Page numbers refer to the Broadview edition.

Why do you think George Eliot chose this topic the year the Second Reform Bill was introduced into Parliament? (It was passed in 1867) Who would have been enfranchised by the passage of the bill?


What is the tone of the introduction? What attitude(s) are we expected to take to the past? (It was a distant period; the changes wrought by the First Reform Bill have been in the main good ones--nostalgia for a world we wouldn’t want to reclaim)

How would you describe the style of the preface? (leisurely, enamored of nature, focused on everyday residents)

What image does she use for describing this part of northern England? (a carriage ride from country to city)

What seems her view of manufacturing towns and their dissenting residents? (29) Of the attitudes of farmers toward improvements? (31)

What gossip was the coachman prone to relay about the Transomes? (33) Might any of this prove ominous? (implications of Jermyn’s dishonesty, Mrs. Transome’s discontent)

What are some literary allusions, and what effect do they have? (Virgil, Wordsworth, 31)

What does the narrator suggest will be her theme? (unspoken tragedies of ordinary life, inspiring “pity and terror,” 34)

Chapter 1 What implications are conveyed in the epigraph?

What is the significance of the fact that the novel is set in 1832?

What do we learn from the first descriptions of Transome Court? (35-37) Of Mrs. Transome? (has had to practice economies, has preserved family jewels, 36, finds her indoor occupations of “feeble interest,” 37)

With what emotions does Mrs. Transome await the arrival of her son? (fears being cast aside as harmless and elderly, 41) How is her husband introduced? (indirectly, 38)

What hints are we given that Harold may not be his father’s son? (doesn’t resemble him physically, 40)

How does her son offend her sensibilities? To what extent are we expected to sympathize with her, or to feel some divided sympathies? (her politics are old-fashioned, but he’s rude and heedless)

What views does Harold express on women and marriage? (feels English wives are too opinionated, 45)

How does Harold respond to his mother's account of the farms (wants to take over, 45), and what seems his attitude toward servants? (demanding, fussy, 45)

What has been his occupation? What aspects of his life has he not shared with his mother? (allegedly married, widowed, and with a son)

What have we learned of Mrs. Transome’s character and history from this chapter? (firm-minded, unhappy, has committed some evil deed, 46)

Who comforts Mrs. Transome in her distress? (maid Denner, 51) Why is she called by her last name?

What account does the narrator give of the value of Mrs. Transome’s education? (54) Is this an indictment of women’s education of the period?

Chapter 2

What is the occupation of Harold's uncle? What are his major interests? Does his portrayal reflect Eliot's view on the criteria for the selection of clergy?

What advice does he give Harold? Will Harold take it?

What are his political leanings? How does Harold describe his "radical" views? Is it clear from his description what he favors or opposes?

Chapter 3

What are some instances of Eliot’s use of irony? (parishioners not so unreasonable as to want to all attend at once, 70)

What are the dominant social groups in Treby Magna, and how is each characterized? (70-71)

What do we learn about Matthew Jermyn's past? Should this cause us to respect him? What attitude toward him is manifested by the members of the gentry in his district?

What had he persuaded Sir Maximus Debarry to do, and with what outcome? (erect new buildings to draw visitors, failed 71-72)

How does George Eliot describe the views of Dissenters? (“the exceptional possession of religious truth was the condition which reconciled them to a meager existence,” 72-73) What seems her view of their beliefs and rhetoric? (overly intolerant, literal- minded, 73-74)

How do members of the clergy and aristocracy respond to the rising presence of Dissenting voters? (74) What points does the narrator make about the respective virtues of those of each persuasion? (some radicals dishonest, some Tories generous, 74-75)

How do most of the town’s citizens feel about reform? (try not to take sides too strongly, 75)

What remarks does the narrator make on the relationship between broader forces and individual destinies? What relationship do these views have to the novel's plot? (75)

What parallels does the narrator draw between Felix Holt and Harold Transome? (both Radicals, both hold views upsetting to their mothers, 76)

Chapter 4

What do we learn about Mr. Lyon’s appearance? His attitude toward others? (fails to notice their derision and petty concerns, 78)

The narrator reproduces his thoughts when composing a sermon (78-79); what are we supposed to think of his mode of rhetoric?

What characterizes Mrs. Holt’s conversation? (80-84) On what errand has she come to see the minister? How does he respond to her protestations? (weary resignation, urges her to accommodation and patience)

To what occupation has Felix taken? (watchmaker and tutor) What invitation does Mr. Lyon extend to him?

Chapter 5

What does Felix state to Mr. Lyon is his motive for rejecting his father’s medicine? (understands that they are pernicious, 88) What does he give as the history of his decision to live honestly?

How does Mr. Lyon view the matter? (accepts that Felix must do what he thinks right, but wants him to seek a more conventionally advantageous career)

What are Felix’s reasons for not wanting to become a clerk or banker? (objects to fashionable manners, wishes to help those of his own class, 90) What are his ambitions? (wishes to be a political leader among those of his own class, 91)

What do you think is the narrator’s attitude toward Mr. Lyon’s biblical rhetoric? (intelligent but amusingly digressive, e. g., 93)

How does he respond to Felix’s blunt condemnation of religion? (warns him against a spirit of contempt, 93)

What reports have phrenologists given to each man? (a great deal of Ideality, 94)

What are Felix’s first impressions of Esther, and hers of him? (objects to her fineness of manner, 95, attacks her love of Byron, 96, she finds him rude)

In what context is Mr. Jermyn mentioned? (uses fine words, wishes to meet with Felix, 98)

How is Felix’s appearance and manner described? (large, forceful, commanding) What inward  remarks does he make on Mr. Lyon and his daughter as he leaves? (they seem dissimilar, 102)

What are Felix’s intentions regarding marriage? (doesn’t wish to marry because a family might limit his ability to work for human betterment, 102)

Chapter 6

How is Mr. Lyon treated by his parishioners? (expected to live modestly, “the weaker tea was thought good enough for him,” 102)

How has he educated his daughter? Why would she have looked down on the social groups of the region? (residents spoke ungenteelly, 105)

What memories does she have of her mother? (gentle small white hand, 107)

What secret has Mr. Lyon been hiding? (is not her father)

How had Mr. Lyon met his wife? How did he respond to her distress? How had his love for her affected his career, his life, and his beliefs? (forced to leave a prosperous ministry and support Annette as a printer’s reader, 115)

How does Annette respond to all this? What seemingly is her character, and what emotions does she cherish? (had deeply loved her previous husband and loves her daughter)

What hints does the narrative provide of her motivations for accepting Mr. Lyon's proposal? (realizes it is not otherwise respectable for her to live with him)

What cause is given for her death? (psychological, she “withered like a plant in strange air,” 118) Is this plausible?

