Maggie goes to visit Tom at Bob Jakin’s house, where Tom is now lodging after the loss of Dorlcote Mill. She tells him that Lucy wishes to invite Philip to dinner, but promises that she won’t speak to him in private or encourage his romantic advances. Tom agrees to this, but tells Maggie that he worries about her lack of judgment and thinks that she could be “led to do anything.” Maggie is very hurt by his opinion of her and protests that she has borne the fall in their fortunes as best she could. Tom complains that she has “taken a situation”—meaning a job—when he wanted her to “be a lady” and stay at home.
Even though the Tulliver family sorely needs the extra income, Tom is still resistant to the idea of his sister “taking a situation”—a job at a boarding school. Instead, he wants her to stay home like a “lady” and allow him to provide for her financially. This suggests that Tom associates certain gender roles—in this case, women refraining from paid work—with social status and class standing. It seems that Maggie’s decision to take a job is compromising to Tom’s own masculine identity.