After four years of despair, Mr. Tulliver starts to feel more like his old self again. The dinner is a great success, and Mr. Tulliver gives a speech in which he thanks God for the aid of his good son, Tom. He even regains some of his old talkativeness, explaining to his fellow diners that he had spent a great deal of money on his son’s education.
Poignantly, Mr. Tulliver is still convinced that he has given Tom a good education. In actuality, Tom's gentlemanly education was completely devoid of practical skills and failed to help him succeed in the business world. However, Tom never corrects his father on this point, perhaps in an act of kindness.
On his way home, Mr. Tulliver encounters Mr. Wakem and proudly tells him that he won’t work for him any longer. Mr. Wakem fires him on the spot and orders him to leave Dorlcote Mill. Mr. Tulliver refuses to let Mr. Wakem’s horse pass by, and instead he rushes at Mr. Wakem with his horsewhip. Wakem falls off his horse, and Mr. Tulliver begins flogging him brutally. He only stops when Mrs. Tulliver and Maggie run out of the house and pull him off Mr. Wakem.
Mr. Tulliver’s attack on Mr. Wakem is all the more brutal for being so sudden after many years of repression and toil on Mr. Tulliver’s part. The shocking instance of physical violence suggests that, far from forgiving Wakem, Mr. Tulliver had been contemplating revenge for many years—leading to a cathartic outburst the moment he had the chance.
After this incident, Mr. Tulliver collapses and falls very ill. Maggie, Tom, and Mrs. Tulliver rush to his bedside. Barely able to speak, Mr. Tulliver tells Tom to “get the old mill back.” Maggie begs Mr. Tulliver to forgive the Wakems, but Mr. Tulliver claims that “I don’t forgive him […] I can’t love a raskill.” He tells his family that “I had my turn—I beat him,” and dies. As the coroner arrives, Tom and Maggie go downstairs. Maggie asks Tom to forgive her, and they embrace and cry together.
Mr. Tulliver's inability to forgive leads to one disaster after another for his family: the loss of Dorlcote Mill, public humiliation, and his own death. Conversely, however, Tom and Maggie’s reconciliation at their father’s bedside offers a more hopeful vision of forgiveness. By asking Tom to forgive her, Maggie expresses her commitment to her family and her brother whatever their differences.