After his wife’s death, what future does Mr. Lyon wish for his stepdaughter? (educates her so that she could earn her living if needed, 119)

Why does he move to a new, more modest parish? (as a result of his love for Annette, no longer believes in inevitable damnation, 119)

Chapter 7

What do the DeBarrys learn on their visit to Mrs. Transome? (son Harold has a son; she fails to mention his politics)

How does little Harry behave toward them? (bites Lady Debarry! 123)

On their departure, what reflections do the DeBarrys exchange? (Mrs. Transome not happy with her son)

What news do they learn from Philip’s servant Christian, and how does Lord DeBarry respond? (comically angry, predicts Harold will lose election, 126)

How do the residents of Treby Magna relax? (consume alcohol, 127) What information and gossip is later exchanged at the servants’ party? (Transome estate in bad shape, owners have lost money through law suits, 130, someone named Henry Scaddon had claimed to be the heir but failed to prove his identity, 130)

Who seems to react to this report? (130) Can we conjecture why? Is he concerned to conceal his reaction? On what grounds do the others object to Mr. Christian? (too clever, 132)

What do we learn about his past? (is foreign, has fallen in social station, 134)

Chapter 8

What are some of the factors which corrupt elections, and how does the narrator view these? (with ironic distaste, 135)

What are some of the problems confronting the Transome estate? (timber has been cut and sold, agricultural depression lowers prices, buildings in bad repair, drainage needed, no cash available for obtaining better tenants)

What would Harold like to do? On what grounds does his mother object? (prefers to keep long-established tenants, 137)

What do we learn of Jermyn’s financial dealings with the Transome estate? (his own farm flourishing, has taken over some of the Transome mortgages, 136-37)

What had been Harold’s past, and what were his ambitions on leaving home? (had not done especially well in school, hopes to be rich and to purchase his own estate, 140)

Why does Mrs. Transome object to the forms of kindness her son bestows on her? (wants her to purchase externals, never considers her opinion, 141)

To whom do we learn she will express some of her opinions and regrets? (Jermyn, 143)

Chapter 9

What seems to be the relationship between these two? What is meant by the statement that they are silent about the past, “on her side, because she remembered; on his, because he more and more forgot” (144)

What resentment against Mr. Jermyn does Mrs. Transome repress? (that he has acted selfishly in managing the estate, 144) What does she ask of him? (that he not quarrel with Harold, 146) Does he agree? (no, 146)

What half-formed wish enters their minds? (that Harold had never been born, 146) At this point can the reader guess why this might be?

What is revealed by Mr. Jermyn’s reflections as he rides away? (apparently has borrowed heavily from the estate, 147) What is meant by the parable of the German sausage? (has gradually succumbed to temptation, 147-48)

What are Mr. Jermyn’s motives for wishing Harold to be elected? (will put Harold in a better humor toward him)

Chapter 10

What draws Mr. Lyon and Felix to one another? Does this seem a likely pairing?

What does Felix criticize in Esther? (her adherence to taste, 152) How does she respond? What does she think of him? (annoyed at his blunt harshness, recognizes that some of his criticisms are just, 152, weeps after he leaves, 156)

What emotion has he generated in her? (self-doubt and self-criticism, 156) What new sensibility does she express toward her father? (tenderness, 157)

Chapter 11

Who are the clientele of Mr. Chubb’s pub? What is his view of the world, and in particular, of political matters? (wants to turn everything to his own advantage, generally sympathetic to radicalism)

What opinion of himself does he wish to impress upon Felix, and how does Felix react? (with polite irony)

What has been Felix’s motive for frequenting the bar? (wishes to persuade colliers to attend a meeting) What is the object of his proposed meeting? (to persuade them to gather a fund to educate their male children)

Why doesn’t he wish to ask the mine owner to found a school? Which reformists of the time would have shared his views? Do you think the author finds this commendable? (repeatedly notes the effects of ignorance, believes in self-help)

What does Felix find offensive about Mr. Johnson’s manner of appealing to the workers on behalf of his cause? (buys them drinks) About his rhetoric? (bombastic, dishonest, flattering) What does Eliot seem to think of election rhetoric in general?

What does Mr. Johnson suggest that the workers should do on election day? (rough up some of the participants) Does this seem like a dangerous idea? Would it have reflected contemporary social reality?

Chapter 12

What causes Christian to lose the packet of letters he has retrieved for Philip DeBarry? (has taken opium for a physical ailment)

What motivates Mr. Scales to cut off a part of Christian’s coat? (dislikes him, likes to play practical tricks)

What consternation results? (constable is brought in, letters perceived to have been valuable)

Chapter 13

Who finds the packet? What motivates him to take it to Mr. Lyon rather than the DeBarrys?

What debate occurs between Felix and the grocer/church songleader? What parody of a religious argument does Felix make to the latter, after being reproved for his learning and opinions? (182, Eliot enjoys this use of religious language and argument out of season!)

