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The narrator gives a run-down of St. Ogg’s society. It’s a town ruled by gossip and a lot of prejudiced and judgmental minds. The women of St. Ogg’s are particularly vicious gossips.
We get a hypothetical, what-if situation: if Maggie had actually married Stephen, people would have been shocked, but would have quickly gotten over it and would have accepted Maggie as Mrs. Guest in due course. In fact, Stephen would be seen as the one at fault, effectively kidnapping Maggie and giving her no choice but to marry him.
But in reality, Maggie was blamed for the entire scandal. The gossips insisted that Maggie seduced Stephen and led him astray and that she was a scandalous woman with no morals at all. Marriage would have retroactively made the elopement OK. But Maggie’s refusal to marry Stephen is scandalous.
Stephen has gone to the Netherlands and writes a letter to his sisters explaining what happened and taking the blame for everything.
But it doesn’t help and the town still blames Maggie.
The rumor mill goes out of control for two weeks and Maggie never leaves the Jakins' house.
Maggie is hugely depressed and thinks the rest of her life will be utterly miserable.
Mrs. Tulliver gives Maggie reports on Lucy, but she knows nothing of Stephen or Philip.
Maggie finally goes out to see Dr. Kenn for advice and help finding a job.
On her way to Dr. Kenn’s place, Maggie encounters a lot of her acquaintances, who shun her.
Dr. Kenn greets Maggie kindly and she tells him the whole story.
He praises her for doing what she felt was right, even though it is unpopular and hard.
He warns Maggie that she’ll have to deal with a lot from now on and tells her about Stephen’s letter.
Dr. Kenn suggests that Maggie might want to leave St. Ogg’s and start over somewhere else.
Maggie echoes her father though, and says that she can’t bear to leave her home and start over again. She is determined to stay.
Dr. Kenn says he’ll try to help her find a job then.
After she leaves, Dr. Kenn ponders her difficult situation and wonders how to help her. He hopes that she can reconcile with some of her friends and family.
He also worries about how the town will continue to treat Maggie.