages A, C, and E tell the reader about Dorothea?

Narrator on Lydgate's role in Middlemarch

"Middlemarch, in fact, counted on swallowing Lydgate and assimilating him very comfortably." (Chapter 15)

  1. How do you think a town can "swallow" a person?

  2. Based on what you've read and seen, what do you think of Lydgate? Would you want him to be your doctor? What do you predict will happen to him?

Episode II: Dialogue in Middlemarch

Read the following three passages of dialogue from George Eliot's novel and, on a separate sheet, answer the questions that accompany each passage.

Dorothea and Causabon discussing Will Ladislaw

"What is that, my love?" said Mr. Casaubon (he always said "my love," when his manner was the coldest).

"...He means soon to go back to England, and work his own way. I thought you would consider that a good sign," said Dorothea, with an appealing look into her husband's neutral face.

"Did he mention the precise order of occupation to which he would addict himself?" (Chapter 22)

  1. What does this dialogue reveal about Casaubon's attitude toward Ladislaw?

  2. What word in this passage describes the way Dorothea looks at Casaubon, and what word describes what she sees in his face? What does this image of the couple convey about their relationship?

Mary speaking with Featherstone after she has given her father money to repay Fred Vincy's debt

"I suppose your father wanted your earnings," said old Mr. Featherstone, with his usual power of unpleasant surmise, when Mary returned to him. "He makes but a tight fit, I reckon. You're of age now; you ought to be saving for yourself."

"I consider my father and mother the best part of myself, sir," said Mary, coldly (Chapter 25)

  1. What does Featherstone mean when he says, "He makes but a tight fit."?

  2. What does this passage tell the reader about Featherstone?

  3. Write a character description of Mary based on her words from passages B and C.

Fred talking with Mary after her father has decided to use his family's savings to pay Fred's debts

"I wouldn't have hurt you so for the world, Mary" he said at last. "You can never forgive me."

"What does it matter whether I forgive you?" said Mary passionately. "Would that make it any better for my mother to lose the money she has been earning for lessons for four years...? Should you think all that pleasant enough if I forgave you?"

"Say what you like, Mary I deserve it all."

"I don't want to say anything," said Mary more quietly "my anger is of no use." (Chapter 25)

  1. How would you describe Mary's speech to Fred? How does she use logic to make her point?

  2. Mary is characterized in the novel as a talkative woman with a sharp tongue. Why then does she resort to silence?

  3. What do Fred's words reveal about his personality?

Episode III: A Look at Love

The trials of love reveal much about human nature.

Read the following three Middlemarch passages about love and, on a separate sheet, answer the questions accompanying each passage.

Dorothea and Ladislaw at a chance meeting

"Each looked at the other as if they had been two flowers which had opened then and there....It seemed fresh water at her thirsty lips to speak without fear to the one person whom she had found receptive."

"...It seems strange to me how many things I said to you while in Rome:."

"I remember them all," said Will, with the unspeakable content in his soul of feeling that he was in the presence of a creature worthy to be perfectly loved. (Chapter 87)

  1. Eliot uses two metaphors in this passage. What are they, and how do they affect your image of this chance meeting?

  2. What does Eliot mean when she writes that Ladislaw is filled with "unspeakable content in his soul"?

Rosamond and Lydgate talking at home about the medical profession

"Still," said Rosamond, "I do not think it is a nice profession, dear."

"It is the grandest profession in the world, Rosamond," said Lydgate, gravely. "And to say that you love me without loving the medical man in me is the same sort of thing as to say that you like eating a peach but don't like its flavour. Don't say that again, dear, it pains me." (Chapter 45)

  1. Based on what you've seen of Rosamond, why do you think she doesn't like her husband's profession?

  2. Explain what Lydgate means when he tells Rosamond that if she disapproves of his profession it's the same as saying "that you like eating a peach but don't like its flavour."

  3. Do you agree with Lydgate that you can't love someone if you disapprove of his or her profession? Why or why not?

Dorothea's internal monologue after Causabon has avoided her

"What have I done -- what am I -- that he should treat me so?...What is the use of anything I do? He wishes he had never married me."...Was it her fault that she had believed in him...? She was able to estimate him -- she who waited on his glances with trembling, and shut her best soul in prison, paying it only hidden visits, that she might be petty enough to please him. In such a crisis as this, some women begin to hate. (Chapter 42)

  1. Why does Eliot refer to Dorothea's situation as a crisis?

  2. What does it mean to "shut your best soul in prison"?

  3. What is happening to Dorothea and Casaubon's relationship? Is Dorothea, Casaubon, or both to blame for their situation? Why? Compare and contrast the tone of passages A, B and C.

Episode IV: The Homes of Middlemarch

By skillfully describing the homes in Middlemarch, Eliot provides readers with a vivid backdrop for her characters. Instructions: After reading the following three descriptions of different locations in Middlemarch, answer the questions accompanying each description on a separate sheet.