How does Mr. Lyon react to the documents? (agitated)

How does Mr. Lyon explain his penchant for smoking to himself? (185)

What scene occurs between him and Esther? How does he describe to her his relationship with her mother? (forgiveness and acceptance, 186)

Chapter 14

What offer does Philip DeBarry make in his thank you letter to Mr. Lyon? Are his relatives correct in pointing out that difficulties may ensue?

What does Mr. Lyon ask Christian, and what answer does he receive? (asks for his name, latter states that he has owned the notebook for 20 years)

Do you think it plausible that Christian carried the locket and ring upon his person at all times?

What does Mr. Lyon fear? (that Christian may be Annette’s father) Do these answers bear on the minister’s deepest concerns?

What do we learn from Christian’s inner responses? (realizes that the minister may have had something to do with a Mr. Bycliffe)

For what does the minister feel guilt? (has concealed from Esther that he is not her father) Is this scene arranged to increase our sympathy for him?

Chapter 15

What response to Philip DeBarry’s offer does Mr. Lyon make? (asks for a chance to debate the Rev. Debarry)

What strange conjunction causes Mr. Lyon to seek Matthew Jermyn’s advice? (he feels the need of some sophisticated insight on the legalities of his case, and Jermyn visits to obtain his political allegiance to the Radical cause)

What are Esther’s current thoughts about Felix? (wants him to visit and apologize, desires to organize her life toward some higher cause, 203)

Chapter 16

How does Harold respond to Esther on meeting her, and on what subject do they converse? (her wearing of blue, a Liberal color, 205)

What issues are discussed when Harold Transome visits Mr. Lyon? (need for a more sincere reformism, issue of church-rates--i. e., taxes to support the Anglican church, issue of the secret ballot)

What are Mr. Lyon’s views of “the ballot”? (opposes it) Why do you think Eliot inserts this detail?

On what do Felix and Harold Transome converse? How does Harold respond to Felix’s complaint that Mr. Johnson has been bribing workmen to form a riotous crowd at the voting place? (dislikes overt moralism)

What does Felix object to in Harold? (reformist politicians are no more scrupulous than non-reformist ones) What position does Mr. Lyon take? (we must accept that not all who work for righteous causes are good) Is this what you would expect from a minister?

On what grounds does the narrator defend Mr. Lyon’s earnestness? (all effort is valuable, though not remembered, 215) Does this seem a meditation commensurate with the topic of Mr. Lyon’s arguments against the ballot?

What fate does the narrator predict for Harold Transome? (he will face defeat of hopes, 216)

Chapter 17

What attitude does Harold adopt toward Mr. Johnson and Mr. Jermyn? Is he able to persuade them not to seek to incite the workers through offering them drink?

What arguments does Mr. Johnson make in favor of his methods? What is Jermyn’s advice? (should be more obliging to a man who his working for his electoral interst, should not be too particular until he’s elected)

Does this seem likely to be good advice?

What do Jermyn’s meditations reveal about his financial relationship to the Transcomes? How has Mr. Johnson been involved? (mortgages on the estate held in his name--what would be the motive for this?)

Chapter 18

What does Mr. Jermyn learn from Mr. Lyon, and what does he promise to do in return? (make inquiries about Christian’s identity to determine if he was Annette’s husband)

What does the narrator tell us about his opinions on the subject? (already has information on subject)

What are Esther’s motives in attending the debates of the electoral candidates? (wants to learn about something so important to Felix; wants to see Harold)

What slight change in her plans is brought about by Mr. Jermyn’s pausing to talk with her father? (invited to join the Jermyn daughters)

Chapter 19

What two persons speak for the Liberal side at the meeting? What is the tone of Rev. Lignon’s speech, and how is it received? (meandering praise of Tories, off topic, evades all issues, well-received)

In view of the attitudes of Mrs. Transome and the DeBarrys, does Eliot’s claim that the town’s Tories bore no ill-will to the Liberals seem convincing? (232)

What arresting conversation does Jermyn overhear? (Christian talks with Dominic, mentioning that he had known him 16 years before)

Who arrests his attention? (Esther) What do we make of this? (sees her resemblance to Bycliffe) What misinformation diverts him from following up on the matter? (Dominic tells him that the women are all Mr. Jermyn’s daughters)

Chapter 20

What topics are debated at the post-election dinner? What rumors about the changes have been circulated? (trade-unions will rule) On what grounds does Mr. Dibbs state he will vote? (will side with his landlord)

What does Eliot seem to think of the state of political insight in the region/country? (abysmal)

What mention is made of the Transomes? (not the “oldest blood” in the country) What do we hear of a Tommy Traunsome? (mad, old, not to be believed, an “old poaching fellow,” 242)

How does Jermyn respond to the mention of Tommy’s reappearance? (diverts subject)

What opinion do Treby Magna residents hold about the coming of railroads? (believe they are an abomination)

With what tone does Jermyn persuade Christian to consent to an interview at his personal residence? (tells him the business may be of interest to him)

Chapter 21

What name does Mr. Jermyn ascribe to Christian, and what account does he give of the latter’s history? (had run through his father’s property and forged a check; in France had exchanged identity papers with a fellow prisoner)

How does the Christian respond? What does Mr. Jermyn suggest may be the consequence of this knowledge? (financial gain)

How does he describe Bycliffe and his marriage to Annette? (had been legal, he was attached to her, her family had objected and had kept her confined so that she couldn’t escape)

What seems the significance of this uncovering of his identity? 

