Dr. Tertius Lydgate is a tragic hero I wish every one of us can learn so much from. Among all characters in ‘Middlemarch’ this is the one I am very interested to talk about though my personal resemblance is with Edward Casaubon and I highly put Dorothea Ladislaw as a strong model for women.
I share a few things in common with Dr. Tertius Lydgate. Thank God, I am not like him anymore. I used to have the similar mindset as he does but thankfully I become much more relaxed as life experiences force me to.
For those who haven’t read the novel I am sorry that I am going to drop a lot of spoilers here as I don’t know yet how to create good posts without touching some parts of the book.
On top of the doctor’s mind is a mission not only to become an exceptional one but also be beneficial for those around him. As such, he sets on a journey to Middlemarch then supports Mr. Bulstrode in exchange of a new hospital in the place. There is nothing wrong with the doctor. He is a very kind person though some people, including his own wife, Rosamund, kind of hates him because Tertius is someone who doesn’t like asking for helps even when things get tough. He holds his pride so high that asking for money when he is deep in debt taints his honor. He eventually asks for money from Mr. Bulstrode after his wife can’t resist anymore with the tension and he doesn’t want to make her much more miserable than she already is.
The thing is Tertius is the type of person who doesn’t like putting any masks in his face, the same that he applies in regard to others. If he doesn’t like someone then he says or at least he takes a distance away from him or her. This honesty, according to his wife, is one factor that troubles him when he is actually in a dire need.
In my opinion, Tertius is much an idealist than Edward Casaubon. While Edward’s perfectionism is mixed up with his jealousy to Will Ladislaw and stubbornness to admit his real feeling, Tertius has no problems about that.
Yet Tertius’ perfectionism puts him in a very constant point where he barely sees other things that actually see him excel. His idealism of wanting making himself as a touch bearer in Middlemarch through the hospital he oversees becomes like a way of life that he doesn’t see any other means by which he will call himself “a successful person”.
When Rosy complains that Tertius should be paid for what he does in setting up the hospital, the learned man should have considered her opinion. But his idealism already places him in unbalanced position where his idealism is above realism or what reality throws at him, which is the amount of debt he has to pay.
He should not put a blind eye to the fact that he can’t always spend his life prioritizing helping sick people who can’t pay him. He shouldn’t forget that he needs money to make ends meet.
Tertius eventually realizes this and follows his wife’s advice. They depart for London after the debt is fully paid with the help of Dorothea. He finally puts the happiness of Rosy on top of all then works for money. In the new city, Tertius is a commercially successful doctor. His practice is excellent.
But at the end of his life, Tertius still regards him as a failure because he doesn’t fulfill what he is meant to do which is curing poor people in the Middlemarch’s hospital. Isn’t his life a very tragic one? Despite his good deeds to others, his ability to make his family happy, Tertius dies unsatisfied.
This is the deep hole George Eliot leaves my heart with. And I wish my friends and a lot of people will read then know this character because his life relates much to what we, as modern people face, some will realize, but some will not.
Thankfully, again and again, I know what goes wrong in his life and I believe many of us are familiar with the story.
It is ingratitude.
Tertius is ungrateful that he helps so many people in Middlemarch, particularly the ones who are unable to pay him. Tertius is unthankful that Rosy is finally happy they can live a good, financially-sufficient life in London.
Tertius’s mind gets so absorbed in his own thought that he only has one sort of success that is embedded in his mind even before he marries Rosy. But life changes. Problems occur which may change people’ life purposes. Tertius can deal with his marital problems but unfortunately he can’t do so with his self-aim. The ways he handles his matters go in line with his circumstances but his idealism isn’t. He slowly changes his behavior and this helps him so much going out of the problems but his dream is not. What he fails to realize is that the only constant thing in life is change, including changes in one’s life goals. If he could accept the fact that he is still unable to fulfill his mission no matter how hard he tries then his life will be joyful.
What makes his fate so miserable is that Tertius is unthankful for himself.
And I think that is the worst kind of unfavorable behavior to oneself.