Two male characters in Middlemarch correspond to Dorthea's interest in and penchant for improving things. The first of these is Sir James Chettam, the owner of the property adjacent to her family's property. The second is her cousin, Will Ladislaw. Both Sir James and Ladislaw, especially Sir James, deeply share Dorthea's desire for action for the benefit of others and for reforms that improve the condition of the common people.
Sir James is in love with Dorthea, though she refuses him and accepts the inept Casaubon instead. Sir James would not only like to have gained Dorthea's affection, he would also have liked to implement her plans of reform for the benefit of his tenants.
Will Ladislaw is a cousin and has a very complicated family background that, through no fault of his own, leaves him cut out from any family inheritance on either his mother's side or his father's side. He drifts, pursuing the arts, without meaningful work until he happens to become the editor of the Pioneer. It is in this capacity that Ladislaw discovers his gifts and penchant for communicating ideas and arguing controversial positions, such as that of reform. Ladislaw is inspired think about studying law and entering politics.