What irritable fear does Christian express as he leaves? (some penalty for his past pilfering, 249) In turn, what does Jermyn imply? (that even if he will not be prosecuted he may be embarrassed by unpleasant revelations)

What does Mr. Jermyn’s letter to Mr. Johnson reveal? (he is trying to establish whether the last heir to the Transome estate--presumably Bycliffe--is now dead) Whom does he tell Johnson he is trying to help? (Harold)

In fact, what is his motive? (to establish an alternate claim in order to threaten Harold should the latter sue him for past thefts) What does the narrator reveal about his past dishonest actions on behalf of the Transomes? (had gotten Bycliffe/Scaddon arrested and thrown into prison, thus possibly hastening his death, 252)

Why does Jermyn think that it would be unjust for him to be blamed for his actions? (a hundred others escape, 252)

Of whom does his daughter remind him? (Mrs. Transome 30 years previously, 252)

Chapter 22

On what pretext does Esther visit the Holt household, and in what activity is Felix engaged? (binding up small boy’s finger)

What emotions does she show, and how does he respond? (weeps, he presses her hand)

What is Esther’s reaction to Mrs. Holt’s conversation? (understands that Felix has a lot to bear) What is revealed about their characters in their willingness to support an orphan? 

What useful function does Job serve in promoting Felix and Esther’s relationship?

The narrator notes that Esther has come to feel less enamored of the Byronic model of hero. What contrasts are made between Felix and a presumed Byronic ideal? (he conquers his melancholy and turns it into action)

What are Esther’s reflections as she leaves the Holt home? (might choose the same life if he loved her and her mind were his equal)

What seems to be the purpose of including this scene? (Felix will make a good father)

Chapter 23

What fate awaits Mr. Lyon’s appeal for a debate with the rector?

How are the characters and prejudices of Philip DeBarry, the Rector, and Sir Maximus reflected in their respective responses? (Rector contemns thought of debating with his social inferiors, 263, Philip hopes for some concession, 264)

Does the Rector believe that he would have won such a debate? (no, 264)

Who  offers to help in this difficulty? What is Mr. Sherlock’s motive for agreeing to serve as surrogate in this debate? (may aid his advancement)

What form of coaching does the Rector provide, and how does the narrator undercut his pretentions? (notes his desire to give commonplace advice, 268)

Do we learn anything about the course of Anglican theology and the practices of sermon writing from his remarks?

Chapter 24

Who attends the debate? (many Dissenters, Philip DeBarry, Christian, Felix and Esther) What are some topics of conversation among the prospective audience? (women comment that Esther is  handsome, and Felix below her in station)

Why may more women than men be present in the crowd? (narrator notes that women were more interested in a religious than a political debate)

What function is served by the inclusion of this anti-climatic incident?

Is there a correlation between the political and religious contests going on at the time? How does religion influence politics, and vice versa?

How is Mr. Lyon described in the interval of waiting? What is the effect of the narrator’s referring to him as “the little man”?

What surprise ending occurs? How does the audience respond? Mr. Lyon? (states politely that there may be some reason for his opponent’s absence, 275)

Who takes it upon himself to tell Mr. Lyon’s petitioners that they should cease giving him advice? (Felix, 276) What metaphor does he use to characterize their behavior? (they are stinging wasps)

What do we learn about Mr. Sherlock’s future endeavors? (publishes treatise dedicated to the Rev. Augustus DeBarry) What tone does the narrator use in describing his work?

What contrasts are shown between the ways in which Mr. Lyon prepares his sermons and those advocated by the Rev. Augustus DeBarry? (former creates sermons from his responses to the bible, giving extempore thoughts; the latter goes to Anglican authorities for a model)

What effect may the outcome of the debate be intended to have on the minds of readers? (respect for Mr. Lyon’s sincerity; sense that church officials have been evasive and lack spirit of evangelism)

Chapter 25

What information activates Christian’s thoughts about Esther’s relationship to a possible inheritance? (at the debate he had noticed her resemblance to Bycliffe)

What role does Christian seem to play throughout, and with what motives? Is he named appropriately or ironically? (He’s really Henry Scaddon anyway)

What prompts his renewed conversation with Mr. Lyon, and what does he wish from the latter? (confirmation that Esther is Bycliffe’s daughter)

Does Christian offer any useful information in return? (no, for he doesn’t know whether Bycliffe has died)

What alteration does this conversation have on Mr. Lyon? (knows he must tell Esther of her parentage)

Chapter 26

How does Esther respond after Mr. Lyon tells her the identity of her parents? (expresses love and respect for her father)

How had he expected her to react to the news that her mother had come of a prosperous family and her father may have been of aristocratic rank? (yearning for life of greater status and wealth)

To what does the narrator attribute Esther’s change of heart? What remark does she make on the possible motives for satisfaction in a life without wealth? (must have some great purpose which causes the incidentals to seem unimportant)

[Might Esther have reasonably wondered prior to this time if Mr. Lyon was her biological father? Might she have been expected to resent his withholding of essential information and the mementos and letters of her parents?] How does Mr. Lyon's own sense of guilt and apology affect the reader’s response to this scene?

Chapter 27

Under what circumstances does Felix find Esther when he calls at the Lyon residence? How are they dressed as they set out on their walk? (Felix wears a cap and mended boots and carries a stick, signs of working-class status).

On their walk, what topics do they discuss? (Felix’s motivations for his choices) What are the reasons he gives for seeking to cast his lot in with the deprivations of working-class people?

How does he describe the occupations and behaviors of those in conventional occupations slightly above him in the social scale? 

What are endeavors he distinctly wants to avoid? (seeking money and preference)

Might there have been other ways to help the unfortunate than remaining in a low-paid occupation? Or might in fact a skilled watch-maker have not needed to wear “mended boots”? 

What claim does Felix make about Esther’s beauty, and how does she respond?

What vision does he claim he wishes for her? (that she should never lose her best self, 294)

What does he state is his ambition, and where will this take him? (he will move to another city, 296)

On what issue do Mr. Lyon and Felix differ over tea? (Felix doesn’t think the vote itself will make much difference for the good, 297) Do you think this is the narrator’s view? Who else of the time famously expressed such opinions, or argued against them? 

Chapter 28

What do we learn about the character of Tommy Trounsem?

What information about Mr. Jermyn’s past actions does Tommy Trounsem relay to Christian? (Jermyn had threatened him, given him payoff money, and employed him on odd jobs, presumably to keep him content)

What role had Mr. Johnson played in all this?

