Book 1, Chapter 2 Summary
Maggie's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Tulliver, are having a conversation inside the family home. Mr. Tulliver is discussing his plans for his son, Tom. Mr. Tulliver wants to ensure that Tom receives a good education, one that will provide Tom with a financially secure position when the boy is grown. In order for Tom to gain this education, Mr. Tulliver will have to send him away to school, specifically to the school at Midsummer. Tom will be gone only for two years. That will do him well enough, Mr. Tulliver says. That is far more schooling than Mr. Tulliver ever received from his father.
Mr. Tulliver's goal is to give Tom enough schooling so that Tom can handle all the lawsuits against the family business. Though Mr. Tulliver is skeptical of lawyers and does not want to encourage his son to follow their profession, he would like for Tom to at least understand the law so that he might help his father protect the family property.
Upon hearing her husband's thoughts about Tom's future, Mrs. Tulliver suggests that she invite her sisters (Glegg and Pullet) and the sisters' families to dinner the following week. Mr. Tulliver replies that his wife can invite whomever she wants to dinner, but he is not going to have her sisters tell him what to do with his son.
The topic changes to that of a legal fight in which Mr. Tulliver is engaged. He has a meeting that day with Mr. Riley, a local arbitrator who settles such matters. However, in the middle of his thoughts, Mr. Tulliver thinks of his daughter, Maggie. She takes after his side of the family, Mr. Tulliver believes, and that is a problem. She is too cute, Mr. Tulliver states. This cuteness, Mrs. Tulliver adds, tends to get the child into trouble. Mrs. Tulliver also claims that her daughter is "half an idiot" because the child is forgetful. All Maggie wants to do, according to her mother, is sit around and sing and daydream. The child's hair is unmanageable, too, which causes her mother dismay. Maggie is very different from her cousin Lucy, who is neat and likes to wear fancy dresses and curl her hair. If Maggie's hair is so unruly, Mr. Tulliver says, cut it off. Mrs. Tulliver will not think of this.
Maggie enters the house, her hair all tousled. When her mother tells her to busy herself with her sewing, Maggie protests. She sees no sense in doing patchwork (like making a quilt), especially as a gift for her Aunt Glegg, whom she does not like. After making this statement, Maggie leaves the room, and her father laughs at his daughter's antics. Mrs. Tulliver criticizes her husband, telling him that he spoils Maggie. The worst of it is that Mrs. Tulliver's sisters will blame her for spoiling Maggie.