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With her daughter gone, Wishfort reveals to Marwood her doubts about her daughter’s guilt. After considering how carefully she raised her daughter to be virtuous and her daughter’s overall good nature, she begins to believe that a trial would be the best thing to determine her daughter’s innocence or guilt. She concludes that her daughter should be considered innocent until Fainall proves otherwise.
Wishfort begins to think rationally when she considers allowing the matter to go to court. However, Marwood must convince her not to do so because allowing truth and justice to prevail would foil Fainall’s scheme.
Marwood tries to convince her that a trial would be a very bad thing because it would open up a private scandal to public debate. She mounts a convincing case to Wishfort that her name and reputation will be ruined if word of her daughter’s history gets out, which will inevitably happen if the case goes to trial. Wishfort agrees that Marwood is right: it is better to pay Fainall for keeping silent than to demand justice.
Marwood is a better liar than Wishfort is committed to the truth. She preys on Wishfort’s fear of being the subject of scandalous gossip to manipulate the old woman to do her bidding. Wishfort doesn’t have the courage to stand up to Fainall and fears public condemnation.