Tom and Maggie find the bailiff in their house, come to repossess everything they own to pay Mr. Tulliver’s debts. This is very humiliating for Tom, who begins to blame Mr. Tulliver for their misfortune. They find Mrs. Tulliver crying in the basement as she looks at all her “precious things,” such as her monogrammed table linens and teapots. She rails against her husband for bringing them to this disastrous point and says that they will have to go to the workhouse. Tom promises to find a job and support the family.
Mrs. Tulliver's response to the family crisis demonstrates women’s lack of control over their economic lives in this period. She is angry at Mr. Tulliver because she has no way of changing their family’s financial destiny and can only stand by and watch as their household possessions are sold. For women, then, marriage dictates the course of their lives and fortune in life.
The way Tom and Mrs. Tulliver are speaking about Mr. Tulliver angers Maggie, and she runs upstairs to sit at her father’s bedside. Tom comes up and sits beside her, remembering that they have “one sorrow.”
Tom and Maggie band together in compassion at this difficult time, recognizing that they are both sharing the same traumatic experience. This foreshadows the end of the book, when Tom and Maggie are once again united in the midst of tragedy.