Study Guide

Middlemarch Book 6, Chapter 56

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Book 6, Chapter 56

  • Caleb tells his wife that Mrs. Casaubon (a.k.a. Dorothea) is sensible, and understands how farms should operate.
  • Dorothea has hired him as manager for all the farms on the Lowick estate.
  • Caleb Garth is rapidly getting more work than he can do by himself.
  • Eliot steps back to give us some broader historical context: the steam engine has been invented, and railroads are spreading all over England.
  • Some farmers are anxious about it. They're afraid that the noise of the trains will be bad for their livestock if the railroad goes through their property.
  • Many people in the Lowick area don't trust the railroad, partly because they don't really understand what it is.
  • Mr. Solomon Featherstone (the brother of the dead Mr. Featherstone of Stone Court) lives in the area, and he contributes to the mistrust and misunderstanding of the rest of the farmers about the railroad.
  • One day, Caleb Garth is out measuring a piece of land for Dorothea that she was planning on selling to a railroad company.
  • A group of railroad agents is there, too, to discuss the matter with Mr. Garth.
  • But then a group of angry farm workers (pitchforks in hand, of course) show up and start to threaten the railroad agents.
  • Caleb and his assistant, a seventeen-year-old boy, hurry to get between the two groups, and Caleb's assistant gets knocked down.
  • Just then, Fred Vincy shows up on horseback (he was on his way to visit Mary).
  • He has the advantage of being on horseback, and intimidates the group of farm workers.
  • The young assistant has a broken arm, so Caleb sends him away on Fred's horse.
  • Caleb is annoyed that he won't be able to finish his day's work on his own, but Fred volunteers to help him.
  • Caleb then leaves Fred for a few minutes to go and scold the farm laborers for attacking the railroad people.
  • He figures someone has been spreading false rumors about the railroad, and he's right.
  • The farm workers sulk a bit, but promise not to get in the way again.
  • Caleb and Fred finish the day's work of measuring in the field, and Fred has a grand time working outdoors and using his head at the same time.
  • He asks Caleb if he thinks that he could learn his business, and admits that he's in love with Mary Garth.
  • Caleb considers it for a while, and decides that he'd be doing a favor to Mary and to Fred if he agreed to hire Fred and teach him the business.
  • He tells Fred to meet him at his office the next morning, and goes home to tell his wife, Susan Garth, about his decision.
  • Mrs. Garth is disappointed, in a way. She was hoping that Mary would marry Mr. Farebrother, but she's proud of her husband for being so generous to Fred.
  • The next morning, Fred sets to work – at a desk.
  • He's good at arithmetic, but his handwriting is terrible.
  • Caleb Garth can't stand bad handwriting, or bad handiwork of any kind. He says Fred will have to work hard at improving it.
  • Mr. Garth promises a decent starting salary to Fred, and Fred goes home to break the news to his family.
  • His father's disappointed, but not all that angry, and Mrs. Vincy cries a bit.
  • Mr. Vincy cheers her up by reminding her that Rosamond wanted pity as much as Fred – after all, Mr. Lydgate is going into debt! What a cheering thought.

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