Summary of Chapter XXXVIII: A Struggle
Esther visits Caddy Turveydrop and finds she is active in teaching dance and running the dance studio. She is very happy. She goes with Esther to see Mr. Guppy at his home. Mrs. Guppy thinks that her son is finally getting his wish and Miss Summerson is giving in to Guppy’s suit. Esther has remained veiled and asks to see Mr. Guppy alone. When she raises her veil, and he can see her scarred face, he is shocked, and she has no trouble asking him to leave pursuit of her and her affairs. He makes a formal declaration in legal language that they are not engaged or connected in any way.
Commentary on Chapter XXXVIII
Mr. Guppy speaks in his usual comic legal phrases, especially when he sees Esther as damaged goods. He makes Caddy be a legal witness to his un-declaration for Esther’s hand and agrees to stop investigating her background. Guppy for once is forced into an honest position by Esther’s blunt and courageous confrontation. She says, “He seemed truly glad to be able to do something I asked, and he looked ashamed” (p. 413).
Esther gains in dignity and moral strength as the novel unfolds. She takes this step to protect her mother, not herself. Even though her fortune fluctuates, she does not, and her ascendancy over the other weaker characters becomes clear.