Book 4 “The Valley of Humiliation”
What circumstances give the book its title? What homely literary allusion does it contain? (Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress)
Chapter 1: A Variation of Protestantism Unknown to Bossuet
What is meant by the chapter title? In what way is it ironic?
What is the significance of the opening passages about flooding on the Rhone and the days of medieval romance? (narrator asserts need for some higher life; expresses sympathy)
Of what uncheering fact does the narrator remind the reader, and how is this related to the problems of the Tullivers? (all ordinary concerns will be swept away, including the knowledge of their struggles)
What traits of Dobson behavior does the narrator dwell on in this context? (wished to be richer than was supposed, equated their own prosperity with virtue, no sympathy for poverty or failure in business)
Chapter 2: The Torn Nest is Pierced by the Thorns
What is the Tulliver family situation as the book opens?
How does each member of the family react to their decline in status and income? (both parents attempt to conserve money in order to repay creditors; Tom weary and preoccupied; lacking other outlets, Maggie turns to religion)
What has become Tom’s attitude toward his parents? (irritated by them)
How has Mrs. Tulliver’s attitude toward her daughter changed? (kinder, becomes fond of her, admires her appearance) Do you find this plausible?
Chapter 3: A Voice from the Past
What has happened to Maggie’s schooling? May this account for some of her depression during this stage of her life?
Why does Maggie turn to religion for guidance, and what form of religion does she espouse? (her circumstances render her needy, wants an explanation of her narrow life, 251)
What attitudes are advocated by St. Thomas a Kempis? (entire renunciation of self, absence of desires)
What critique of her choices will Philip later make? Do you think the author agrees with him? (yes, 255, renunciation is sorrow; lack of options produces need for extremes, 256)
Who is this “voice from the past”? What does this seem to indicate about Tom’s earlier judgment?
What offerings does Bob bring to Maggie, and how does she respond? (he brings her books he has been able to purchase, for which she thanks him)
What does Maggie urge him not to do? (cheat) Does he heed her admonition? (promises to behave more honestly)
What does Mr. Tulliver regret as he considers Maggie’s future?
What future is adumbrated by the book’s final sentence? Is it a good sign that Mr. Tulliver still wants revenge?
“Wheat and Tares,” Book Five
What allusion is referred to in the title? Which actions are the wheat, and which the tares?
Chapter 1: In the Red Deeps
What are some implications of the description, “Red Deeps”? Are these reassuring?
What intervening changes have occurred in Maggie at age 17? (has turned to asceticism)
What does the narrator emphasize in describing her first meeting with Philip after some years? What do you make of the fact that she asks him to comment on her appearance?
Does the narrator approve of their meetings? How can you tell?
On what grounds is Maggie seen to be at fault, and how are these different from those for which Philip is blamed? Is this a view one would expect in a Victorian novel?
What issues do they discuss, and how do their opinions differ? What does Philip predict about Maggie’s future? Do you think he is correct?
Chapter 2: Aunt Glegg Learns the Breadth of Bob’s Thumb
What prompts Tom and Bob Lakin to visit the Gleggs together? Does it seem in character for Tom to wish to borrow in order to speculate?
What ventures enrich Tom so rapidly? What do you think of the plausibility of Eliot’s account of the Tulliver and Deane family’s participation in Luke’s trade?
Why do you think this chapter is included?
Chapter 3: The Wavering Balance
To what does the chapter title refer? What problems do Philip and Maggie confide to each other?
What does the narrator think of their meeting? What excuses does she make for Philip?
What do you make of the fact that the narrator notes his “pale-hued, small-featured face” and describes him as “half feminine in sensitiveness”?
Chapter 4: Another Love-Scene
What are Maggie’s reading tastes? What kinds of heroes and heroines does she prefer? Is Philip’s prediction that Maggie may carry the love away from her blond cousin Lucy accurate?
Does Maggie seem attracted to Philip? On what grounds does she readily agree that she “loves” him?
What does the narrator describe as her motive?
Why is emphasis placed on Maggie’s childlikeness, innocence and girlishness?
Do you think the narrator considers this to be a promising future union?
Chapter 5: The Cloven Tree
What is “the cloven tree”?
What incident causes Tom to suspect that Philip has been visiting Maggie?
What does Tom demand that she tell him, and what does he threaten? Does she admit that she has been wrong?
In addition to his grudge against Philip’s father, what are Tom’s motives for disapproval of Maggie’s meetings with Philip?
How does he react when Philip joins Maggie and him? On what grounds does he consider Philip’s behavior dishonorable?
How do Philip and Maggie each respond to his anger? Does Maggie stand up for Philip?
Of what does Maggie accuse her brother, and on what grounds does she assert that she won’t abide by his proscription? Does she keep her resolution?
Would Victorians have assumed that a sister was obligated to obey her brother?
What telling emotion does Maggie feel in the wake of enforced separation from Philip?
Chapter 6: The Hard-Won Triumph
What is this triumph?
What attitude toward debt was shared by the Tulliver family? Do you think this was a common attitude in Victorian England?
How does each respond to the good news that Tom has acquired enough money to pay his father’s debts? What dream does Mr. Tulliver have that evening?
Chapter 7: A Day of Reckoning
What double meanings are encoded in this chapter title?
What event brings about Mr. Tulliver’s death? Who is at fault in his encounter with Wakem? What may have been the result of Maggie’s intervention?
What are Mr. Tulliver’s last words?
How do Tom and Maggie respond to their father’s death? For what does Maggie ask, and is this ominous?