For Christian, what is the outcome of his conversation with Tommy? (puzzlement)

What does he find arresting in some of the handbills which Tommy is posting? (mention of name Bycliffe in association with that of Harold Transome, 309--Does the reader yet know to what this can refer?)

Chapter 29

What is the relevance of the chess metaphor in the first paragraph of this chapter?

What effect has Jermyn’s behavior toward him had on Mr. Johnson? (hates him)

How does Johnson behave in promoting the election of Harold? (double agent, writes handbills attacking Harold, 312, which allude to his questionable title to an estate which had only been preserved to him by the efforts of “German Couzen” in a suit against Bycliffe, 313)

Is it plausible that an election slur on a handbill would be so specific?

Why does Christian decide to seek out Johnson? (wants to learn about reversionary rights to Bycliffe inheritance) What worries does he have? (the latter may be Jermyn’s agent, 313)

What information does Johnson impart about the prior settlement of the estate a hundred years earlier? (John Justus Transome had willed his estate to his son Thomas and heirs male, with a reversionary interest to the Bycliffes. However Transome’s son Thomas had sold his rights to the Durfeys, and the Durfey-Transomes would remain in possession as long as one of the real descendants remained alive, after which the estate would revert to a living Bycliffe, 314)

What is different about high and low diplomacy, according to the narrator? (diplomats can at least know of each other’s existence, 316) What is the effect of this metaphor?

Chapter 30

What motivates Felix to travel to Duffield to witness the nomination of candidates? (Mr. Lyon requests it)

What remedy for the working-man does the speaker whom Felix hears advocate? (ballot, annual elections, better electoral districts, 324)

In response, what does Felix advocate as an alternate means to power? (326-will need better opinions before they can vote wisely)

Would there have been a possible counterargument? (with the vote, working-people could seek to establish a wider educational system, as indeed happened with the Education Act of 1870)

What assumptions does Felix make about the relative wisdom/fairness of educated wealthy men vs. uneducated poor men? (educated wealthy class will make better, or at least no worse, decisions. In any case, in 1866 no one was considering giving the vote to the kind of men to whom Felix was speaking, the semi-literate poor; rather the issue was whether educated, fairly prosperous working-class men would receive the franchise)

What example of a fraudulent electioneering agent does he give, and why is this especially timely? (Johnson has just walked up, 328) What unintended result follows from this allusion? (the conjunction identifies Johnson as Jermyn’s factotum, Christian invites Johnson for a drink)

What information does Christian impart to Johnson? (Bycliffe has a living heir, 329) What does he learn? (that after the death of Tommy Trounsem the estate will pass to Bycliffe heir) Which lawyers do they intend to consult? (Bycliffe’s old lawyers) 

Chapter 31

What happens at the polls to disrupt the election? (electors harassed, town rowdies start to attack shops)

How could this have been prevented? (secret ballot, electioneering without attempting to stir up crowds to vandalism)

What finally happens? (the constabulary are brought in; cause of Liberals is besmirched, since vandals were mostly on their side)

What will be the result for the county of Harold’s loss? (none that the reader can discern, since Philip DeBarry is a good man)

Chapter 32

When Felix stops by the Lyon household during the election process, what views does he state regarding the outcome? (tries not to be concerned about it)

What do Feliix and Esther discuss? (a possible love) What does he state must be his attitude? (renunciation, kisses her hand, 342)

Why does he believe they cannot marry? (would make one another miserable)

What are her thoughts after his departure? (afraid she cannot be good without him, 343)

Chapter 33

What violent events occur during the riot? Who is attempting to murder whom, and who is attempting to save whom?

Who is Spratt, and why is he disliked? How does Felix save his life? How does he respond to the constable’s attempt to rescue Spratt? (takes his weapon) Does this make sense? What does he persuade the crowd to do to Spratt? (tie him up but not murder him)

What happens at the Manor? (crowd demands alcohol)

What had been Felix’s intentions in joining the crowd which enters it? (hopes to calm residents with news of imminent relief)

What event ruptures the crowd’s celebrations? (Felix is shot by military)

With what three crimes is Felix charged? (assaulting a constable, manslaughter, leading a riotous attack on a private dwelling)

Who beside the constable has died in the melee? (Tommy had been trampled by the onrush of the crowd near the Seven Stars pub)

Chapter 34

How does Harold respond to the news of his defeat? Of Felix Holt’s arrest? (knows that Felix had warned him of possible bad effects of negative campaigning to bring out the roughs)

What information causes Mrs. Transome anxiety? (news that Harold has asked Jermyn to meet him at Transome Court)

Chapter 35

What occurs in the interview between the two men? With what does Jermyn threaten Harold, and what does he offer?

To what does Harold agree? Why does he not connive to have the evidence of an alternate inheritance destroyed?

Chapter 36

What news is brought to Harold by Christian? What does Christian offer, and why does Harold not immediately take him up on this?

In the end, what has Harold learned? (name of future heir) What has Christian gained? (a thousand pounds)

What news does Harold communicate to his mother, and what does he press on her to do? (invite Esther to visit them) What seems his intention in this?

What hints does he make to her about a future marriage, and how does she respond? Why do you think Mrs. Transome weeps on hearing his alleged jest? (378)

Chapter 37

How does Mr. Lyon respond to Felix’s imprisonment? (mentions him in public prayer, to the annoyance of his parishioners)

How do the citizens of Treby respond? (feel his behavior has been motivated by sense of superiority, 383)

How does Mrs. Holt respond to the news of her son’s imprisonment? (still angry about the quack medicines, feels self-pity)

What does Mr. Lyon report of Felix’s state of mind and conversation from prison? (refuses any help from Mr. Transome except his testimony, 384)

What is Esther’s response? (mind filled with thoughts of Felix)

What opinion does Mr. Lyon express on the nature of divine charity? (broad, will include those with good intentions, 380)

What is the content of the letter Esther receives? (has inherited estate which yields upwards of 5000 pounds annually) Who has set this in motion? (Johnson has hired another legal firm)

How does Esther respond? Mr. Lyon? (she feels some unease as well as wonderment, his reaction is “more of terror than of gladness,” 388)

What have been Johnson’s motives? (spite against Harold and Jermyn, desire for a financial cut)

Chapter 38

What are some of Esther’s reflections as she considers the consequences of taking over the Transome estate? (will hurt others) What does she realize had happened to her first father?

