Summary and Analysis
Book 7: The Final Rescue:
Chapter 3 - Showing That Old Acquaintances Are Capable of Surprising Us
Aunt Glegg reproves Tom for "admitting the worst of his sister until he was compelled." Mr. Glegg, in his sympathy for Lucy, is set completely against Maggie; and Mrs. Pullet does not know how to act; but Mrs. Glegg stands firmly by her kin. She offers to take Maggie in and shelter her, although she still threatens to "give her good advice." Maggie is grateful, but she wishes to be independent.
There is word that Lucy is better, but nothing has been heard from Philip. At last Bob brings Maggie a letter from him. Philip writes that he believes in Maggie, that he was sure she meant to cleave to him and to renounce Stephen for his sake and for Lucy's. He believes that her love for Stephen comes from only part of her character, that there is something stronger in her than her love for Stephen. Philip could not bear to stand in her way, but only the thought that she might need him kept him from suicide. He says that she should have no self-reproaches because of him, for she has been true. He offers her any help he can give.
The letter makes Maggie sure that no happiness in love could make her forget the pain of others.
The Dodson code fails when confronted with a thing "which had never happened before, so there was no knowing how to act." This is the same thing which confronted Mrs. Tulliver at the bankruptcy, but now it affects the whole clan. However, it does not affect them equally. Mrs. Glegg has sufficient strength of character to overcome it. It is "a case in which her hereditary rectitude and personal strength of character found a common channel along with her fundamental ideas of clanship." The other characters lack either her strength or her wholehearted devotion to the clan. She alone finds it necessary to stand by her kin "as long as there was a shred of honour attributable to them." Mrs. Glegg is perhaps the last person in whom this result would be expected; yet it seems natural when it happens.
In Tom, "family feeling had lost the character of clanship, in taking on a doubly deep dye of personal pride." This pride has been apparent from his boyhood, and now it reaches fruition in hate for his sister — "a repulsion towards Maggie that derived its very intensity from their early childish love." Because Maggie has been close to him, her waywardness is the stronger a blow to Tom's pride.
Mrs. Tulliver is becoming more of a person than she was before. She actually appears to have learned something from her misfortunes. "I must put up wi' my children . . . there's nothing else much to be fond on, for my furnitur' went long ago." She has at least a glimmering of understanding and thoughtfulness for others.
Philip, in his letter, shows a depth of understanding of Maggie's character that none of the other characters reach, not even Dr. Kenn. This letter presents his own sentiments with an intensity which has always been lacking before; for the first time there is no ambivalence in the author's attitude toward him; and he is all the more noble for the contrast of his emotional strength and his physical weakness. His letter establishes his final relationship to Maggie. Because of his love he is willing to sacrifice himself, not to avoid giving pain to another, but to give happiness. His is a sacrifice more positive than hers.