Stone Court, the home first of Feathrestone and then the Bulstrodes

"The fine old place never looked more like a delightful home than at that moment; the great white lilies were in flower, the nasturtiums, their pretty leaves all silvered with dew, were running away over the low stone wall; the very noises all around had a heart of peace within them. " (Chapter 55)

  1. What details in this description create a rich image of Stone Court?

  2. Explain what you think is meant by the phrase "the very noises all around had a heart of peace within them"?

Freeman's end, the home of the Dagley's, the Brooke's laborer tenants

"..two of the chimneys were choked with ivy the large porch was blocked up with bundles of sticks, and half the windows were closed with gray worm-eaten shutters about which the jasmine-boughs grew in wild luxuriance...and there was an aged goat...lying against the open back-kitchen door." (Chapter 39)

  1. From this description, what are some of the things you might infer about the people who live at Freeman's End?

  2. Make a list of the adjectives and verbs in this passage. What kind of picture do they create?

Lowick, home of Dorothea and Causabon

"...the flower-beds showed no very careful tendance, and large clumps of trees, chiefly of somber yews, had risen high.... The building, of greenish stone, was in the old English style, not ugly, but small-windowed and melancholy-looking: that sort of house that must have children, many flowers, open windows, and little vistas of bright things, to make it seem a joyous home." (Chapter 9)

  1. What is your impression of Lowick after reading this description? Which details about the house and the grounds create this impression?

  2. Think about the mood created by a home or building that you know well. Write a one-paragraph detailed description that evokes the mood of that place.

Episode V: The Power of Language

Read the three passages below and answer the accompanying questions on a separate sheet.

Fred Vincy and Caleb Garth discussing whether Fred is suited for Garth's trade

"You think I could do some good at [managing land], if I were to try?" said Fred, more eagerly.

"That depends," said Caleb..."You...must love your work, and not be always looking over the edge of it, wanting your play to begin. And... you must not be ashamed of' your work, and think it would be more honor-able to you to be doing something else. You must always have a pride in your work and in learning to do it well..." (Chapter 56)

  1. In what ways do you think Fred's life will improve if he takes Caleb Garth's advice?

  2. What do Caleb Garth's words tell us about him and his values?

Dorothea discussing her plans after Causabon's death

"I shall never marry again...l should like to take a great deal of land, and drain it, and make a little colony, where everybody should work, and all the work should be done well. I should know every one of the people and be their friend...l should like to feel...that I improved a great piece of land, because the work is of a healthy kind while it is being done, and after it is done, men are the better for it." (Chapter 56)

  1. What issues must Dorothea confront after Casaubon's death? What does this speech reveal about her approach to resolving these issues?

  2. Consider the language of Dorothea's speech. What kinds of words does she use? How many syllables, for example, do most of them contain? How does the tone of this speech support its meaning?

Lydgate and Rosamund discussing their debts

"I am obliged to tell you what will hurt you, Rosy. But there are things which husband and wife must think of together. I daresay it has occurred to you...that I arm short of money."

"What can I do, Tertius?" Rosamond's thin utterance threw into the words as much aloof neutrality as they could hold. They fell like a mortal chill on Lydgate's roused tenderness. (Chapter 58)

  1. In this conversation, what is the difference between what Lydgate feels and what Rosamond feels?

  2. What is the difference between neutrality and "aloof neutrality" or a chill and a "mortal" chill? If you were the director of this episode, how might you direct the actors in this scene?

Episode VI: The Narrator in Middlemarch

The voice of the omniscient narrator, while almost silent in the television series, plays a central role in the novel.

Read the five passages below of narrator commentary and answer the questions accompanying each passage on a separate sheet.

On Causabon before his marriage

"He had not had much foretaste of happiness in his previous life...his soul...went on fluttering in the swampy ground where it was hatched, thinking of its wings and never flying...For my part I am very sorry for him. It is an uneasy lot at be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self." (Chapter 29)

  1. What are the two images used to describe Casaubon in this passage, and what effect do they have on your attitude toward him?

  2. What does it mean for a creature to think about its wings but never fly?

On youth

"If youth is the season of hope, it is often so only in the sense that our elders are hopeful about us; for no age is so apt as youth to think its emotions, partings, and resolves are the last of their kind. Each crisis seems final, simply because it is new." (Chapter 55)

  1. Why, according to this passage, don't young people see themselves as living in the season of hope?

  2. Do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?

On Human Nature

"A human a very wonderful whole, the slow creation of long interchanging influences; and charm is a result of two such wholes, the one loving and one loved." (Chapter 40)

"One must be poor to know the luxury of giving" (Chapter 17)

"There is a sort of jealousy which needs very little fire; it is hardly a passion, but a blight bred in the cloudy damp despondency of uneasy egoism." (Chapter 2)

  1. Explain what you think is being said in each of these sentences.

On the nature of being

"For there is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it." (Finale)

  1. What is the "what" described above? What do you think this passage is saying about the nature of life? Why do or don't you agree with the narrator?

  2. How does this idea relate to your own life or to the life of someone you know well?

On Dorothea

"But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully hidden lives, and rest in unvisited tombs." (Finale)

  1. What does it mean for an effect to be "incalculably diffusive"?

  2. Do you agree that the "growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts"? Use examples to support your answer.

Teacher's Guide:
Viewing Strategies | Discussion and Activities by Episode
After-Viewing Activities by Episode | George Eliot: A Brief Biography
The Historical Context of Middlemarch | Looking at Film | eNewsletter Sign-up

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