What does she imagine as Felix’s response to her fortune?

Can she imagine her father living at Transome Court? Is she able to conceive of any reason one might wish for money except to live a life of luxury? Would they have needed to move to Transome Court? (Could have rented or sold property, perhaps to Harold, and devoted the money to some good cause)

What manner do the Transomes assume on their visit to Esther and her father? (they won’t contest the legal decision)

Is this what might have been expected? (their courtesy and acceptance of their reversal of fortune seems unlikely)

What does Mrs. Transome offer to Esther? (that she visit Transome Court and Mrs. Transome will teach her many things about the property)

Do Mrs. Transome and her son seem to have an alternate plan for their lives?

What does Mr. Lyon feel on Esther’s departure, and by contrast, what does she feel? (excited curiosity) Why couldn’t he simply have accompanied her on the visit, or at least have visited briefly?

Chapter 39

What characterizes Mrs. Transome’s mood as she is dressed for dinner? (bitter about aging and disappointments)

To what cause does the reader assign this? (loss of estate? Fear that Harold may learn his parentage?)

What emotions does her servant Denner express toward her? What are Denner’s views of the respective merits of the social classes? (admires her mistress, feels sympathy for Marie Antoinette)

How does she attempt to console Mrs. Transome? (praises her appearance)

Does she seem aware that a change in ownership might also affect her, or would this have been unlikely? (new tenant would presumably require a lady’s maid)

On what final affectionate note does the chapter end? (declares her love, Mrs. Transome says she cannot do without her, 405)

Chapter 40

What characterizes little Harry’s habits and relationships? Whom does he like? (his grandfather and Esther)

What relationship develops between Mrs. Transome and Esther? On what topics do they converse? (Mrs. Transome’s titled past and life among royal and aristocratic persons, her genealogy)

How does Harold behave toward Esther? (in a courtly and romantic manner)

What does she tell him about her preferences? (was fondest of a person who had told her her faults)

What offer does he make to her in her new situation? (will be happy to offer help and advice, 415)

What wish does she express when asked? (to visit her father)

Why does Esther not suspect the Transomes’ motives?

Chapter 41

Does Mr. Lyon assume that Esther should accept her inheritance? (yes, and can use it for good to the Dissenters or others)

What does he report of his visit to Felix? (has responded to the news of Esther’s inheritance and her visit to the Transomes with the remark, “Then she will marry Harold Transome. That is what he intends.”)

Is Felix’s prediction prescient? How does Esther respond to it? (absorbed in its implications)

Chapter 42

For what purpose does Mr. Jermyn seek an interview with Mrs. Transome? What reflections does he make inwardly as he waits for her? (has helped her family)

What does he learn from her that he had not previously known? (Esther had learned of her legacy independently of the Transomes; Harold might well marry her)

What initial issue causes rancor between Mr. Jermyn and Mrs. Transome? (he states he could have made alternate choices, she implies that she regrets hers)

What deed does he refer to as the worst he has ever done? (had Bycliffe put in prison, used suborned witnesses, 428)

What does she state is her response to his unpleasant situation, and what does she believe he could have done to prevent it? (it makes her miserable; he should not have quarreled with Harold)

What does he request (indirectly), and on what grounds does she deny this? (wants her to tell Harold; she feels he has been insensitive in his calculated approach to her emotions; accuses him of wishing her to break her slight tie to her son on his behalf)

How does he interpret this rejection? (her irritability) Does he have alternate plans for avoiding a law suit? (no) How does little Harry behave toward the departing Jermyn? (hits him! 434--his actual grandfather)

Chapter 43

Why is Esther reluctant to ask Harold about Felix? (knows Harold will look down on him)

How does she respond to her new environment, and to Harold’s advances? (finds them pleasant in a mild way) How does he behave towards her? (courteous, asks her opinion, seems forthright)

From the tone of their conversation together, what opinion does she have of him? (is decisive, recovers from loss)

What makes Harold uncertain about her opinion? (seems to resist at certain points)

How does he react to her expressed admiration for Felix’s character? (a case of admiration and pity rather than love, 448)

What views does he himself express regarding Felix? Is he willing to help him, and on what grounds? (decency, as well as desire to please Esther)

According to the narrator, what has Esther decided would be the limitations of a life with Harold? (too domineering, had a “padded yoke” ready for dependents, 448) Have we seen the evidence which has brought Esther to this view?

What is the effect of Mrs. Holt’s entrance at this point?

What pieces of information about Esther’s relationship with her son does she proffer? (recalls that Esther had gone walking with him and had sat with him at the Free Hall--not quite accurate, in fact)

Does Mrs. Holt seem a likely mother for the clear-headed Felix?

How do Harold and Esther behave towards Mrs. Holt? (both are tactfully polite) How does little Harry respond to the newcomer? (wants to “tame” him--and this is the future master of Transome Court)

Can you think of other unpleasant mothers of worthy sons in Eliot’s fiction? (Adam Bede’s mother)

Are there similarly unpleasant mothers in Gaskell’s fiction? (Jem’s mother in Mary Barton, mother of John Thornton in North and South)

The original draft lacked the final comic scene describing the conjunction of Mrs. Holt, Mr. Transome, little Harry, Dominic, and their respective pets and captive animals. What is the tone of this scene and what purpose does it serve?

Is the humor demonstrated here rather atypical for the novel?

