Subversive Similarities

The Rosamond-Lydgate saga is wearing on me— the constant avoidance, the ever-expanding and entangling network, and the exhausting hysterics. The old saying goes that opposites attract, and at first glance Rosamond and Lydgate seem to be quite contrary. After all, they can’t even seem to agree on what type of lifestyle they should live together as husband and wife. However, Rosamond and Lydgate seem to be more similar than I had previously thought (I’m going to refrain from making any further claims about the future of their relationship, but I’m hoping that my observations will place them comfortably in the “we should just be friends territory” as well as the “we are never, ever, ever, getting back together” zone). On page 558, Rosamond goes right for Lydgate’s gut with one simple question: “What can I do, Tertius?” We felt the insincerity and the disappointment in this statement, and we understood her point of view, but I most certainly did not see it coming when Lydgate reversed the situation and used the same tactic on his beloved in Chapter Seventy-Five. Instead of telling her of the rumor that is marring his good name, he remains silent and allows space for Dorothea to deliver the unpleasant news. When he encounters his wife in a changed mood, he assumes that she has learned of the bad news and he asks, “Rosamond, have you heard anything that distresses you?” (713).

There is nothing worse than being asked a question that the asker does not care to hear the answer to— in both cases, both Rosamond and Lydgate have made up their minds without needing to hear the response of their spouse. Rosamond does not truly wish to help Lydgate with his monetary troubles, and Lydgate cannot undo the distress that this rumor will cause his wife. Their tones are identical. There is a neutrality and despondency in their voices that can only be associated with complete disinterest. Their similar disregard for the plight of their spouse and their egoistic interest in how the news at hand will affect them personally seems to be a toxic combination. Admittedly, Rosamond’s quip makes her out to be more egoistic than her husband: it is framed in the first-person point of view her use of his name seems to be an after-thought, awkwardly inserted at the end of question. Adding his name at the end of her thought points the question towards him, almost as if the is pointing a sense of blame in his direction—the question sits in his hands, even though she is asking what she can do, she leaves it on him. Tertius frames the question in terms of Rosamond and addresses her by name first, but the fact that the reader knows of the immense insincerity of this comment because Lydgate does in fact know what is distressing his wife makes this direct address even more superficial. Rather than addressing the dilemma, he addresses his wife, and in his avoidance of the truth, he removes himself from his language and makes Rosamond the subject of his conversation.

Both Rosamond and Lydgate seek to evade the difficulties that lie before them and they entangle their spouses in the process. I wonder if other similar characters in the novel fail in their interactions in the same way Rosamond and Lydgate do. A network depends on diversity to endure doesn’t it?

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