Twenty months later, Gladstone is prime minister, Mill’s Subjection of Women is about to be published, and Girton College is about to open. Spring is just barely beginning. There’s a young woman walking through Chelsea with a baby at home and another on the way, which makes her almost arrogant. She looks into the Thames. Her pure appearance proves that she’s not from London, but as she turns and examines the brick houses it’s clear that she likes them. She watches a cab approach and stop outside a large house. A woman gets down, and the girl seems astonished. She watches the woman enter the house.
The events that Fowles mentions gesture to the expanding of women’s rights; Mill’s essay was radical at the time for arguing that men and women are equal, and Girton College, Oxford, was one of the first women’s colleges in England. The woman in this scene is Mary, and the fact that the narrator pretends at first that she’s a stranger suggests how much her life has changed since the reader saw her last.
Sam says he can hardly believe what Mary saw, but part of him almost expected it to happen. He knows what Charles did after he quit, and he feels slightly bad. Sam and Mary are in a small but nice parlor. A young maid comes in with their baby. It screams when Sam takes it, so Mary picks it up, and they all smile. Sam goes off for a drink.
In less than two years, Sam and Mary have made great strides up the class ladder. They have not only a parlor of their own, but their own servant, when they used to be servants themselves. Moreover, they’re the picture of an ideal Victorian family.
Sam has every reason to be happy, but sitting in a pub, he doesn’t look so happy. Back in Lyme, he threw himself on Aunt Tranter’s mercy, making it seem like Charles had promised him a loan of four hundred pounds and he was very brave to quit. At first he pretended to be loyal in not giving Sarah’s name, but once Mrs. Tranter had found him a job and paid for his marriage, he gave her information. Mrs. Tranter likes helping people, so she convinced Mr. Freeman to give Sam a job in his store.
Sam thought that marrying Mary and becoming bourgeois were his ultimate goals in life, but now that he’s achieved them, there’s something missing, and it all has to do with how he achieved these goals. Though he judged Charles’s morality, he’s come to see that his own success resulted only from his own morally questionable acts and deceitfulness.
Sam learned quickly in his new job. One day Mr. Freeman walked to work, but as soon as he entered the store he went back out. The floor superintendent found him staring at a display window. He said it was just an experiment and he would have it removed. Mr. Freeman instructed him to watch as people kept stopping at that particular window. The other windows were cluttered; the Victorians didn’t believe in publicity. But this window had a purple background with collars suspended on wires spelling out “Freeman’s For Choice.”
Fowles suggests that Sam actually has some forward-thinking commercial skills, as he creates a display that isn’t typical of the Victorian Age, but of the twentieth century. In fact, just how atypical it is can be seen in the reactions of the superintendent and Mr. Freeman. The slogan is ironic, because Charles felt that the Freemans were keeping him from having any choice in what he did with his own life.
Mr. Freeman said this was the best window display all year and instructed that the slogan be used in all of their advertising. The superintendent told him that Sam had designed the window, and Mr. Freeman sent for him to give his congratulations. He immediately gave him a raise, and later a bonus. Now Sam’s salary is even higher, and he’s essential to the window displays of the store.
Although Sam began his rise in class through deception of others, he manages to continue it on the basis of his own skills. Now, he’s becoming bourgeois through the most conventional means—letting a wealthier bourgeois man usher him into the class, rather than rebelling against the system that has oppressed him.
Sam does have a conscience, and he’s not sure he deserves his happiness. He doesn’t know about Faust, but he’s heard of pacts with the devil and fears that he’ll soon pay for what he’s done. Furthermore, the only secret between him and Mary is what he did with Charles’s letter. He still wants to start a shop of his own, but Mary insists that he continue at Mr. Freeman’s store. They’re becoming wealthier, and Mary has recently interviewed eleven girls to find a maid. She thinks mistresses should be hard to please, and she wanted someone Sam would never be attracted to. When he returns home that night, he kisses Mary and they look at the brooch she wears as a symbol of their good luck.
Faust is a character in German literature who sells his soul to the devil for personal gain, and the moral implications of what Sam has done are similar. The fact that he hasn’t told Mary about stealing Charles’s letter to Sarah shows just how guilty he feels about it. The brooch Mary wears is the one that Sarah was supposed to keep if she agreed to marry Charles, so it acts now as a symbol of the deceit and pain on which Sam and Mary’s happiness is based. In order to feel she has power, Mary tries to imitate the mistresses who have had power over her.