What ironies reside in Mrs. Holt’s interpretations of aristocratic dress and behavior? (on the basis of what she has seen feels it must be natural for the gentry to behave irrationally and without common sense; mistakes a statue of Bacchus for a Transome ancestor) How does little Harry respond to Mrs. Holt? (attacks her!) Is there a pattern to Harry’s dislikes?

Chapter 44

What is the plot advantage of bringing Esther to Transome Court? (is able to experience her fantasy of gentility and wealth in order to assess and reject it)

Will any practical advantages accrue to her from her visit? (is able to enlist Harold and others in seeking a pardon for Felix)

How does her growing sympathy for both Harold and his mother affect the tone of the ending? (makes the decision to renounce Harold’s courtship more difficult; makes the reader accept her renunciation of Transome Court in their favor, since it would be unpleasant for all if they were forced out against their will)

How has Esther’s relationship with Harold evolved over time? (she becomes more passively accepting but feels life must be a compromise, 457)

What does Mr. Lyon augur for Felix’s future? (feels he will be transported, 457)

How does Esther respond? (weeps with her father) What plans has she made to speak with Felix? (will arrive before the trial)

What does Eliot describe as her state of mind? What pragmatic compromise with her new wealth does the narrator specifically state she does not consider? (could inherit the wealth but leave them in possession of their home. Also, though Eliot does not mention this, she could use Transome Court for a charitable purpose, such as an orphanage.)

What reason does Eliot give for this? (she is unable to imagine any use for the inheritance; her temperament is formed only for marriage, 460) Does this make sense? [all or nothing approach makes for a dramatic plot ending but evades the responsibility as well as pleasure of using money wisely]

Chapter 45

What change does Esther notice in Mrs. Transome’s mood? (seems depressed and abstracted)

What favor does she ask? (that Mrs. Transome take her to meet with her father before the assizes)

What do Felix and Esther discuss, and what does he claim are his desires? (to obtain a little of something to his taste rather than a great deal of something that isn’t; wishes to proclaim that rising above working-class status should not be one’s goal)

Clearly the author intends this to be one of the meanings of the novel. Might one interpret “remaining in one’s station” slightly differently than remaining in deprivation? (a case of the excluded middle; one might wish for all working people better education, sanitation, clothes and food)

How does Felix feel about the prospect of Esther’s marriage to Harold, and what does he wish for her? (a happiness worthy of her)

With what significant act do they part? (a kiss)

What part has Mr. Lyon played in this scene? (has tactfully remained writing in a corner)

Chapter 46

How does Esther perceive Felix’s appearance in court? How does this contrast with that of Harold Transome? (a barbarian against a Roman)

What are some of the charges alleged against Felix by the prosecution witnesses?

What are the main points emphasized in his speech? Do some of these seem unnecessary? (argues the right to resist authority, doesn’t stress his regret that his assailant has died)

Why do you think the narrator has included these aspects of his speech? (doesn’t want him to seem to be toadying to authority)

What is the gist of Mr. Lyon’s testimony? That of Harold Transome?

What unexpected remarks does Harold make about the man who had assisted him, Jermyn? (does it seem plausible that he would have made personal statements under the circumstances?)

Does it seem likely that Esther would have been accepted as a witness at the last minute? Who bears her message that she wishes to speak to the attorney? (the Rev. Lingon)

 What does she add with her testimony? According to the narrator, In what ways was this effective?

What tone does the judge take in summing up Felix’s offenses and giving instructions to the jury? (unfavorable)

Of what is Felix convicted, and how long is his sentence? Were he tried in the U. S. today, would he likely fare better or worse?   

Chapter 47

What are some motives which prompt the more influential citizens of Treby Magna and its associated gentry to petition for a pardon for Felix? (Philip DeBarry feels obligation to Mr. Lyon, others are sincerely sympathetic, Harold wants to please Esther)

Why does Harold feel little anxiety about Esther’s possible attraction to Felix? (unable to conceive that someone of lower social station could be as appealing as a "gentleman")

Under what conditions does Harold learn of his paternity? What had motivated Jermyn to seek him out in a public place? (Harold refused to meet him privately)

Does it seem in character--or to his advantage-- for Jermyn to make his communication in a way that others could hear?

What do you make of the fact that on seeing him Harold strikes Jermyn with his whip? That the two men fight? What convinces Harold that Jermyn’s claim is accurate? (image of two men in mirror, each in similar pose)

Who politely leads Harold away? (Sir Maximus, behaving kindly to someone of whom he had disapproved)

Chapter 48

What do we learn of the encounter between Harold and his mother? (little; she collapses in grief)

What does Esther find to be lacking in the life at Transome Court? (variety)

What decision has Harold made after learning of his paternity? (will not press his suit upon Esther) Is this strictly rational? (one doesn’t marry someone’s parents)

What does this indicate about the effects of this news on him? (shocked, ashamed, induces greater humility)

Why does Harold state he is not asking for Esther’s hand in marriage? Might this have been a graceful way of doing just that?

What does he claim he will now do? (will leave England)

What is Esther’s response? (sympathy, wishes she could have loved him, 493, feels indecision, says she must wait until next day)

How does the narrator frame the choice that Esther must make? (to attain a great good she must sacrifice something, 495)

What does she most fear? (that Felix may not marry her, 495)

What would she find imprisoning about a life at Transome Court? (would fall into well-cushioned despair)

As the chapter concludes, whom does she encounter?

Chapter 49

What purpose is served by the scene in which Esther comforts Mrs. Transome? (Esther understands that Harold has not been generous to his mother; on the other hand, Mrs. Transome would have been a welcoming mother-in-law, far preferable to Mrs. Holt)

Chapter 50

What is Mrs. Transome’s mental state after Harold has blamed her for conceiving him? Why does she reject Denner’s loving presence?

