Summary and Analysis
Book 3: The Downfall:
Chapter 6 - Tending to Refute the Popular Prejudice against the Present of a Pocket-Knife
The sale of household goods is finally over. Mrs. Tulliver's face "seemed aged ten years." That evening Tom has a visitor, a young man in dirty clothes who identifies himself as Bob Jakin. Bob shows the knife which Tom once gave him, and recalls that "there was niver nobody else gen me nothin' . . . ." Tom asks if he can do anything for Bob, but Bob replies that he has come to repay a good turn.
Just then Maggie breaks in looking for her books. Uncle Glegg said he would buy them, but she can find only a few. Tom tells her only those few were bought.
Bob tells them that he has been working on a barge and that two weeks before he had happened to see a mill on fire and put it out. The owner gave him ten sovereigns, but that is more money than he needs. Therefore he will offer it to Tom. Tom thanks him but refuses, saying that the money is not enough to do him any good, but that Bob can use it better. Bob regretfully takes the money back, after Maggie promises that if they need help in the future, they will ask him.
Bob's departure is hastened by the entrance of Kezia, the maid, saying that tea is ready.
Bob Jakin has not been seen since the early chapters of the book, and his new character here is not exactly what might have been expected of that youth. Despite the author's attempts to connect Bob with that rock-throwing boy with an interest in ferrets, the man seen here is far more aware of the world and of himself. Bob is of a lower class than Tom and Maggie, and he knows his place. His language is rude; he tugs at his forelock by way of salutation. The maid can rightly give him black looks, and it is not felt to be slighting that he is not invited to tea. Yet he is the one person who is generous to the Tullivers, even though he has little of his own. It will become clear later that Bob is the one person who strikes the mean between feeling and planning — between Tulliver emotion and Dodson shrewdness and caution.