Book 3, Chapter 9 Summary
As Mr. Tulliver’s health improves and his mind is better able to grasp the major changes that have evolved in his life, his mood becomes more negative. As he thinks about his options, he realizes that there is not much he can do to improve the conditions of his family’s current status. He has spent all his working years ordering other people around. He has no other aptitude. He might take a job doing physical labor, he thinks. There is also the possibility that his wife’s sisters might help them out financially. However, the more he thinks about both of these options, the less he likes them. Neither of these proposals hold any meaning, once Tulliver reflects on them. He is angry with his wife’s family for having allowed all his wife’s possessions to be sold to strangers. He is also extremely irritated by what Wakem has done.
As he looks about his property, Tulliver’s memories grow stronger, and the objects around him become more precious. His family has lived on this land for generations. He can trace the history of each tree. When Tulliver starts a conversation with Luke, his hired hand, he recalls the old family saying that if ever the mill should “change hands,” the river would become angry. Tulliver believes it is wrong that the mill, which he remembers being built, should belong to someone else.
This train of thought upsets Tulliver. First he gets silent. That night after dinner, Maggie notices the change in her father. When Tom comes home from work, Mr. Tulliver tells him to get a pen and be prepared to write down what he is about to tell him; he wants Tom to record a statement in the family Bible. Then Tulliver begins to speak his mind. First he tells his wife that he will keep his promise and work under Wakem. He knows he must give in to Wakem because he, Tulliver, has caused so many hardships for his family. He will work an honest day, because he is an honest man, but he will never again be able to hold his head up, Tulliver says. He is “a tree as is broke.” Then he adds, “But I won’t forgive him!” He wishes that one day Wakem will be punished for what he has done. Tulliver makes Tom promise that he, too, will never forgive Wakem. Tulliver tells Tom to write these statements down.
Maggie tells her father that it is wrong to wish harm to someone. To this, Mr. Tulliver agrees. However, he says it is also wrong that people like Wakem should prosper. Tulliver insists that Tom write down exactly what he has said. Then he makes Tom sign it. When Maggie pleads with her father once again not to force Tom to sign such a negative statement, Tom tells Maggie to be quiet. Tom agrees with his father and has no problem doing as his father has told him.