What causes her to seek out Esther? (desire for pity and sympathy, 499) What message does Esther take from Mrs. Transome’s pain? (should seek love above all)

What partial reconciliation between mother and son does she effect? (he will sit by her bedside until his mother awakes)

What does Harold hope may aid his courtship? (Esther’s love for his mother, 501)

Why do you think Esther’s rejection of Harold’s proposal of marriage is not presented directly? (would have been painful, retrospective view makes it seem more inevitable)

Is it important that she rejects Harold before she is certain of Felix’s fate or the possibility of their marriage? (must decide on a course of action independently)

Chapter 51

Since Esther has renounced the estate, who will presumably inherit it? (little Harry)

Does this bode well for its future? (or perhaps since his parents were not married, he will be unable to inherit under British law?) In fact, since as we have learned, Harold isn’t a real Transome, can he still claim to be the nearest relative and heir?

Why is Felix surprised when he finds Esther in the Lyon home? (hadn’t known of her decision) Is this suprising?

How does he respond? (gratified that she has renounced wealth) What does he present to her as the disadvantages of life among the poor?

What small amounts from her inheritance does Esther intend to accept? (enough to keep her father and his mother in case of need, and a small reserve for sickness)

What does Felix say he would like? (a small library)

What language is used to describe their behavior? (link arms, “like girl and boy,” 304) What do you make of Eliot's reiterated appeal to their child-like mutuality?


What characterizes the wedding of Felix and Esther? Who attends? (Sir Maximus and Mr. Wace)
What is the symbolism of their leaving Treby Magna? (compare end of Middlemarch)

Is it a surprise that Mr. Lyon resigns his job? What is indicated by his parishioners’ choice of a more High-Church minister? (fail to value his merits)

Do all the characters receive their just deserts? Which ones are treated with relative gentleness? (Mrs. Transome and Harold are permitted to keep Transome Court, though they leave for a time; Jermyn loses money and status; Esther, Felix, and Mr. Lyon are happy; Mrs. Holt suffers no ill; Johnson prospers despite his evil deeds and character)

What is implied in the narrator’s statement that this district still votes for Tory candidates? (change comes slowly)

What is the significance of the final reference to the learning of Felix and Esther’s son? (Felix had wanted education for those of his class)

Final questions:

How would you describe Eliot’s style throughout the novel? Her narrative voice? (ironic, detached, often both critical and sympathetic)

How is character developed? Would you describe her as critical of even her more favored characters?

What forms of humor are prominent throughout the novel? How would you contrast Eliot’s humor with that of Dickens?

What do you make of the epigraphs which begin each chapter? Are some of them quite effective? Do they harmonize well with Eliot’s points?

What are some parallel ways in which parallel scenes or confrontations are used to add coherence to the plot--e. g., the several conversations between Mrs. Transome and Jermyn, Mrs. Transome and Harold, Jermyn and Harold, Jermyn and Christian, Christian and Johnson, Felix and Esther, and others?

In practical terms, Esther might well have accepted an inheritance to be used for good purposes. How does Eliot arrange the narrative so that the reader accepts that for her to do so would have disrupted or degraded her life?

--sets up dichotomy between leisured, wasteful life and frugal, lower-middle class life--to retain the values of the latter Esther cannot partake in the circumstances of the former;

--implies that accepting the inheritance and marriage to Harold are linked, a fallacy;

--presents inheritance and the legal and political structures related to it as inherently corrupt and thus to be rejected altogether;

--since her father views the money as ideally to be bestowed on Dissenting charities, which she doesn’t want, rejection of the inheritance might avoid disappointing him;

--the novel’s themes center on  moral ideals and emotional attachments rather than pragmatic applications.

Had Esther attempted to consider some practical uses for the money, how might her Victorian audience have responded? (might have picked at the details, disapproved of Esther’s relative weight within the marriage, etc.)

How do incidents of uncertain or concealed identity function thematically in the novel?  The repeated instances of unlikeness between parent and child? (Mr. and Mrs. Holt and Felix, Mrs. Transome and Harold, Mr. Lyon and Esther)

What do we see as some contrasting modes of maternal behavior? Are the outcomes for the progeny of Mrs. Transome, Mrs. Holt, and Annette partly determined by the mother's character? (Felix seems his own person)

What gender distinctions are reflected in the expectations placed on offspring? (Esther lives with Mr. Lyon and is expected to the loving; Harold and Felix are independent)

How is irony used throughout Eliot’s plot? For example, do Harold and Mrs. Transome suffer as a result of their own actions? (Mrs. Transome’s adultery produces a son she doesn’t like; Jermyn’s adroitness at business is mirrored in his son’s similar traits, now used against his father; Harold’s bad electioneering practices indirectly lead to the riots which kill Tommy Trounsem and thus end his title to the Transome estate; Harold’s pride deflated when he learns his paternity)

At the time, Eliot’s plot was criticized for its complexity. What are some ways in which this complexity operates to create suspense and to enforce her thematic points? Are the personal and political plots successfully integrated?

Despite its title, Felix Holt is arguably a novel about Esther’s moral choices. Why may this be so? (it’s she who has to struggle with deciding what will be her values; Felix apparently remains firm in his convictions)

Can you find ways in which the emphases of the plot focus attention on Esther rather than Felix? (e. g., when he’s imprisoned, we learn little of his mental struggles but a great deal about her relations with the Transomes; news of his pardon and his response thereto is not presented, though presumably it would be among the most important and dramatic moments of his life)

Is the advent of "reform" presented as a blessing? A mixed blessing? According to Eliot's presentation, how may social progress be attained? (uneven road--good furthered by worthy persons, but also by historical accident and the confluence of unrelated forces)

Do any of the themes or plot incidents of Felix Holt remind you of parallel situations in other Eliot novels? (Felix and Daniel Deronda bear some resemblances to one another, Esther’s moral journey and renunciation are somewhat parallel to Dorothea’s renunciation of great wealth in order to marry Will in Middlemarch)

According to their portrayal in the novel, are any social institutions--the church(es), the police, the law courts, the electoral system--likely to further human progress? What alternative means to self-development does Felix favor? (adult education; education of the young)