Middlemarch: Chapters 17-18

Chapters 17-18  (Vote for Chaplain)

In a character sketch of Mr. Farebrother, we see why he is best suited for the hospital job. He is a kindly bachelor of forty who supports his mother, aunt, and sister. He is modest and does not try to influence Lydgate who is becoming his personal friend. They enjoy speaking of scientific topics, for Farebrother is a naturalist and shows his collection of insects to Lydgate. Lydgate tells Farebrother he hopes to accomplish more in Middlemarch than in London, because he can avoid entanglements in a small town and stick to his work. Farebrother hints that a wife can help a man avoid entanglements, if she is a girl like Mary Garth, whom he personally favors.
Tyke, Farebrother’s rival for the hospital job, is not as kind to his parishioners and preaches tiresome dogma. Bulstrode supports Tyke because his doctrine is severe and closer to his own. Lydgate is pressured into voting for Mr. Tyke at the meeting of the medical board. Lydgate prefers his friend, Farebrother, who needs the money, but he disapproves of Farebrother’s tendency to play cards for money. On the other hand, he has to vote Bulstrode’s way to get financial support for his own work. He casts the tiebreaking vote for Tyke.

Eliot shows Lydgate quickly being drawn into Middlemarch entanglements that will influence his ability to do his work. All the major characters make mistakes because of their preconceptions and inability to accurately assess their situations, perhaps because they are unaware of the inner life and needs of others. In Eliot’s eyes, everyone begins as an egoist, but the noble characters are those who learn to see a wider view than their own. Such characters are Dorothea, Farebrother, Will, Mary and the Garth family, Fred, and eventually Lydgate. Farebrother is warning Lydgate that the choice of wife could be critical.