Middlemarch: Book Eight

Serial Reading Guide for Middlemarch: Book Eight (chs. 72 – end)
Page numbers are indicated for the Norton Critical Edition (2000).

1. Harriet feels that “a new searching light” has fallen on Bulstrode (463, ch. 74), and note the progress of her thoughts, which culminate in something like a “great wave” (464, ch. 74).

2. Consider the “shocks” and “rushes” of the interconnected web in this concluding installment, and the portentous possibility that someone may be separated or “apart” from someone else, as Rosamond feels about Lydgate (467-68, ch. 75).

3. Dorothea and her belief in people: is it naive or nurturing? What is its effect on her? On others?

4. Will spotted at Rosy’s! Dorothea with “a new lightning” in her eyes!! Will “changing to marble”!!! (478, ch. 77)

5. Trace Rosamond’s remarkable emotional transformations. At 465 (start of ch. 75), she daydreams in such a way that the Authorial Voice must step in to add some context. Then, consider the start of chapter 78 and Will’s response (as if to a darting “sting”). Then the end of chapter 78 leaves us with a vision of Rosamond “tottering,” almost like a young Saint Theresa.

6. Dorothea sees a new light and seems to begin a new road—with new clothes, even (486, end of ch. 80). You might also compare Matthew Arnold’s poem “The Buried Life” with the epigraph to chapter 81.

7. Dorothea and Rosamond: when worlds collide (ch. 81). This is another of Eliot’s devastatingly acute tours of character. Note the shocks, waves, and other imagistic reminders of the forces that show the Middlemarch narrator at work.

8. Dorothea and Will (ch. 83). You’re on your own.

9. “Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending” (510, “Finale”).

Supplementary Materials from the Norton edition

1. Be sure to see Eliot’s journal entry regarding the publication of Book Eight (535).

2. Of the “contemporary reviews,” note the Saturday Review’s heated moralizing (574), Sidney Colvin’s insightful close-reading (especially at 577), and Henry James’s barely concealed jealousy of Will—I mean Henry James’s admiration of the scenes between “Lydgate and his miserable little wife” (580).

This concludes the Middlemarch Serial Reading Guide.

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© Steven J. Venturino 2018