Summary and Analysis Book 3: The Downfall: Chapter 4



Maggie and Mrs. Moss go to Mr. Tulliver's bed while Tom and Mr. Glegg search for the note in Tulliver's old oak chest. They take out some papers, but the chest lid falls, and the sound rouses Mr. Tulliver. He asks sharply what is happening. He recognizes his sister and Maggie and asks about Mrs. Tulliver. He tells Tom to take care of them, and reminds him to repay the fifty pounds which Luke had invested in the mill. Tom asks about the note, and Tulliver tells him he "mustn't mind losing the money." He says the note is in the box. When Maggie brings Mrs. Tulliver in, he asks her forgiveness, but says "it's the fault o' the law — it's none o' mine." He insists Tom must "make Wakem smart." He begins to become excited, and says that Mrs. Tulliver's family will "make shift to pay everything . . . and yet leave you your furniture"; and that Tom's education will help him; and that Maggie will marry. He falls unconscious again.

When the doctor comes, he predicts ultimate recovery for Mr. Tulliver. But Tulliver's words leave Tom clear that the note must be destroyed and Luke's money paid.


The close identification of Mrs. Moss and Maggie is shown by the way they both go at once to Mr. Tulliver on his bed. Throughout the book these two are closely connected in feeling.

Tulliver's last words before he falls unconscious again show that his affliction is a way of escaping from a situation too harsh for him. He predicts that everything will be all right, in effect — that Mrs. Tulliver's furniture will be saved, that Tom and Maggie will have no problems. His only realistic remark is that "it's a poor tale." He forgets that the furniture cannot be saved because of the bill of sale he has already given on it, and is unaware that Tom's education is useless.

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