Simon unwillingly dresses for a meeting with Reverend Verringer. He is dreading the meeting because he anticipates the Reverend will be self-important. However, Simon reminds himself that he must comport himself well, because “he is no longer rich, and therefore no longer entirely his own man.”
This passage reveals Simon’s pride in his upper-class background, and his resentment at not being able to control his own future due to a lack of finances—a restriction of agency that pales in comparison to the circumstances women like Grace have always faced.
On his way out of the house where he is lodging, Simon tries his best to avoid conversation with his landlady, Mrs. Rachel Humphrey. She delivers him a letter from his mother and Simon quickly leaves. He finds Mrs. Humphrey unappealing: “She’s lonely,” he thinks, “—as well she might be, married to the sodden and straying Major—and loneliness in a woman is like hunger in a dog.” Simon mentally compares Mrs. Humphrey to one of “the better class of French whore,” with whom he is familiar from his time studying in Europe. Simon also runs into Major Humphrey, who appears drunk. Simon thinks, “There must be a certain freedom in not having a good name to lose.”
This passage is incredibly important, because it reveals Simon’s bigoted view of women. His worry that Mrs. Humphrey will attach herself to him betrays his belief that women are inherently needy and not self-sufficient. This passage also hints at Simon’s seedy past in Europe, which shows that despite his high-class origins, Simon is not above interacting intimately with “low-class” women when they are serving his sexual needs. Still, Simon’s snobbery is evidenced by the fact that he feels the need to mentally specify that he has had relations with the better class of French prostitutes. Simon’s reflections on Major Humphrey are also noteworthy because they reflect the fact that Simon may feel an underlying sense of unease about the fact that his actions are in conflict with the morals that his social class is supposedly meant to embody.
Simon arrives at the Reverend’s house. Reverend Verringer is working on a petition in favor of Grace’s release, and hopes that Simon can provide him with a favorable report of Grace’s condition. The men discuss Grace’s history—the Reverend notes that Grace was sexually abused by a Warden Smith who used to work at the Penitentiary—and Simon finds himself wondering if Reverend Verringer is in love with Grace. This, Simon thinks, would account for the Reverend’s “indignation, his fervour, his assiduousness, his laborious petitions and committees; and above all, his desire to believe her innocent.” The men part with the Reverend saying he looks forward to seeing Simon at the Governor’s house within the next few days.
The Reverend is aware of the sexual abuse that Grace has experienced, but has done little more than pray with her in an effort to “heal the wounds caused to her.” This suggests that he is not interested in actually reforming the prison or mental health systems; rather, he seems more focused on securing Grace’s freedom than protecting her and other women prisoners from violation while in prison. Simon’s reaction to the news of Grace’s sexual assault—he refrains from asking for more details from the Reverend because he realizes “it might be considered prurient”—further underscores the fact that Simon’s interest in Grace is driven as much by sexual curiosity as by genuine medical interest. Finally, the fact that Simon resolves that the Reverend must be in love with Grace shows that Simon seems to think that the only relationship that can exist between a man and a woman is one that is sexual or romantic in nature.