The Responsibility That Comes With a Social Network

In this section, not only are the social networks discussed, but a motif that repeatedly appears is what determines the strength of the ties.  The characters grapple with this question and to whom they owe responsibility and are rightly obligated toward.  Many different kinds of relationships are tested in these chapters and characters have differing views on what they owe to others in the face their society that is rapidly changing around them.  The book offers some advice, but does leave the reader to form his or her own opinion in many of the situations.

First, we see Mr. Featherstone’s family infuriated by his decisions regarding his will and further changes that he makes to it.  His siblings are infuriated while the first will is being read and it is clear that he left the largest sum of money to Fred, whom is not as close a relation to him as they are.  It was clear that Mr. Featherstone liked Fred, which was why he decided to leave him such a great sum of money, but this angers Mrs. Waule: “Mrs. Waule’s mind was entirely flooded with the sense of being an own sister and getting little, while somebody else was to have much”(316).  She believes that Mr. Featherstone, as her brother owes her a good sum of the inheritance and believes it is wrong when she receives so little.  When the second will is read, what Fred received is taken away, and given to Mr Rigg who is suspected to be an illegitimate son.  The Vincys are outraged now as well and relatives, like Mr. Featherstone’s brother, Jonah, say that they wouldn’t have come to the funeral if they had known this was going to be the outcome.  This shows that they feel that their responsibilities to Mr. Featherstone were hinged on monetary gain.  Later on, Dorothea contemplates this same question of what is to be done about inheritances: “Was inheritance a question of liking or of responsibility”(349)?  It is clear that the close relatives of Mr. Featherstone believe it is a matter of responsibility, while Fred prefers that it be a matter of liking.  The book however, does not seem to give us an answer to this question.  We cannot help thinking that Fred is getting what he deserves for counting on an inheritance to make up for his irresponsible behavior and that the relatives of Mr. Featherstone, who only stayed at his side in the hopes that he would remember them monetarily above all the others, aren’t deserving as well.

Later on, we see Dorothea questioning whether Mr. Casaubon is obligated to provide an inheritance to Will Ladislaw to make up for the fact that his grandmother was cut out of the will when she married a polish man.  Dorothea contemplates the situation and decides “it was true…that Mr. Casaubon had a debt to the Ladislaws—that he had to pay back what the Ladislaws had been wronged of” (350).  This brings up the issue of whether people have an obligation to make up for other’s past blunders.  Mr. Casaubon was clearly not responsible for disinheriting Will’s grandmother, but since he is in a position now to make up for it, is he obligated to? Mr. Casaubon decidedly does not think so, but the novel seems to be saying the contrary.  It paints a picture of Will’s good character and genuine, passionate nature that makes us want him to succeed.  Receiving some of Mr. Casaubon’s inheritance would make a big difference in Will’s situation and the reader empathizes with him and decidedly against the somber, apathetic Mr. Casaubon.

In this section, the novel also addresses the responsibility that the Garth’s feel for Fred, although he has wronged them.  Mary blames herself for Fred’s position since she would not burn the will like Mr. Featherstone asked her to.  Caleb Garth contemplates asking Fred to work with him so that he will not be forced to become a position in the church, despite the fact that Fred has caused such a financial strain on his family and crushed its dreams of sending his son to be an apprentice.  Does the novel seem to be saying that we still have obligations to those who have betrayed our trust?  Meanwhile, Mr. Brooke is stigmatized because of a scathing article that exposes the high rents and poor living conditions that he imposes upon his tenants. Does he have an obligation to them? They are not family, but do business relations imply that we are meant to care about their personal well being? Conversely, do his tenants have a responsibility towards him? Mr. Dagley refuses to tell his son to stop hunting when Mr. Brooke asks him to.  Is he right in doing this or should he honor Mr. Brooke’s requests as owner of the land?  The novel seems to offer many recommendations of how we should view our responsibility to others, but leaves many open ended and subject to personal feeling and our own moral consideration.

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