Chapters 39-41 (Complications)
Dorothea makes a visit to Tipton Grange and runs into Will who is staying there. He informs her that her husband has forbidden his visits, and Dorothea is sad. She tells him she will nevertheless always be aware of what he is doing. She believes that by desiring what is good we are part of the divine power against evil—“widening the skirts of light.” She asks what he believes, and he says, “To love what is good and beautiful—but I am a rebel.”
Mr. Brooke is being forced into improving the life of his tenants, since he is running for office. Dorothea and Brooke visit the cottage of Mr. Dagley whose son has been caught poaching. Mr. Dagley is drunk and tells off Mr. Brooke, saying generations of his family have been exploited on this land, but now the “Rinform” (Reform) is coming.
Mary Garth offers to leave her family to take a teaching position in order to help replace the money lost by Fred. But Caleb Garth receives a letter from Sir James offering him a position as manager of Freshitt Hall as well as his old job back managing Tipton Grange. We hear from Mr. Farebrother that he is helping Fred prepare for his university exams though Fred won’t be going into the church. It will at least demonstrate that he is serious about succeeding.
Riggs, the inheritor of Stone Court, is visited by his stepfather, Mr. John Raffles, an irresponsible drunkard who gets money from Riggs. Riggs tries to get rid of him with a sovereign and some brandy. Before Raffles leaves he accidentally picks up a paper with Nicholas Bulstrode’s signature on it. This will lead to important developments.
Eliot brings in the tenants at the Grange, illustrating that a change is indeed happening in the fabric of England. The lower classes are demanding their rights. It is obvious that Brooke is not really aware of the issues, though he wants to be thought Liberal. He is a dilettante in everything, including politics. Dorothea, on the other hand, is sympathetic to the plight of others. She comes to life again, thinking and talking about improving the cottages. She and Will inspire one another and have the same quality of passionate life. Will understands why Casaubon has forbidden his visits, but Dorothea does not, and although Casaubon knows Dorothea is innocent of wrongdoing, it does not ease his jealousy of Will.
The Garth family is held up as a norm of family love and sacrifice. Caleb’s good luck is much deserved and saves the family from hardship. His work ethic is “Things hang together,” meaning there is mutual interdependence to get a job done. Finally, the mystery surrounding Bulstrode’s life is about to be discovered, for Eliot never lets a character get away with anything. The kind characters get kindness. The hypocrites will be unmasked.